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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Extreme Sports

 

Publisher

Aspyr / Activision

 

Developer

Neversoft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2004

 

 

- Unbelievable amount of content and gameplay

- New tricks, characters, customization

- Challenging goals

- Excellent variety of gameplay options

 

 

- Graphics have not progressed with the game

 

 

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (PC)

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (PS2)

Review: Aggressive Inline (XB)

 

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Tony Hawk's Underground 2

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

Since I first played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 on the Dreamcast, I've been a fan of the series. The Tony Hawk series has always provided an unbelievable amount of gaming content in a package that is entertaining, challenging and funny. The reinvention of the Tony Hawk series to the Underground games has taken what the Pro Skater series had to offer and essentially doubled the content. Along the way, more gags, characters and options have been added in addition to the already bursting at the seams gameplay options.

 

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I skipped the first Underground because it never came out on PC. By the time they were talking about having it ported, 2 was already slated for a PC release.  Besides, a Tony Hawk game is only really interesting for a year because a new iteration comes out almost once a year. So it was from Pro Skater 4 to Underground 2 that I went. Underground 2 still includes all the gaming goodness of the Pro Skater series. For those of you who have never played a Tony Hawk game, the Pro Skater portion basically provides you with a two minute time limit with which to accomplish as many goals as you can in a given area. You can keep playing that area over and over to complete the set goals, and the next area is only complete after a certain number of previous goals have been completed. The goals are fairly standard across the board in this mode. You will need to collect the letters scattered throughout the area that spell S-K-A-T-E, you will need to collect the letters to spell C-O-M-B-O all while performing one combination trick, you will need to find certain items throughout the level, and you will need to beat three different levels of high scores. There are also often a few other goals such as performing a certain trick in a given area of the level.

 

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The controls in Tony Hawk have remained largely unchanged from each game to the next, mostly because they are essentially perfect. Forget the keyboard; you will need a gamepad for this game. If you are serious about PC gaming you should have one anyway, but if you don't there are plenty of controllers that mimic the nice layout of the Playstation 2 controller which seem to be made for this game. As in previous games, the tricks you can perform 

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are broken down into three categories; grinding, which is sliding the board on railings and ledges, flip tricks, which is flipping the board while the skater is in the air, and grab tricks which are tricks where the skater grabs hold of the board in different poses while in the air.  For goals where points are counted, gamers receive points by doing tricks. Each trick has a certain point value, and that value can increase depending on the duration of the trick (grinds), or the number of rotations that the gamer completes for a trick (grab). The points are multiplied by the number of successive tricks that are done while being linked together. Tricks can be linked together by manuals (wheelies), reverts (quickly changing sides when landing from a half pipe), and now by caveman's and sticker slaps.

 

In Underground, you can now get off of your board and run around. If you jump off your board in the middle of a combination of tricks a timer will quickly start counting down for you to get back on your board a continue your combination. Jumping back on your board while running is called a Caveman. A sticker slap is when you skate straight into a wall and then push off of that wall and continue back in the direction that you came from. Another interesting new feature is the Freak Out meter. When you fall off of your board in the middle of a combo, you will lose all of those points and they will not count to your score; when it counts, this is extremely frustrating. Now there is the satisfaction of having your skater venting their frustration. After you fall, you can rack on one of the buttons to fill up your Freak Out meter. Depending on how much you were able to fill up the meter, your skater will destroy his board in varying fashion. Your skater will be then be tossed a new board and you then you can begin again. The nice thing about this is that your skater can use the points they receive from Freaking out as a base to start a new trick.

 

Something that was tough about the last games was pulling off the special tricks that you had. In the past, you had to perform tricks to fill up a meter; when that meter was full you were allowed to perform special trick. Now, you can also use the portion of your meter that has been filled to focus. When you focus, time will slow down and make it a bit easier to pull of an especially difficult trick or goal.

 

While the classic Pro Skater mode has served gamers well for four installments of the series, the Underground series changed things a bit. The storyline of Underground 2 is that you are a kid that has been picked up by Tony Hawk and Bam Margera of Viva la Bam fame, to be part of worldwide scavenger hunt called the World Destruction tour. Tony and Bam each have their respective teams made up of pro skaters and Viva la Bam characters and through the course of the game you will play on both teams. You will be assigned a number of goals to complete on each level. After you have completed a number of them, you will be able to progress to the next area if you choose to. There is no time limit as in the classic mode so you can basically try to complete your assigned goals at your leisure. While in your given area, you can play four different characters, yourself, your selected pro skater, the special guest and a secret character. Each character has their own goals to be completed as well.

 

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Not all of the goals are always skating related either. Although you may need a bit of tricky skating to reach your goal, some goals simply require you to graffiti in a certain area or areas of the map. However, for the most part, the primary goals require some serious skating and the goals are quite challenging when compared to some of the goals in the Pro Skater series. This is sure to keep fans of the series.

 

Rounding out the package is a fairly comprehensive multiplayer package. Gamers can play up to 8 player Lan, online, or split screen play on a single computer. Lastly, there is the create a park option, along with a create a skater, and create a trick portions of the game. These options are very detailed as well, and the detail with which new parks can be created and the goals that can be created allow an amazing amount of freedom especially for more advanced gamers looking to create their own unique challenges. About the only thing that is slightly disappointing is that the graphics haven't improved that much with the game. This isn't really that much of a concern given the playability of the game. Also, given the choice, I'm sure that most gamers would much rather have the development team focus on bringing new and more content to the series than redesigning the graphics engine.

 

From the pure amount of massive content available, I'm sure that most gamers will not run out of things to do with Underground 2. If you want a game that you will be playing for a long time without doing the same thing twice, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 will keep serving up fresh material. With this much content jammed into one game, newcomers to the series will definitely find something that they will like and for the hordes of fans of the series, the new challenges and the amount of play modes and things to do will more than hold them over until the inevitable next installment is released.

 

- Mark Leung

(November 19, 2004)

 

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