Tony Hawk’s Underground 2
And he’s back! Not even a year has passed since the last one but again there’s a new Tony Hawk. I’m not complaining, because my skate-adventures back in the days mostly started with a hopeful push… to end with my face hitting the street. So this series was my substitute for years now. The disadvantage of that is that I know every aspect of the game, and because of that, the previous game started to bore me. Who knows, maybe this one will wake up my interest again…
Actually, it was only the previous Underground which I didn’t really like. The fourth part in the Pro Skater saga still finds its way into my cube now and then. Underground was the game which experimented with the aged Tony Hawk-concept, but -in my eyes- didn’t really succeed. But, this is a review of its successor, so let’s get it started. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 has absolutely no connection with its predecessor and tries out a whole batch of new stuff. To start with, the Story Mode is still there but now it’s greatly inspired by Jackass and Viva La Bam, so expect quite some elements from that shows. The most important character in this game is -who else- Bam Margera, and that says enough.
You’re skating around peacefully, by chance in the ‘hometown’ of the previous game, when you are pulled into a passing van. Somewhere in a dark room they inform you about a ‘World Destruction Tour’ Bam and Tony are organizing. The purpose is to be divided in two teams, which have to collect more points than each other. Those points are deserved by accomplishing several missions. Before you start skating around in a city, you get to hear that missions. Some of those are finding a Pro, Secret and a Guest character. Every hidden character has its own goals, so new ones are unlocked when finding them. The Secret guy is the most original, as he has a vehicle which you can try out some new moves with. When playing with the Pro character you have to do the ‘normal’ stuff, like doing a combo, grinding something special, …
It’s not the intention anymore of becoming the most famous skater. That’s a good thing, since the concept is getting really old; do we have to be the best in everything? THUG2 -finally- doesn’t take itself seriously. After every level you get to see some Jackass-jokes (mostly revolving around teasing Phil Margera) and also in between you meet a couple of freaky dudes. Every level is editable, just like in the first Pro Skater games. If you throw a tomato to a bull, he will escape from his cage, trash some cars and other stuff and even knock over a tower. In New Orleans you can change everyone into zombies, which you have to ride over afterwards. It’s a nice variation on the plain old skating.
Even more fun is the return of the old play style, named Classic Mode. In this mode you get two minutes on every level to finish as much goals possible. Old friends like SKATE, COMBO, and the high/pro/sick scores make their comeback. Next to all the Story Mode levels, there are some good old ones from Pro Skater one, two and three to play with. Classic isn’t meant as the primary mode, but I found it more amusing than Story. It’s just fun, without all the whistles.
Every trick that had something to with skating was available in the previous games so this time not a single new one has been added. The Handplant is changed though. It’s now replaced by a Sticker Slap, which ehh… does what is says it does. A small derivative is the Graffiti Tag. Now you can leave your selfmade tag anywhere in a level. It doesn’t do much, but it’s needed for some missions. Besides, seeing your name on the ridge of a church is always fun.
Create-a-something now got its own standalone mode. Pretty logical, since now you can edit Skaters, Parks, Graphics, Goals and Tricks. Just like before you can -using the EyeToy- paste your face on your character, only with the PS2 version of course. A load of new clothes, haircuts and other stuff is added to assist you looking as cool possible. And at the Goal, Trick and Park modes a lot of new tools and parts were added. The real new thing is Create-A-Graphic in which you can make your very own Graffiti Tag. I don’t think anything else can be adjusted. Maybe your own voice in the game using the Singstar-mic?
As I mentioned, THUG2 isn’t meant ‘realistically’ anymore. You can also notice this when looking at the graphics. The skaters look alot more cartoony and the environments are colorful and cheerful. The motions and lipsync of the NPC’s have improved a great deal and falling -really, really hard- never looked so good. You can even create a little masterpiece of your graffiti tags. Needless to say more: Tony Hawk is almost perfect graphically.
Well, only the soundtrack remains. Everyone should find one melody in this game which they like. Separated in three categories -generally Punk, Rap, Rock- we get to hear 53 songs. More than else I heard several that I knew. I’m talking Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Rancid, Jimmy Eat World, The Doors, Less Than Jake and -personal favorite- Disturbed. Occassionally Frank Sinatra, the Ramones or Johny Cash show off their skills. Corny classics which fit perfectly in the game. And if you don’t like them, just tick them off. Easy no? The real characters have the voice of their real-life versions and the ones made up have a funny voice. Everything is tiptop here, as usual.
Tony Hawk will produce a new sequel every year. And every year the series is getting a bit more perfect. I didn’t like the previous one though, but THUG2 has made it all enjoyable again. Too bad it’s all getting a bit old and dreadful. I’m going to be honest, the replay value is big, but after a while I didn’t even want to play it anymore. All right, it looks different, but it plays the same as always. If you finished the previous two games, this one isn’t something for you. For the rest: know that this is the best skategame available. Dot.