Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy
Oct. 21st 2004
Introduction:I'm sure you've seen the Tony Hawk commercials by now; Team Tony vs. Team Bam! Activision has let everyone know that the new Tony Hawk game is on store shelves and if you have heard any hype about this game, it's true. Tony Hawk Underground is back with a bigger and badder version. THUG 2 remains true to the Tony Hawk long running series and dishes out some mayhem and good times.
The Game:Tony Hawk Underground 2 (THUG 2) is the follow-up to the radically different Tony Hawk Underground game from last year. Instead of trying to further the THUG 2 in innovation like Underground did to the series, Neversoft played it safe and is building on the strong Tony Hawk Underground foundation. THUG 2 performs better then most sequels and has a few surprises for Hawk fans.
Part of the success with the Tony Hawk series has always been its emphasis on fun and accessible gameplay, and this year's game is no different. Immediately any gamer can get into a Tony Hawk game even if they are not familiar with the franchise or skateboarding. THUG 2 does aim at all levels of experience, and you are free to chance the level anytime during the game. There are three ranges of difficulty ranging from Beginner to Pro. I am not a pro-hawk player, but I've heard the game has several challenging moments for the hardcore fan. For me I'm in-between beginner and experienced and I found the level in THUG 2 to be well rounded adding some tough challenges with easier ones. The way the challenges are balanced is very important to overall feel of the game and it helps keep the player motivated to complete all the challenges in the missions. Tony Hawk Underground 2 is one of the most addictive games of the year, even for the simpletons who don't skate.
The story part of the game revolves around A World Destruction Tour though up by skate legend Tony Hawk and the hooligan Bam Margera. It ends up that you get picked to participate in the World Destruction Tour, and you're immediately drafted into one of the two teams. Each team has to complete checklists, and create havoc in each town of the tour. In a nice twist the game just doesn't revolve around your character gathering all the points by competing the checklists, you will also need the help of other characters. Each level has a nice number of unlockable characters which will have to complete goals just like your character and another pro skater in your team. The unlockable characters consist of one celebrity and one comical figure in each level. In the first level you will have to find the star of Monster Garage Jessie James, and the historical figure Ben Franklin. These characters aren't just unlocked for fun, to complete all the points in a given town you'll have to complete all the goals which each character. This splits the game up nicely and gives THUG 2 a huge bonus in variety.
THUG 2 for the Xbox doesn't support Xbox Live play which is a shame since Sony's online service still caters to the Tony Hawk games. Xbox Live would of been a blast, so lets hope Activision can work something out for Underground 3. There are little small complaints you could have against THUG 2, like the occasional clipping or the fact that Jessie James is glued to the bottom of his high powered Segway, but overall these mistakes don't effect the gameplay or hinder the fun. I'm impressed that Neversoft can keep toping themselves and making a better game with every release of the Tony Hawk series. Tony Hawk Underground 2 is awesome.
Graphics & Sound: Graphically THUG 2 has improved and looks sharper than ever. Although the character models aren't revolutionary or overly detailed, they keep that basic Tony Hawk look and have been revamped. The level design in the other hand has pushed up the skills and made some truly impressive levels. Neversoft has done an excellent job of making almost every line in the game interactive. If there is a surface you can usually get to it within reason, and there are allot of unexpected places where you can ramp off of and complete combos. It really turns the world in to your own skate park, with interactive pedestrians. THUG 2 all supports 480 & 720 resolution, which provides polished and beautiful rendered screens on any HDTV. THUG 2 really looks amazing on high definition and when compared to other console versions of the game, it comes off like night and day.
Tony Hawk games have always done well in the sound department and after so many years of recreating the sound of a skateboard on almost every surface on the earth, it no surprise that THUG 2 sounds amazing. You'll definitely notice rolling over cobblestones or grinding on a metal pole. The soundtrack this year is one of the most diverse offerings in game, changing from Johnny Cash, to Metallica to the Violent Femmes. I was happy that enjoyed most of the acts on the soundtrack and I like the fact they transcend more than one musical genre. The voice acting has the real life talent which always a good thing and makes THUG 2 the complete package.
* Side Note: You have some brave programmers over at Neversoft for scanning Bam's dad in his skippies!
Innovation:An innovative part of THUG 2 is the integration of the old school Tony Hawk games. I guess you could called this game THPS+UG2 because it mixes both gameplay elements together. This should make the older THPS fans happy, and quiet any complaints on the new story mode. The "Classic Mode" of THUG 2 has over 100 goals which are not offered in the normal story mode of the game, so there are plenty of reasons to play explore both modes on the disc. Classic mode is just the basics, objectives without the drama. So get ready to find the secret tape once again, and S-K-A-T-E those high scored combos.
The levels also have more interactivity in THUG 2 then in previous versions of Tony Hawk. Items like garbage cans and ATM machines can be destroyed and tricked off of, and most interactive items will probably by found by accident. The levels have more lines to grind, and more places to find which makes THUG 2 allot of fun. You will even be able to open new areas by creating havoc which opens up more opportunity for points. It isn't called the world destruction tour for nothing!
Tony Hawk Underground 2 also has some new features one which is the "sticker slap" where you can rebound off walls and tag them with your logo all at once. It's a cool move which can get you some series points if you flirt with danger. And the also added the cool Freak Out Meter which after a botched trick you can hit the button fast to have your character loose it and destroy his board. don't worry a new magical board appears. This feature really doesn't do much for the game, but it helps break the tension if you are getting too frustrated.
Mojo:I don't think I have to explain the mojo in THUG 2, but reading this review you should know all the points which I am stoked about. THUG 2 is oozing with the mojo, and all the extra content and story send this game off the scale. I think the idea of Team Hawk vs. Team Bam! Was inventive and brought more than expected for this sequel. Neversoft and Activision have just sold another fan on the great Tony Hawk series.
Lowdown:If you liked Tony Hawk Underground, yo u will love this sequel! THUG 2 is one of the most entertaining "pick-up and play" games this year! Team Neversoft can not be stopped; Tony Hawk Underground 2 is a hit.
Gameplay: 9, Graphics/Sound: 9, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 10. Final: 9
GOTY RUNNER-UP: BEST CHARACTER 2004 (TONY & BAM)