Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 Remix
I’ve played every Tony Hawk Pro Skater game. I stayed with the series after being disappointed with the third and fourth incarnations and I stuck with the series after its drastic change with Tony Hawk’s Underground. I’ve played the series on the Gameboy Color, the Dreamcast, the PlayStation, the Xbox, the GameCube, the PS2 and now the PSP. The latest game in the series, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, yet again challenges the mold the series created and offers up a whole new storyline, tons of skaters, new moves and all the rest of that stuff. The result is yet another competent Tony Hawk game, but if you want to know where it stacks up with the rest of the series, you’ll have to read on…
Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (THUG 2) stars Tony Hawk and Bam Margera, and chronicles a rivalry between them. Team Hawk is battling Team Bam to see who can do the most skateboarding destruction across the globe. You earn points for completing various objectives, like grinding specific objects and earning high scores, to more ridiculous ones like taking a kid on a hospital bed to meet Mr. Hawk. You’ll see all sorts of stupid things in this mode, kind of like the stunts you’d see on Bam’s show “Viva La Bam,” but not quite as outrageous.
Personally, I didn’t spend much time here. My biggest complaint about Tony Hawk’s Underground in the first place was the mandatory storyline. It’s not that it was bad, but I always liked going out and skating as a great skateboarder, completing challenges, and moving on to the next level. The storylines distracted from what the game was really all about, and that was professional skateboarding. You don’t see storylines in NFL, MLB, or NBA games, and skateboarding’s just as much a sport. Thankfully, THUG 2 offers up a “classic mode,” one of many new additions which was perfect for me because there are no frills; it’s just straight-up skating.
The most important thing about these games are the levels you get to explore and for the most part these levels are great. There are a lot more nooks and crannies to explore in this game than in previous games, including a guest cameo by the now world-famous Star Wars Kid. You’ll travel all over the world in levels that aren’t necessarily realistic but are based on the actual areas, such as the bar “Jeers” in Boston (obviously a reference to the hit television show Cheers, and the actual bar which are found in Boston, Massachusetts). My favorite level had to have been Barcelona because of its sheer size: it had a subway system, a giant catapult, and a bridge that seemed to be a work in progress that all worked together to allow some awesome trick opportunities.
Each incarnation always unleashes some sort of new, innovative gimmick, and THUG 2 isn’t an exception to this. The biggest addition is a new Focus Mode, allowing you to flick the analog stick and enter a slow motion mode. This allows you to slow down the game, which makes it a lot easier to land tricks and plan landing. This is a pretty nifty invention that makes combos a lot easier to pull off, but my problem with it is that it is triggered by hitting the analog stick. With my big ol’ American thumbs, I kept accidentally hitting the analog nub and entering it, so I had to hold the system a little different than normal, leading to my hands getting cramped up after a while of play. This also means that you can’t use the PSP’s awesome analog nub to control the skating and I didn’t much like that either. You can also toss stickers up on walls that you design yourself, but it isn’t quite as robust as Jet Set Radio.
Other than these additions, this is the same old Tony Hawk that you’ve played before. Sure, you can design your own tricks and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, it’s the same skating that you’ve done in all the other games. That’s not really a bad thing; it’s just harder to justify purchasing largely the same game for the sixth time. With all the filled-to-the-brim levels and the robust storyline chronicling some of the world’s greatest stupidity, this is certainly the most robust Tony Hawk game, but won’t Tony Hawk’s Underground 3 trump it as soon as it comes out?
In the graphics department, THUG 2 looks really good. All of the pro skaters are properly designed (I can’t say I know what many of them look like to begin with, so I’ll just assume they’re right). The framerate never drops and the textures are impressive. More importantly, all of the trick animations are smooth; though there is a bit of blurring at high speed which can be slightly distracting (it’s also more noticeable than in Ridge Racer). The game also converts nicely onto the smaller PSP screen without problem.
The soundtrack is an eclectic blend of various genres of music, ranging from Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” to Disturbed’s “Liberate” to the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” Jimmy Eat World, Faith No More, Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many more bands also contribute to the soundtrack, packing it with a lot of great tunes. There’s also some decent voice work for all of the skaters that extends past their usual screams and yells from falling, so they actually say stuff during the cutscenes.
Outside of some minor problems I had with the control and the storyline that I just didn’t really have a thing for, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 is a nice game that’s sure to please fans of the series. It’s your only option for skateboarding on the PSP (or any system for that matter) so if it interests you, well, you don’t have a choice if you want to buy it. And people complain Madden is a monopoly…. Anyhow, if you’ve never played a Tony Hawk game before, this is the most complete out of all of them and it’s worth a purchase. Lastly, if you’ve been playing the series and you’ve gotten bored, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 probably won’t restore your love for the franchise, and you might want to wait for the price to drop.
Eight out of ten