Tony Hawk's Underground 2

Review

posted 11/9/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
Although the game carries the number two behind it, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 is actually the sixth entry in Neversoft’s long-running franchise. What started out as a relatively obscure phenomenon on the PlayStation One ballooned into what is best described as the gaming revolution of the next generation. The franchise crafted a genre and continued to revolutionize it with each and every successive iteration. Last year’s game added in a plethora of new goodies including a story mode which give players a peek into the life of professional skating. This time around the game takes a decidedly different turn by adding mayhem and carnage into the mix. The end result plays more like an episode of MTV’s Jackass, but the innovative blend of intuitive controls and addictive gameplay still remain to form one of the year’s best games.

As strange as this sounds, THUG 1 actually had a pretty decent storyline. It chronicled the skating careers of two teenaged friends; one who skated for the love of it and the other who was in it for the fame. As the story progressed players were able to gain some insight into the world of skating and the reasons why someone is willing to risk life and limb to taste success. THUG 2 tosses all of this out the window and instead, turns the game into an interactive version of the MTV Hit show “Jackass”. Forget about fulfilling a punk kid’s dream of becoming a professional skater, it’s all about engaging in random acts of tomfoolery and off-beat chicanery. It’s Team Bam vs. Team Hawk in a race to see who can cause the most mayhem and destruction across the globe. It’s a decent change of pace in the franchise but the game starts to spread itself a little thin at times. It seems like the game tries to do too much when it should really just be about skating.

Since the objective of THUG 2 is to cause mayhem on a global scale, you’ll be given the opportunity to shred up some of the world’s most beautiful locales. You’ll start ‘Stateside in Boston but soon you’ll move up to the likes of Spain, Germany and Australia. As has been the case with each entry in the franchise, the further you get in the game the better and bigger the levels get. I’m not quite sure why the designers keep deciding to do this but at least it keeps me motivated to make headway into the game. Each year Neversoft keeps topping itself by creating larger levels with a seemingly infinite number of scoring lines, this year’s game manages to somehow improve upon this. It’s easy to be intimidated by the sheer size of these levels; some of them are so massive that they have warp points (in the form of subways) which will allow you to move effortlessly from one side of the map to another. The crazy thing about this is that the developers never fully show their hand from the start. While the levels look massive from the outside there are plenty of hidden areas just waiting to be discovered. Even the rehash of the Warehouse level from the first THPS has been modified to be bigger and better.

To add more depth to each stage the game requires you to control multiple characters in a quest to accomplish their tasks. In addition to your created skater you’ll be able to take control of a Pro Skater of your choosing, a guest star and a special character hidden within the stages. This could have turned out poorly for the fear of redundancy, but the designers did a great job of adding variety to each character’s goals. All of the guest stars are interesting too if not for their pop cultural status and their quirky rides. In an early stage you’ll encounter Jesse James (from Discovery Channel’s Monster Garage) and his souped up scooter. If you choose to switch to him you’ll encounter a whole new set of goals which can only be accomplished by James.
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