Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Review
PIII 800, 256MB RAM, 64MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Oct 04, 04
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I am not a fan of skateboards. I suck at sports, even in the broadest and weirdest sense of the word. Any action that requires my taking off the ground and landing again, without injury to my surroundings, innocent bystanders or indeed myself, earns my undying contempt and unmitigated rage. Don't ask me why; it's not my fault, I was simply made that way. I am so accident-prone that a skateboard is a lethal weapon in my hands. Give me one and you'll understand what I mean. So, when it comes to four wheels, I'd rather drive a car than, err, cruise the streets of wherever I live in on a board.
Why walk when you can... ride?
Well, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 almost made me change my mind. To be honest, I did not expect the game to be so much fun. It is, after all, a skateboarding game, unique for its subject but lacking in other characteristics necessary for an above-average game. Right? Well, no. I was wrong about that, too. Tony Hawk's isn't all about skateboarding - of course, your primary objective is to skate, but some of the goals make this game much more than a simple skating simulation. Moreover, in the sequel you can not only skate, but also walk - you can now leave your board and run around the city looking for an alternate way to complete your goals (you could do this in the first incarnation as well...only it wasn't really useful - Ed.). Some locations are much more accessible if you get off your board, and some are accessible solely on foot. This certainly makes the game more interesting and less nauseating (everyone needs to get off board now and then, right? [NEVER! - Ed.]).
Look at me, I'm flying!
You bet I'm gonna freak out, arsehole.
Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (the sixth title in the Tony Hawk series) follows in the footsteps of its predecessors and tries to bring some more logical solutions to the way games of this type are played. Several game modes are included, namely the campaign (story mode) and classical mode, together with free ride, multiplayer and create-a-park. Classical mode features traditional TH material, meaning you should complete a level by collecting SKATE letters or any other objects required for your victory. If you're uncertain about your skating skills, you are offered a free ride mode where you can practice your skills as long as you wish, with no limitations or need to race for the high score. You may laugh at this, but THUG2 is a very difficult game, and any of you who are unfamiliar with the series, its control mechanisms and style of game play, should dedicate a lot of time to polishing their skills. Learning skills and tricks is not that difficult, but perfecting them requires a lot of work. Inaccessible areas will become accessible only with the help of your board, so if you don't know how to perform a certain move you will get stuck, fast.
What is so frustrating about an excellent game such as this are certainly the controls, even more so because TH is about skating, and being unable to excel in a manual game like this means disaster. If you're planning to play this one on your keyboard, excuse me, but there must be something wrong with you. Your fingers will not appreciate having to press certain combinations of keys several times in a row as fast as you can. We got a Logitech PC gamepad with the review build, courtesy of Activision, and after a few sadistic attempts to skate down the main building on the keyboard, we decided for the gamepad, which is definitely more suitable for playing this game.
So, how do you like them apples?
The main mode in the game - campaign - is yet again the story mode, which continues where the last one left off. Tony Hawk and Bam Margera "kidnap" several skaters (you included) in order to have them participate in their own World Destruction Tour. Before you are allowed to fall from the top of the building and break your neck, however, you'll have to go through a tutorial where you'll be able to learn about the game basics if you're a first-time player. After that, it's off to Boston to skate like a madman and collect precious points. This time, you are not required to learn about your goals from the people in the street - you will be granted your objectives as soon as the mission starts and all you have to do is complete them. People in the street will however give you tips to help you solve some of your problems - they'll serve as a sort of a "landmark" so that all your goals will be clearly visible. You will be able to switch between characters in your team, and also to play with some of the hidden characters. The thing is there are some hidden characters on every map, so your task is to find them so they can become fully playable in all game modes. In the first mission, they are Ben Franklin and Jesse James - Jesse driving a very "neurotic" vehicle that is not easy to handle, so you can try your luck and race that unnerving kid in a wheelchair to the church. Mission objectives are different and vary from performing a certain trick, scoring a certain amount of points or managing some off-board tasks, such as spraying graffiti on walls or taking a sick kid to see Tony Hawk. Some are simpler and some will require a lot of neck-breaking before you manage to perform them (of course, first you need to find them). Apart from improving your stats and scoring points, you will also have a hell of a time by accomplishing these tasks. As always, TH does not fail to amuse you and the story mode is really enormously fun to play.
TH is a very addictive game with many entertaining options such as the brand new ability to pick up apples or tomatoes and throw them around. This option is not for entertainment purposes only, as mastering the art of throwing fruits and veggies will be needed for fulfilling some tasks. There are several basic moves, the main one being the Ollie or jump, and many different tricks that are performed by executing a combination of different keys or buttons. If you fail at performing a certain trick or move, you will be given a chance to show all your frustration by filling a meter, which will result in your freaking out and insulting and kicking or breaking the board. Tony Hawk is no fun when he does this, but give Chad Muska a chance to vent out, boys and girls - it'll be worth it. If you are playing THUG2 on your keyboard, you will fail quite often, as the controls are dreary. This is a typical console game, with awkward controls and save system that requires additional steps before you can either save or load the game. However, even if you're playing it on the keyboard you are quite certain to enjoy it, even if your hands stay forever crooked and stiff in the position they were in while you were playing.
THUG2 stayed true to the principles laid down by its predecessor and yet succeeded in adding loads of new material and interesting stuff to the franchise. The surroundings are wonderfully designed; the levels are huge and again there are some secret characters that may be unlocked through the game. An interesting detail is the addition of text messages that will provide you with all the relevant information and allow you to chat with your teammates among other things. There are also many very humorous details throughout the game that will add to your enjoyment, the main story being very humorous and funny itself, although it is somewhat lacking in twists and turns, albeit serving as an entertaining excuse so that you can perform more spins and tricks.
Famous last words: "Hey, look at this beautiful sunset..."
This game excels in the graphics department (well for a console port anyway). The surroundings are diverse and very detailed, and you won't fail to notice how lovely everything looks even when skating fast. THUG 2 features night and day cycles, along with weather effects like wind and fog. Character models are also very nice and the animation is smooth and natural. All of the tricks that your character performs look simply fantastic. Sometimes your character's head will fall through the wall during some instances (e.g. when you crash into a wall) but that is minor, as there are no irritating bugs that could ruin your overall enjoyment of the game.
Very addictive and fun to play; beautifully designed, huge levels; improved and new options and impressive tricks; fantastic character animation;
Very difficult game, even on the easiest level; frustrating to play on the keyboard, awkward save system, some minor clipping issues.