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Playstation 2












T (Teen)



Q4 2003



- New Story Mode is fun and compelling

- The ability to put your actual face on the in-game character is fascinating

- Getting off the board and walking around opens up each level to new approaches

- On-line play is vibrant and well-designed



- Off the board, control is sluggish

- Actual skating feels too familiar



Review: Tony Hawk's Underground (XB)

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

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

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (Playstation 2)



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Tony Hawk's Underground

Score: 9.0 / 10


It is truly remarkable how the Tony Hawk series has managed to move from sequel to sequel without seeming tired or repetitive.  Each new incarnation of Tony Hawk Pro Skater has added just enough features and moves to make them purchase worthy, and other than playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2X for the Xbox, I’ve felt no urge to go back and play the older titles when a newer one was available.  Still, none of the sequels have been a radical departure from the original formula…until now.  Tony Hawk Underground (THUG) still has the familiar skating engine (with a new way to link tricks, as is the custom), but THUG’s game play mixes in elements from the original game and a Driver/GTA-like mission structure.  The new game is fascinating, but, for the first time, I found myself thinking back fondly to the previous games in the series.


thug ps2 review          thug ps2 review


The biggest addition to THUG is clearly the Story Mode.  Players are given the opportunity to design a skater to represent themselves in the game.  The Create-a-Skater module is again dynamic and a lot of fun to play with.  Anyone should be able to create a skater that looks like his or her real-life selves.  This PS2 version of the game even features a face mapping engine that allows players with the broadband/dial-up adapter to use a digital photo to put their actual face (or anyone’s face) on the created skater.  Players simply e-mail a photo to an e-mail address and wait for the auto-reply to their own e-mail address which will contain a password.  Then, the player must log-on with THUG and enter the password which will download the photo their memory card.  The whole process takes a couple of minutes and the effect is very cool and having my own face on the character in the game and the cut scenes really made the experience more compelling.





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Once the player has created a skater, he or she is then set loose in the character’s home town.  Here, the player has total freedom to roam around, tricking as they see fit.  There is no timer and no running score.  Instead, there are a number of people also roaming the streets.  Some of those people are marked with an icon that lets the player know that they offer a mission.  The player must simply skate (or walk) up to the character and press a button.  They will then be shown a cut scene during which the character will detail what they need 


the skater to do.  Most of these missions are timed and trigger immediately after the cut scene, though sometimes they involve traveling to another location and talking to another character to activate the timed mission.  The missions range from recovering lost items to performing certain tricks and nearly everything in between.  Nearly every type of challenge from the THPS games is represented in the missions along with a ton of new mission types based on the new skills the skaters in this game have been given.  The game is completely non-linear and besides the main story missions, there are hundreds of side challenges to complete.   Only the main missions, however, advance the skater through the ranks and open up the new locations. 


The most notable new skill available to the skater is the ability to get off the board and walk, run, jump, and climb to reach new locations.  This ability alone makes the game feel stunningly different from the THPS games.  The ability can even be used to link tricks in the same way as a manual, though there is a time limit to how long you can be off the board and still link tricks.  It is a neat feature and gives people that had trouble linking tricks in the earlier games another chance to master that ability.  Not that it is too easy, as the off board character controls sluggishly, feeling a bit like Lara Croft from the PS1 Tomb Raider games.


Besides running around like a platform game character, THUG’s skaters can also drive vehicles.  Unfortunately, there is no GTA-style ability to jack any car in the game.  There are, however, driving based missions that allow the skater to tool around the city in a vehicle.  These missions feel a lot like some of the GTA driving missions, especially the early one that has the skater setting a car on fire and driving it into the river.


thug ps2 review          thug ps2 review


Working the skater through the ranks of pro skating, getting sponsors and making extreme videos, is a lot of fun and, in the end, is probably a bit more compelling than the THPS formula of completing tasks to open up new levels.  There is still an arcade mode that allows players to go for high scores in a timed environment, and the tournaments from the original games are now embedded in the story mode, so fans of THPS should still be able to get a similar experience out of THUG.  Still, THUG is a different game that radically changes the formula.  As fun as it is, I think I prefer the THPS games, though I understand that that type of game is nearly played out and I don’t think THPS 5 was the way to go here.  Luckily, if I want that type of experience, I can simply throw THPS 4 into my system and have at it.


I have to mention online play.  I never bothered going online with THPS 4, so this was my first experience playing Tony Hawk versus real people.  Let me say that I am humbled.  The scores that people can rack up in two minutes are absolutely ridiculous.  It was hard for a curmudgeon like me not to suspect some Game Shark action was afoot, but I suppose some people have time to practice their Tony Hawk skills enough to routinely put up twelve million points in two minutes.  Sheesh.  The online mode (a PS2 exclusive) also features a ton of other modes and a ranking model that allow newbies to be more competitive.  In all, the online experience is fun and the PS2 people are fortunate to have it as a console exclusive.


The online mode combined with the amazing customizability of the game (create-a-skater, create-a-trick, create-a-goal, create-a-level, etc) make for a great value.  It is not hard to recommend THUG to fans of the Tony Hawk games despite how familiar all the basic skating is.  The extras and new features are enough to make this a must purchase.


- Tolen Dante

(December 28, 2003)

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