There are a couple of constants when it comes to the Tony
Hawk franchise of skateboarding adventures – A: the tricks are totally sick; and
B: I bite at accomplishing anything worthwhile outside of the bare minimum to
get by. In fact, not only do I bite at hitting the high-flying combos for the
huge points, but I also bite the pavement … a lot. If it was real blood painting
the towns, red would dominate most of the major European cities, and the Red
Cross would be seriously concerned. Guinness Book of World Records would also be
looking at a new record for shattered bones.
But then Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 is only a game – but
what a game it is. First of all, this title is huge in scope. Ok, so the PC
version of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 is essentially a port of the Xbox build.
But what Beenox, Neversoft and publisher Activision have done is to blow away
almost everything that made all the previous titles in the Tony Hawk series so
much enjoyment to play. Why? Because it is all here – bigger and better than
One could start in the “edit-a-**” mode in which you can
create and customize a skater. Design your own sticker and then slap it all over
the cities, or design your own graffito and spray-paint your way to world
domination … err, destruction. The whole ‘edit’ side of this game in reminiscent
of a kids paint program. So much is given to the players, and it is so intuitive
and easy to use.
The game begins with Tony Hawk and Bam Magera recruiting
for their World Destruction Tour, an event that pits two teams head-to-head in a
variety of venues throughout the world. The losing team drops a player.
Reputations are won and lost. As for losing a player, well, all that is
predetermined to some extent. Bob Burnquist, no matter how well you do in
Boston, will be the first to go.
The game levels are point-based. Complete enough of the
missions in Boston and you get to move on to Barcelona. Each level has a couple
of secret characters, each of the characters has trademark signatures and moves
that once they are unlocked, become part of the whole single-player repertoire
of moves. As for signatures, Ben Franklin’s graffito looks remarkably like the
Declaration of Independence. The more trick combos, the bigger the graffiti
gets. Environments are somewhat destructible and you can unlock other areas
through destroying key elements.
The game also manages to tread on obvious comedy moments,
some slapstick, crude humor and self-deprecating moments that really lend to the
mood of the game.
The game’s skating tricks in relationship to the controls
have a few rough moments. The game does use a keyboard by default, but you can
also hook up a gamepad and play that, simplifying the basic controls. You can
map the keys in the setup, but the game itself does recognize the key numbers.
In the set-up you can assign the four basic tricks to the buttons, but in-game,
the game does not recognize buttons 1-4, but rather looks for K06, or K02. This
takes time to figure out. And there is no in-game options menu to help
reconfigure the control elements.
The graphical elements have some minor clipping problems,
but the action is fast-paced and entertaining. Pull off a great combo and you
can enter “focus mode,’ which slows the action and enables the players to really
take control of the tricks. Speaking of which, the tricks are outrageous and
tough to pull off. The game soundtrack is incredible.
Ok, let’s see now: stellar “edit” mode, terrific
soundtrack, sick tricks and new moves, World Destruction Mode and Classic mode,
and obvious but still funny comedy – guess it is safe to say that this title has
it all and is the biggest and best Tony Hawk title to date.
Don’t expect to be coddled playing this game, but do expect
a serious challenge and a whole lot of fun.
Review Scoring Details
There are some load times, and one of the big problems comes up in configuring a
gamepad for the title. However, once you are in a setting, the game moves
smoothly – with either the open-ended story mode (destruction tour which allows
you to accomplish goals before you can move on) or the timed-out classic mode.
There are some clipping problems, especially on the rough landings, but the
tricks are outstanding, and the levels are well designed.
Any soundtrack that begins with The Doors and “Break On Through” has the full
attention – and it only gets better from there.
The game breaks it down into three difficulty levels –
easy, normal and sick, and then allows players to score what they need to trek
around the world creating mayhem and destruction as they go.
World Destruction Tour AND classic mode … flip tricks …
manic commentary … likes to like here, and the trio of Neversoft, Beenox and
Activision have done it up right.
Head-to-head competition with a variety of gameplay styles
is a very good thing. Finding someone to play with at this stage of the release
is the tricky part.
The game arena is huge and the graphical elements are very
solid. Does this game bring anything really new to the genre? Well, yes, it does
and this is guaranteed to be a big hit among Tony Hawk gaming fans. The World
Destruction tour is fun, but the neophyte skaters may find this a bit more
challenging than they can manage. Still, with solid online play elements, this
is a winner. And considering that this is several times bigger than TH3,
offering both classic and the World Destruction Tour elements, there is so much
to do here. This is one sick game (and for those who don’t know, being “sick” in
this context is a very, very good thing).