Tony Hawk Underground 2 Remix Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 7.5
Multiplayer : 8.0
Overall : 8.0
Review by Jestin Jund
Sprite Remix, Neptunes remix, Tony Hawk remix? Is anyone happy with originality these days? I'll admit, I was once a Tony Hawk addict. I will never forget when the demo for the first tony hawk came out for the playstation one, as it was one of those pinnacle moments when you knew that there was something in store for the future of the game. I spent hours upon hours mastering that one level demo, and never getting sick of the monotony. Since then, the series has grown into some kind of monster (no metallica reference intended), destroying any other comparative franchise in sales and popularity. With it's crack rock postulation, It only seems natural that Shaba games and Activision have ported this top selling series to Sony's handheld. This "remixed"(insert obligatory vinyl record being scratched back and forth here) version of the original offers a near perfect port of the console versions, while adding 4 new levels to the single player experience. Astonishingly, a could be tragic transition to handheld has been anything but that. THUG 2 is one of a number of titles that lives up to the name of being a portable of it's Playstation brethren.

We've all been taken back by the power of the PSP's crisp and clean visual display. From a technical standpoint, THUG 2 is indicative of just what portable gaming should look like. As aforementioned, the game is a near perfect port of it's Playstation counterpart, and the same can be said about the graphics. Character models are sharp, levels are well textured, and the draw distance is spot on. While arguable that the game has issues with aliasing, the same could be said about most Sony games. Although not my favorite problem, I've come to accept the jaggies, and for a portable game it doesn't hinder the overall visual quality.

With the amount of on screen animation and movement at any given time, it's surprising to see that frame rates generally stay steady and solid. Trick animations look just as good and unrealistic as they always have, and fit nicely against the wide perspective of view made possible by the PSP's wide screen display. Character animations are very expressive and emotive, even over exaggerated at times. This is no more evident than in the cut scenes laced between level transitions. Bam Margera's face is rather clown like at times, and while this may deviate from the simulation side of things, it is on par with the tone of the rest of the game.

While I contemplated why this title received the “remix” addendum, it occurred to me that the soundtrack was rather wild. The entire soundtrack from the consoles has been smooshed into the tiny umd with near stereo quality. While I am not certain how many of our readers are actual skateboarders, I can imagine that number would be even less if I were to ask how many of you skateboard to the likes of Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Cash. While not always fitting to the game, I appreciate the effort of pure variety in the soundtrack. If you bore of the 50 songs included, or like just one song, you have the ability to pick and choose what you want to listen to anywhere in the game. This includes turning off the soundtrack completely.

The ambiance and smooth sound of wheels on pavement is nearly perfect, and really hasn't deviated. One of the only complaints that could be made is the lack of voice acting in the game. While it's not entirely too important, it is noticeable as you scroll through all of the dialogue.

As I previously mentioned, I “used” to be addicted to Tony Hawk games. The first four titles continually worked off each other, adding an extra element each time to continually feel as though the game was fresh. By the time Tony Hawk Underground had come out, I began to feel the series was beginning to wear itself out too thin. While the inclusion of a story was a nice touch, it didn't reinvent the genre or the series by any means.

With Tony Hawk Underground 2 “remix”, my biggest complaint with gameplay is purely personal. Skating is spot on, there are a ton of modes to choose from, and the game is technically one of the best skateboarding game experiences one could have.

The main mode of the game is the story mode in which you take on the role of an unknown skater, and work your way to the top of either Tony Hawk's team, or Bam Margera's crew of destruction and mayhem (sense the sarcasm?). The main objective of story mode is to complete level-specific goals and earn points for doing so, in turn progressing you on to new levels and tricks. Once you complete your goals, you can switch places with the Pro Skater partner you picked before loading the stage and attempt to accomplish an entirely different set of goals. Likewise, if you manage to find the secret partner hidden in the stage, you can use him to re-hash the level once again.

While the focus of other Tony Hawk games was on high scores and collecting items, THUG 2 is centered on destruction, and living out the stereotype given to those meddling skateboarder punks. With the ability to get off your skateboard and walk, you will now be rewarded for spray painting walls, and climbing to the roof of buildings to discover new gaps. While I invite the open ended aspect of the game, I feel as though it's just a bit too out of place. It's rather frustrating when you are taken out of the skating zone and told to accomplish unrealistic goals for the benefit of progression.

Fortunately, two separate modes of gameplay give this title the redeeming quality it needs. Classic mode is a nod to the nostalgia of older titles in which the game was about skating, and not about story. Basically it's Tony Hawk 4's core gameplay with the new level presented in THUG 2. I would much rather spend my time going for high scores, and collecting letters. Even if it isn't as realistic, it certainly is more fun. The other redeeming factor of THUG 2 is the excellent wi-fi multiplayer included. The game is not playable on-line, but does support up to 3 other players in classic games such as horse, and a tag mode in which an area you do a trick becomes your color, until someone does a better trick or combo on that same area. Multiplayer is a great deal of fun, and with the extensive customization of your character, including the option to import a jpeg of your own face, it's easy to see much of the replay value here.

All in all the game controls very well too. For veterans, the precision and timing of tricks is of utmost importance, and the PSP executes this very well. While lacking two of the shoulder buttons that the dual shock boasts, the handheld version makes use of some short cuts that for the most part work well. Fans of the analog nub be warned, as you will only be able to use the d-pad to control the movement of your character. The analog nub is used solely for the added “focus” feature. When your special bar is full, and you are about to hit a nice gap or jump, just tap the nub in any direction, and the screen will drop to a slow-mo/ bullet time pace, in which big tricks are performed.

If you own a PSP, and consider yourself a fan of the series, it goes without saying that the game is perfect for you. The transition to the portable system is nearly flawless, and the addition of 4 new maps adds enough variety to appease owners of the console version. The only thing missing from the package is a special carrying case for your PSP that fits nicely on the back of that skateboard suburban kids carry around to look punk rock. Geez Activision, get to know your audience a bit better.