Tony Hawk’s Underground
Several trauma’s remained. What got into those people ? Why didn’t they just leave me alone ? What had I done wrong to them ? So many questions arose but none of them got answered. I got your attention now, don’t I ? Please, do go on !
It was one of those way too hot summer days in the middle of July and I couldn’t be any happier. Together with a good friend I dwelled around town, looking for a nice place with some shadow to sit. After having parked the car we were forced to walk through the center of town. Most of the time you won’t see a living soul there but today was different. For some reason the whole place was overwhelmed with party animals. We passed the first terrace and what seemed like a good ending turned out to be something else. Just when we thought to have succesfully ignored the bar, a well-meanth “skatehomo” sounded over the yard. Cool as I was then, I didn’t respond. Maybe they were shouting at someone else ? When looking around pretty good, I conclude that there wasn’t anyone else they could be shouting at and a pretty loud “Hey!” got my attention. I turned around and realised all too well that the first shout was meant for me. Still cool I just raised my hand and friendly smiled towards the fool. I had wanted to yell very hard “I’m not a skater”, but I wasn’t that cool… See, that someone calls me homo is ok. After all, someone can have doubts about the sexual nature of another human being but judging just by my clothing that I practice the fine arts of skateboarding is just over the top. When will people stop putting names on everything ?
Frustrated, me and my friend (read: niet THE friend, as there’s a girlfriend in my life) continued our search. A couple of street corners further we found the perfect place to have a drink. While enjoying a nice cold Hoegaarden we kept rambling on that stupid incident. Subconscious I felt the necessity to live up to my new title. Of course I myself am way too clumsy to stand on a four-wheeled board and I don’t really intend to change my sexual preferences for it, but where there’s a PS2 and Tony Hawk, there’s a way, right ?
I decided to become master of all tricks and flips in Tony Hawk. The manuals were seeminglessly nit together and the counter went berserk. In some sick way I became a true polygon skater, with my homemage “Me” I showed off against the competition. My skater looked exactly the same as me with the one difference that he was capable of remaining on the wooden board. Going from the hair to the socks, it was just the outfit of before. It looked like one big marketing stunt from Activision.
Don’t look strange when in THUG suddenly some homeless moron starts yelling “skatehomo”…
Enough about my trauma, time for the review ! Sports games (including those on extreme sports) get an update every year. Players have changed clubs, a couple of teams receive a new outfit, and it’s immediately the perfect chance for developers to perfect their game. Of course there’s one catch here, the fact that perfectioning hardly ever leads to groundbreaking concepts. Yes, the graphics are polished and the gameplay is a bit tighter, but most things remain unchanged. With a skategame you have a bit more liberty but you still need a developer who uses this liberty. Activision has shown in the past that they have what it takes and with this fifth edition they just want to make that clear to everyone.
Since GTA3, gamers are looking for more freedom in their games. Borders between genres are fading, what once was a racer now becomes an RPG and that platform game from the old days now has many elements of a skate game (read: some salt please). Our Tony can’t stay away from that trend either. To make everything a bit more appealing, you can put your own face on your skater. You do this by scanning a recent picture and uploading that to the site of THUG. After this you’ll get a code that you have to use online in the game. Strangely enough, you can’t use your Eye Toy for this.
I’ve tried it myself and I have to agree with the girls; even with a polygon more or less I’m a real stud (*cough*) ! If Activision would think they reinvented the wheel, they’re plain wrong. A certain EA Sports did the same with NBA Live 2000 for the pc but ok, that was pc and here we’re talking about PS2 so 3 times hurray for Activision. One small thing, this technique is exclusively to be found in the PS2 version. Xbox and Gamecube will have to do with the standard heads.
Once you’ve finished with adding yourself, you can start your adventure. The idea of career mode is to work your way from “skate homo” to true “skate super fagget”. The game is still divided into different levels but a bit bigger. Another new thing is the addition of cut-scenes, yet another trick to bring us more into the game. Feel it coming already ? Sooner or later any genre will touch a storyline and to be honest I don’t think this is bad. Of course they don’t have to exagerrate with the cutscenes but with a game like Tony Hawk that shouldn’t be a problem.
After four episodes we kinda know the controls so you can’t help but ask “won’t it be too simple for the die-hards?” The game has different skill levels going from easy for the noogs to even sick for the freaks ! Where you only have to collect three objects in easy, sick will have you look around for six of them. The sickmode, no matter how tough, is still a bit simple for the hardened Tony Hawk. The replay value also isn’t too big since you’re stuck to a storyline and there less free play. While with Tony Hawk 4 you could finish the game with any pro skater and could unlock new stuff each time, THUG on the other hand will only let you finish the storyline with your own skater. Still, next to the fact that the story ends pretty quickly, it’s a nice addition to the series.
For those who don’t like balancing on a wooden board there’s also the possibility to walk. That way you can explore places which are normally impossible to get to. The manual principle has been worked out further so that you can do combo tricks by walking a short bit, manual, grind, manual, jump, … in short: one big endless trick, if you can keep your balance of course ! There’s also a time limit for the walking. You can’t take a couple of halfpipes and grinds, walk for a mile and then continue with your combo. It doesn’t add lots of new gameplay though. The normal manual system is still the best if you want to score really high.
Next to your feet you also get a car of lawnmower at your disposal. These missions add some variation but the most fun remains the skating.
Of course the game has all the biggest pro skaters going from Tony Hawk himself to Jackass wacko Bam Margera. Since you have to create your own skater in career mode, these pro’s are only playable in the other game modes like free run and the usual multiplayer modes. I can hear you think that that DVD must be quite full already but we can easily add a whole “create a …” bunch of crap. The create-a-trick mode is by far the most impressive. The name already gives you and idea and yes, you can invent your own tricks. You can adapt how long it takes to do a certain flip or grab and on basis of the difficulty level points will be given. The harder it is to land, the more points you’ll get ! Furthermore you can also create art for your own board and if you add also the possibility to make your own goals and you easily realise that Tony is completely customizable.
Like with the last two episodes, THUG is playable online. Try making an incredibly difficult goal and take a look at how those flipped Americans eat dirt.
Don’t expect any miracles on the graphical part. Everything looks nice and there are no framedrops present. The NPC’s even look a bit better than usual this time. The cut-scenes do their job and the lipsync isn’t all too bad. Tony Hawk games are known for their varied soundtrack and THUG is no exception. From Kiss to Bad Religion and from Jane’s Addiction to L.A. Symphony… for anyone their liking.
The facemapping system, the new storymore and lots of “create-a-“-possibilities make THUG a very complete game. Unfortunately the storyline is a bit short and the replay value is much less than with the previous parts. Still THUG is manadatory for all the fans, even if it were to be able to look at yourself in polygones !