four games that have been released on virtually every platform, just
about everyone has played at least one version of Tony Hawks Pro
Skater. The concept has
been pretty much the same through each game: Take a professional
skater through a series of levels collecting items, competing in
contests, and tricking off of anything and everything along the way.
That was all well and good, and the series showed dramatic
improvement from one installment to the next so there was not really
any reason to change anything. For
the fifth game in the series, however, Neversoft decided to try
Tony Hawks Underground, the focus is no longer on widely known
professional skaters and is instead on taking a custom made
character through the trials and tribulations of being a nobody from
and trying to become a pro skater.
The same great gameplay you would expect from a Tony Hawk
game is back and better than ever along with a ton of customization
options. This is the
best game in the series, so fans will love it, but the change of
focus in the story mode and wealth of customization options will
surely bring in a whole new group of fans as well.
Hawks Underground starts off with you making a skater.
There are lots of options to choose from so you can make your
skater, male or female, look pretty much exactly how you want them
to. On the PS2 you can
even put your face into the game by sending a digital photo to
Neversoft and then downloading it into your game via the PS2 Network
Adapter after they e-mail you a special code.
This is a nice option, and it is pretty easy to do, but there
are enough appearance options that you should be able to make a
character that looks like you without the hassle of submitting a
your skater looks the way you want him or her to, you start out in a
with low stats, a junky board, and an annoying friend named Eric
Sparrow who tags along on your quest to become a pro skateboarder.
I found the story to be fairly interesting as you work to
earn sponsorships and join skate teams so you can move up to the
amateur and then pro levels. There
are a few twists and turns along the way, but the story does a good
job of presenting your rise to the top.
There are 27 chapters in the story mode with some chapters
having eight or nine goals while other chapters dont have any.
The first time through the game will take about ten hours,
but you have to play through it a couple of times to unlock all of
the videos and other hidden goodies, so it doesnt seem too short.
goals that you will have to complete in order to advance the story
are a step above the goals in past games in terms of realism.
Everything you do in THUG you do for a reason.
Things such as impressing other skaters so you can join their
team, delivering snacks to security guards so theyll let you into
a building, and one-upping local skaters by learning their secret
lines are just some of the goals youll have to complete.
You start goals by finding the people with markers over their
head, just like in THPS4, but you can also select any goal you want
from the start menu. The
goals give you quite a variety of things to do and go a long way
towards making you really feel like you are earning your way up the
ranks. The only real
problem with the story mode and the goals that you complete within
it is that they were all written with male skaters in mind.
Even when you play through the game as a woman, all of the
dialogue still starts with Hey dude or Hey bro and some
of the goals such as picking up girls for a party just seem really
awkward and out of place. This is sure to alienate some of their
audience. Another issue that isnt really a problem but will still
bring a tear to THPS veterans eyes is that the S-K-A-T-E goals
are long gone. Other
than that, the story mode is satisfying and the goals are fun.
the way you will be given the opportunity to make your own custom
tricks, and youll even be able to customize the graphics on your
board. Creating tricks
is pretty easy and you are allowed to add whatever grabs, flips, and
spins you want. The only
thing you have to watch out for is being too ambitious and adding so
much stuff that you cant complete the trick before you smack into
the pavement. Customizing
your board is easy as well and you can put a base layer, a graphic
design, and then four layers of characters (numbers, letters, etc.)
on your board in whatever colors you want.
You dont have as much freedom as I would have liked, but
it is better than nothing and a good sign of things to come.
gameplay is as solid as ever and has been improved in a couple of
different ways. Along
with all of the grabs, grinds, flatland tricks, flips, manuals,
reverts, spine transfers, and mid-combo modifications for all of the
above we have come to expect, you can now get off of your board and
walk or run around the level. This
allows you to climb objects to reach new areas of the level or
access new combo lines. You
can also work this move into combos by, for example, grinding along
one line and then jumping off of your board and running over to a
new line and continuing your combo.
Also new to this game is the ability to perform a wallplant.
A wallplant will put you into a 180-degree turn and give you
some extra speed so you can continue your combo.
Every other aspect of the classic THPS gameplay is back and
tighter than ever.
If you think you can produce better levels, the
create-a-level feature provides plenty of room to play around in.
You can make big, full-sized levels this time around that play
more like the story levels and less like your neighborhood skate park.
You can also create your own goals for not only our custom
levels but the main levels as well.
The goals you can create range from score based goals to the
S-K-A-T-E goals that are absent from the story mode.
You can even write your own custom text for each goal.
You can share your custom levels and goals with other people
online through your PS2, so now downloading new levels is much more
worthwhile than it has been in the past.
you first start story mode, your skater has limited stats and it is
a struggle to do some of the most basic actions.
In THUG the way you increase your stats is by meeting certain
criteria such as grinding for seven seconds to raise your rail stat
or landing a 10,000 point air to increase your air stat.
You cant raise all of your stats to the moon on the first
level, though, and you will be given more criteria to raise your
stats after you reach the amateur and pro levels.
