I think our friends at Neversoft have officially peaked on this year’s sequel to Tony Hawk’s ever-growing franchise. With new tricks, new maps, a bullet-time slow-mo feature, new vehicles to ride, and a more open atmosphere, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 is the best skating game on the market today.
At the beginning of Story mode you are kidnapped by two chainsaw-toting, hockey mask-wearing men who take you to a warehouse where, lo and behold, it turns out the two guys are Tony Hawk and Jackass star Bam Margera. You are told that two teams are being created in a hush-hush, no press, sporting event. After being picked last, even after a crippled kid, you are joined with Tony Hawk to thrash and trash up six cities all around the globe.
Veterans of the series will find that THUG 2 plays identical to its predecessors. The controls are also identical to the original and the combos are basically the same, too. In fact, everything is pretty much the same. The graphics are slightly improved though, but not enough to really notice, and the cut scenes run a bit smoother, but basically look the same. The cast’s voiceover work and the soundtrack are great; as they are in all the Tony Hawk’s games. There are over 50 music tracks, ranging from hip-hop to heavy metal, so everyone should find at least a few songs to enjoy.
The best feature of THUG 2 is the addition of a Classic mode. Fans of the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater will love the rehashed 2-minute drills giving you classic tasks like high score runs, collecting tapes, and spelling out S-K-A-T-E and C-O-M-B-O. They even use a few of the original maps from the PlayStation version.
Sadly, even though there’s tons of great gameplay in evidence, something irks me about this year’s Underground. Last year’s storyline kept me motivated throughout the entire game, but this year the storyline is lacking?to say the least; I did not feel nearly as compelled to finish this new version. The sequel has overridden a solid storyline for the sake of a comedic feel by using cast members from Jackass. Not to say that this is necessarily a bad thing but, if you are not a Jackass fan, the nut-wracking jokes may not fulfill your plot needs.
With the storyline being so weak, I felt as if I had already played and beaten the entire game before I finished the tutorial. It’s difficult to say anything negative about a game that plays so well, but I just get the feeling that this is merely last year’s game repackaged with a few minor updates. Personally, I have always compared the Tony Hawk’s franchise to that of the Madden games. Both have continually outdone themselves year after year, but I think the Tony Hawk’s Underground series has officially hit somewhat of a roadblock.
This is, however, a game that succeeds in one extremely important thing. It delivers exactly what fans want – a solid skating game. But if you already own last year’s game, and you are pinching pennies, keep in mind that this version does nothing to expand or evolve the franchise. Even adding the Classic mode is just a feature they used years ago in Pro Skater. And, for some unknown reason, they decided to give no love to Xbox owners in regards to online multiplayer. If you were planning on playing Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 online, then you better go buy a PlayStation 2.
I may be going hard on Neversoft, though. I simply had high expectations from this company. The only positive aspect for those that have played the game, and feel the same as I do, is that Neversoft has officially announced that their next installment will go in a new direction with hopes of revitalizing the franchise. It is hard to say exactly what that means this early on, but at least they acknowledged the fact that their fan base will not continue to buy the same (largely unaltered) game year after year.