Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Review

Tony Hawk was the first skateboarding game and although numerous other games have tried to copy its formula, the series has continued to evolve and remain at the top of the extreme skateboarding heap. That trend continues with the release of Tony Hawkís Underground 2 (THUG2), although it is more of an incremental move forward from its predecessor than an evolutionary leap.

Probably the most dramatic change between the THUG and THUG2 is that the gameís story mode has taken a turn towards the dark side. The story mode moves you between different city locations as you try to work your way up from a skate nobody to a skate legend by pulling of tricks and completing special goals unique to each location. In THUG2ís story mode you are placed on a team of skaters led by Tony Hawk that enters into a competition with Bam Margera and his miscreants in a competition known as the World Destruction Tour. The Tour will take you to cities around the world where youíll compete by trying to rack up the most points by destroying property and terrorizing the locals before moving on to your next destination. Vandalizing statues, tagging walls, and nailing pedestrians are just a few of the lofty goals youíll take on to prove your worth as a skater. Prior Tony Hawk games were all about the skating and I canít say that I really like where the game is going with this malevolent turn. That being said letís move on to the gameplayÖ

Grinding a cannon in Boston

When you begin skating at a new location youíre given a list of goals to accomplish before you can move on to the next. These goals include things like tagging a particular wall, finding a secret character, or pulling off a certain trick at a specified location. Your list of goals is easily accessible at any time from the pause menu and in a nice touch you can get tips or clues on how to accomplish each goal. There are also additional challenges to be found by speaking to some of the people on the streets and finding the hidden characters will unlock bonus goals that can be accomplished with the new character. As always, there are also plenty of hidden bonuses, secret gaps, and hidden paths awaiting players who do a little exploring.

So how do you pull off tricks? This is accomplished by pressing the right key combinations at the right time, with the exact trick determined by location. For example, youíll do a different trick when catching air off of a half-pipe than you will when jumping on a rail. To complete the trick youíll need to make sure you land with your board pointed in the right direction and avoid any obstacles in your way. To really rack up points you can string tricks together into combos and your points will continue to accumulate until you wipe out. Some tricks are harder than others to pull off, and your success is also dependent on your skaterís stats. Each skater is rated in a number of categories, so no matter how hard you try to pull off a really hard trick your skater may not have the speed, balance, or other skill needed. The good news is that as you explore each area youíll find secret tricks that will result in skill increases, so you always have a chance for improvement.

Control in the game is either very good or pretty tricky, all depending on how you play. Thereís just no really easy way to play a game designed for a console controller with a keyboard, so youíll be facing a handicap if you go that route. However, plug in a gamepad and things improve markedly. You can easily map the buttons on the controller to your liking and next thing you know youíll be pulling off grinds and ollies with reckless abandon. Many console ports lose some responsiveness and control in the porting process, but thatís not the case with THUG2.