This is an ingenious way of rewarding you for learning how to
play the game. By
forcing you to match these criteria, you not only make your skater
in the game better but you also learn how to become a better player.
also offers a new way to get around each level that has never been
seen before in a THPS game. You
can now enter vehicles and drive around the levels.
This is more than just a sideshow attraction, though, and a
handful of goals require you to drive a car to complete them.
The only problem with this is that the driving sections
absolutely suck. The
cars are ugly looking and the driving itself is extremely easy, far
too simple, and not all that fun.
You usually only have the option of driving just one vehicle
in each level. This is a
far cry from the GTA Pro Skater a lot of people had hoped for
after E3. The driving
sections were a nice idea but poorly executed.
Next year maybe just let is go back to skating.
the first time in the series, THUG allows you to select a difficulty
level when you start the story mode.
The difficulty level affects things such as how long you have
to complete each goal to how many points you have to score in
competitions and other point based goals.
On the lowest of the four difficulty levels you dont even
have timers for most goals and the score requirements are pathetic.
On the highest of the four difficulty levels, the game throws
300,000-point goals at you by the third level and you have literally
no time on the clock for most goals and have to spend a lot of time
in a manual. For the
last couple of competitions on Sick difficulty dont be
surprised if you have to score 800,000 points in order to win.
I beat the game on the default (third highest) difficulty
first and then moved on to Sick difficulty, and I suggest that is
what other THPS vets do as well.
It lets you learn the levels and figure out the goals on
normal before you kick it up to sick and take on the real challenge.
The last chapter in story mode plays out slightly differently
between the normal and sick difficulties, and it is pretty
satisfying to see the way the story plays out.
It is easier to get all 129 goals in THUG than it was to get
all 190 in THPS4, but Tony Hawks Underground will still provide a
decent challenge. Im
not really too crazy about having multiple difficulties, but I can
definitely see how the lower settings will help get more people into
the series, so it is something I can learn to live with.
level designs in THUG are superb and are definitely an improvement
over the levels in the last game, which I thought were the weakest
part of THPS4. In Tony
Hawks Underground, the levels are bigger than ever and are
constructed in a much more realistic way.
You wont find rails and ledges and quarterpipes all over
the place anymore, but there are several different skate spots
within each level that will provide you with plenty of objects to
trick off of. Now that
you can get off your board and have the ability to jump up and climb
on things, you can explore the nooks and crannies and rooftops and
find new places to skate that wouldnt have been available
otherwise. Even if you
dont like a given level as a whole, you will definitely find
specific spots within each level that youll want to come back to
again and again and that really is the strength of the levels in
play has returned in the PS2 version of the game and it is better than
ever. All of the modes
from THPS4 have returned along with a brand new one.
You can do simple graffiti or trick attack games, or you can
tackle the fireball mode where you can shoot fireballs at your
opponents. THUG also
features stat tracking and it keeps track of high scores so you can
check out how you stack up against the people you are playing against.
The game runs beautifully on even a dialup connection as well
and, along with the other THPS games stands as one of the few bright
spots for those of us with slow connections that still want to play
console games online.
not a whole lot has changed since the last game.
There is a lot more detail in the level designs, but other than
slightly sharper textures it looks just like THPS4.
The character models are sort of ugly when you see them up
close, but the animation is smoother than ever so the bug-eyed
characters can be forgiven. The
game runs at a smooth framerate and looks good overall.
sound in THUG is very good. The
sounds of skating are much the same as we have heard before, but now
there are new sounds to represent different surfaces.
There is also more dialogue in Tony Hawks Underground than
ever before, and most of the voices sound very good.
Even the pro-skaters sound pretty good this year after the
robotic sound bytes we got from them last year.
The only voice that will grate on you is your buddy Eric
Sparrow, but youll get used to it.
has always played an important part in the Tony Hawk games and THUG
offers the biggest selection of songs yet.
There are over 70 songs from rock, hip-hop, and punk and most
of the selections are worth listening to.
You have the option to remove specific tracks from your play
list or turn off an entire genre, which is a nice option.
A lot of the hip-hop tracks are actually about THPS, which is
also very cool. The sheer
amount of music means it will be quite a while before you get too
tired of the soundtrack if you are a GC or PS2 owner and dont have
the option of making a custom soundtrack like Xbox owners.
say this every year, but only because with each new version of this
series its true: This
is the best skateboarding game on the market and the best the Tony
Hawk series has to offer. Tony
Hawks Underground has all of the same great gameplay and features
that fans of the series expect, but it also introduces a new story
mode and shifts the focus onto creating characters, boards, tricks,
and levels to make the game your own.
If you arent already a fan of the series, the interesting
and decidedly different story mode, more organic way of raising your
stats, and the inclusion of selectable difficulty levels should go a
long way towards winning you over.
This game is a lot of fun and the depth of the customization
features and excellent online play ensure that you will be playing the
game for months. THUG
rocks, plain and simple, and deserves to be played.