Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 9.0
Gameplay : 8.0
Multiplayer : 8.5
Overall : 8.5
Review by Ryan Delaney

The Tony Hawk series of games have been the one series that I have thoroughly enjoyed every release, and the next in the series has only improved. Unfortunately for me, these were all the console versions. The PC versions, while basically the same, never played the same to me even with a game pad. That didn’t change with THUG 2. It seems that a year away from the PC didn’t do anything for the overall feel of it compared to the consoles.

So you want to see the world... not like you have a choice.

Like I said earlier, I have enjoyed and devoured every single Tony Hawk game since the first. THUG was no exception, and although the addition of an actually story changed things a bit the core game was till there. THUG 2 is basically the same game as the previous, except the story is not nearly as well done as the first. You play a n00b but you don’t have anything to prove, it’s all about helping your team win a “World Destruction Tour” and not about building your character into a well known pro like the first THUG.

Like the rest of the series, the environments are large, on a vertical level, and varied. You start off in a training level that looks very much like the first level you play in the original Tony Hawk, nothing really special here. One little change, and I think it was a good one, if the addition of NPC’s who help show you the basics for pulling off several kinds of basic tricks and help you checkout some of the new additions to the game (arcade machines with scores to beat).

Playing through the game I didn’t find the new “challenges” to be as enjoyable as the rest of the games in the series, and they just didn’t seem to fit the game. Luckily for people like me the developers saw fit to include a “Classic” play mode which I was very relieved to see, as it kept up the replay value and enjoyment of the game. The different areas you visit in the “Story” mode are very vertical in nature and not as wide and open as some of the levels in the previous THUG and even some of the earlier versions of the game.

This doesn’t make them any less well done, it just changes the dynamic of the game to a more aerial nature than the long street trick combos I am used to in the series. This new dimension to things was both a blessing and a frustration for me. I thoroughly enjoy getting big air and pulling off series combos on ramps, something I have enjoyed since the very first Tony Hawk game. However this leads to smaller levels, and I just felt like I didn’t have as many places to explore.

One thing I definitely did not enjoy and for me took away a lot of the fun of the game was the move to more mini-games and less technical challenges. Aside from Jesse James and his power scooter, the guest riders didn’t do much for me either, and having to find them just didn’t bring anything fun to the game for me. Most of the challenges offered were rather simple trick combos (relatively speaking of course) or based on mini games like racing the crazy kid in a wheel chair on the other team. While they would make fun distractions, having them as a major portion of playing the game just didn’t do it for me.

The music as usual was good overall, with only a few tacks I didn’t enjoy but it was more a taste thing and didn’t take away from the game at all. The voice-overs were all well done as well as the general ambient noise and sound effects. As usual the sound work overall was very strong.

I love this series, but one thing I always thought was that these games do not belong on the PC. I have never, during the entire life of the series, enjoyed any of these on the PC. They just don’t feel right even with a gamepad (a Logitech Dual Action controller, it is basically a bigger PS2 controller). Maybe it is the smaller monitor, or just the ports, I honestly don’t know but something about them never captured the same enjoyment I feel playing them on consoles. I don’t even want to get started on trying to play THUG 2 with a keyboard, you may as well try playing with a controller and your feet, it will be less frustrating.

OK now here is one thing about Tony Hawk games that is better suited to the PC, the park editor. It has the usual tile sets to put ramps, rails, pools, etc. where you want them, but it has the additional ability to raise or lower the ground itself. This just adds a new dimension to park building where it becomes more like building your own city level and not just a skate park. The create-a-goal and trick editors are also here to add some more depth to any parks you create. Also featured in the PC version is the “add your face” feature found on the PS2 version of THUG, I always wanted to see what I would look like smacking face first into the pavement after missing trick.

Now onto the nitty-gritty of the review:

Overall the gameplay is as compelling as any other Tony Hawk game, but only outside the story mode, which brings nothing worthwhile to the game. The classic mode is where it’s at. All levels in THUG 2 are available here as well as many levels from previous Tony Hawk games that have been tweaked for this version. Online play is also available through Gamespy so you don’t have to miss out of the fun multiplayer aspects of the game (HORSE, Graffiti, and many news modes as well).

The short and sweet is, even with a gamepad on the PC they are mediocre at best. DON'T try this with a keyboard, it isn’t worth it.

Nothing spectacular, but what is there is done well and is standard fare for the series. Textures are well done and fit the overall theme of the game but again nothing mind-blowing.

As is usual with the series they music and sound affects are top notch. Ambient sounds are all there and well done, but you won’t ever think your really in a city, they aren’t up to the same quality as the sound effects and music.

Overall, this game is well done when played in the classic mode. The additions of some new tricks and ways of extending combos as well as getting more air add more challenge to the game. Unfortunately, they should have stuck with just the console versions, as the PC just does not lend itself well to this game. All in all this is not a must buy for the PC, stick to the console versions if you can.