Tony Hawk's Underground 2
Reviewed May 2005 by Tony Peak
In late 1999 the name Tony Hawk exploded onto the gaming scene
with Neversoft's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (THPS). Already almost
synonymous with the popular image of pro skateboarding, the
game helped to push Tony Hawk's public image further than ever.
It was a game that, even if you knew nothing about extreme
sports, anyone could enjoy playing and watching on its merits
as a game alone.
Fast forward a few years and the Tony Hawk series has become
quite a success for Neversoft and Activision on multiple consoles
and handhelds. The Tony Hawk's Underground (THUG) series has
replaced the Pro Skater series, with the main difference being
a story mode and some extra variety in the levels and series'
direction. Now Tony Hawk's Underground 2 has come to the PSP,
but does it make the transition and does it still hold up?
In THUG fashion, story mode puts you
in the shoes of a newbie skater. This time around however
things are set to an MTV-like reality show of sorts where
you and a bunch of skateboarding pros go on a "World Destruction Tour".
During this tour you'll get various goals to complete, such
as finding a celebrity, breaking some windows, or tagging
some walls. In many ways it's unfortunately less like skateboarding
and more like a platformer on a skateboard. There are some
good improvements though, like stat increases for meeting
specific challenges such as grinding for an amount of time,
or getting a large air combo. These make a lot of sense and
work very well.
The main problems with this mode are simply that the story
is bad, the goals are not very fun to complete, and it doesn't
focus much on the skateboarding anymore. Throwing objects at
pedestrians or finding Steve-O just doesn't get me going the
same way as making a new high score or pulling off a great
combo. The control on foot is really quite frustrating, and
there's no analog control at all on your board, but digital
works well enough. The MTV-like storyline is just hard to put
up with at times, it's so far over the top and out of touch
that I really just wonder why they took such a mass appeal
game and centered it squarely at the MTV crowd.
Thankfully THUG2 also includes "Classic Mode",
which is basically the heart of the classic Tony Hawk Pro
Skater games. You get a short time limit with various goals
to complete, such as a 100,000 score, completing a grind,
or collecting the word combo. Completing enough goals lets
you move on to the next level in a branching path, giving
some good replay. While the series unfortunately no longer
focuses much on skate parks, the cities work very well for
classic mode. Most importantly, your moves have seen some
good improvements since the THPS days, especially in grinding,
wall riding, manual, and linking combos together.
THUG2 still looks very good overall, and the graphics generally
work in the game's favor. The actual gameplay graphics tend
to look better than the cut scenes however, since using actual
famous skateboarders makes it that much easier for the human
eye to spot irregularities than when you're flying around on
a skateboard. The levels definitely benefit from the PSP's
texture filtering and smaller screen resolution, and everything
animates quite fluidly overall.
There are a few things that bug me, such as some occasional
tearing in the levels and other little anomalies. I'm really
not a fan of how the levels seem extremely open, but if you
go down the wrong road too far suddenly you're thrust back
into the playing field. It's quite hard to tell where the levels
end sometimes, and leads to making the same mistake multiple
The low point of the game in my opinion, even lower than the
story, is the music. The soundtrack basically consists of a
general mishmash of punk rock, rap, oldies and alternative
as recorded off the AM radio one day. It's almost incomprehensible
how some of these titles wound up in the same soundtrack, and
sadly the selection isn't very good to begin with. While there
are a few good tracks, more often than not the songs are either
horribly out of place, or generally sound like amplified white
noise recorded through a microphone underwater. Extremely few
fit the theme what so ever.
The only way I can see someone getting the maximum enjoyment
out of this game is if you're a part of the MTV crowd. If you
watch MTV on a daily basis, like reality shows, extreme sports,
and think Steve-O as a guest appearance is a good idea, this
is your game. You may even like the soundtrack, except maybe
for a few oldies.
For everyone else, there is still classic Tony Hawk fun to
be had here. Classic Mode still captures some of the fun of
THPS 1-3, and Story Mode is tolerable at least once. Classic
mode is almost undoubtedly where you'll spend your time, and
thankfully the game does offer a fairly large amount of levels
and goals. The game is retailing for $49.99, a large amount
higher than its currently $29.99 console siblings on GameCube/Xbox/PS2,
and a whopping 5x higher than the $9.99 PC version.
While portability, 4 exclusive levels, and
4 person wireless play are all well and good, I'd recommend
waiting for a price drop and playing it on your PC or console
of choice instead for the better control and extra buttons.
Playing Hints and Tips
- While air tricks are great, grinding is a lot of fun and
can net some big scores. Double tap Triangle, Circle, or Square
while grinding to switch it up a bit, and switch between them
- After a grind, manual when you hit the ground by pressing
up then down quickly before you land. This will continue your
combo. You can also do a revert when you land an air trick
for the same effect.
- Switch up your tricks, or else you'll score less and less
points each time. For every trick in the combo, your bonus
multiplier increases. Try to mix in some lip tricks, grinds,
flips, and even grabs. Don't forget about wallrides and sticker
slaps to keep it going at a dead end.
- In story mode, try to build up your stats on the training
level so that you'll be set for the story's goals.