Tony Hawk's Underground


posted 12/23/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
In order to survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment one must learn to adapt. Forget about watching the discovery channel, one must only follow the adventures of developer Neversoft in order to learn the ways of progression and adaptation. Just look at its excellent Tony Hawk franchise and the manner that it continues to please and innovate, even after all of these years. Just when I thought that I had seen everything there was to see from these guys they pull out another ace from their sleeves and produce yet another amazing title.

Forget about playing as the Pros, in THUG you get to become one. Instead of sending you on a cavalcade of nonsensical goals this year’s iteration adds a new storyline that gives your goals and actions some weight and meaning. As the game’s tagline implies you’ll start out as a skating punk, a little thug whose only life’s purpose is to trick and grind off of every possible surface. One day Chad Muska rolls into your ghetto New Jersey neighborhood and gives your life a bit of meaning and hope. After impressing him and getting his board you’re off on a whirlwind tour that will take you across the globe and by the end of it, you’ll have your own sponsor, your own board, your own motives and most importantly, your own persona.

THUG utilizes the same open-ended system that THPS4 employs. When in career mode you’ll be able to skate throughout the environment without the pressure of a timer to hinder your experience. When you think you’re ready to progress through the game you just need to approach a character with a floating icon to get the next goal. Most of the same elements that we’ve seen before have been recycled here. You’ll still have the standard score X amount of points and touch x amount of objects. What I really liked about this version is that it adds a new twist on the generic S-K-A-T-E goal that we’ve been doing since the very first title. Instead you’ll have to get some letters in a combo while spelling out the name of a brand. So let’s say that you’re vying for a sponsorship with CIRCA, you’ll have to collect and string together a set of letters so that it spells out the word. It’s not so easy though because if you collect them out of order you’ll spell something like RICCA and will have to start the goal all over again. This new goal type is a nice twist on a rapidly aging formula.

New gameplay elements also factor into the goal structure. Making the largest impact is the ability to get off of your board and walk around the environments. On the gameplay side this allows you to get up to ledges and saunter across ropes and wires that allow you to access locations you can’t reach on boards. When it comes to tricking it allows you to string along even larger combos because you can now walk between gaps as opposed to having to depend on your manuals. Thankfully the game employs a timer system when you walk in the middle of a combo, putting some pressure on you to pick up the pace so that you can’t form infinite combos. Now you can wallplant which open up new goals where you’ll have to place posters on walls to advertise upcoming events. A new wall push that allows you to push off of the wall with your hands so that you can quickly turn around when there’s not enough room to satisfy your turning radius. The new Acid Drop allows you to plunge from large heights at a steep angle to make your tricks look even more insane and dangerous. Finally, rounding out the new tricks is a new type of angled transfer that lets you launch onto adjacent ramps in the skate parks. In all these new additions give the game even more variety and makes the gameplay much more intuitive.
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