I've got an admission to make - I'm not a huge skateboarding fan. What amazes me, though, is how every year I see a Tony Hawk game, and the people working the game are just so enthusiastic about it, so proud of it, so eager to show it off and hope that others get as amped about the game as they are.
I can't quite muster that, but the new game looks nice.
This version moves from L.A. to three cities - Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. It features the big, wide open areas that Tony Hawk's Underground showed off, but with more, bigger stories - nine arcs, in fact, depending on how you play.
In a way, you can almost specialize in your skating - you can play as a hardcore skater, a "rigger" who finds new things to do or a "career" skater who makes money at it. Real-life professionals of each type work with you as mentor to teach you new mechanics. There are over 80 cut scenes to work in through these stories and mentors.
One thing that'll help for all of them - you can now add your own obstacles anywhere in the single player game, and they'll be persistent. You can even adjust camera shots, add cameras and make money selling the pictures (in game, of course) to real-life skating magazines.
To do those tricks, you'll find a whole lot more control over your feet, your hands and your center of balance. I almost fell over just watching it, but get the trick down, and you can go through and make videos of your best moves. You can do your own follow cam, use an iMovie-type interface to splice it in with other movies and even add a soundtrack from the approximately 60 licensed songs. You can share these videos through the leaderboards.
Multiplayer also has been integrated into the single player game. If you're hooked up to Xbox Live, you'll be able to go to certain areas to queue up for multiplayer events. After queuing, you'll go on your way, and when the event fills up, it'll ask you if you still want to join it.