Just when you thought Neversoft couldn’t add more hilarity and mayhem, here comes THUG 2 knockin’ the door down. Unlike last year’s adventure, where you had to prove yourself a worthy competitor to become pro, this year’s outing of the Birdman and his pals starts you off as a newbie turned pro skater in New Jersey, ready to take on the world. There is just one problem however, as you and your fellow pros are kidnapped and thrown in a van, off to an undisclosed location. You hear the roar of a chainsaw in your face and last year’s big shot Eric Sparrow begins to wet himself as you shiver with fear not knowing your fate. All of a sudden, who should reveal himself behind the mask? Why it’s Bam Margera at the helm, Philly’s own Jackass and mischievous punk, accompanied by the legend himself, Tony Hawk. You have just unwittingly signed up for the World Destruction Tour: part scavenger hunt, part competition, with a twist of insanity for good measure. Quickly, Bam and Tony pick teams and you are chosen to represent Team Hawk. The world is not ready for you, as you pile in the van and trek off to Boston where the game begins.
Story mode is a bit different this time around, and a lot more free roaming. Each level will feature the ability to switch to a pro skater, a special guest character, and a secret character, each necessary to complete the numerous goals. Most notably, for each level there is a triggered event that will completely change the geometry and layout of the land, offering different and more varied lines and vertical challenges. Figuring out how to trigger these will be key in unlocking all the goals. Each level will have about thirty to forty gaps to discover. New moves include the famous Natas Spin as well as the sticker slap, which replaces the wallplant and is used to get serious air, and can help gain altitude in some of the more vertical areas. Additionally, you can double tap in a direction to execute full 360 degree rolls. There is also a new function to the special trick meter called Focus. Focus lets you go into a zen like slow motion where you can see your tricks in vivid detail, as well as get that extra bit of time to do the sickest of combos. While you are in focus, your special meter dwindles, but if you continue to pull off mad moves, you are awarded more focus. Of course, if you bail and are frustrated, you can do the new Freak Out move by pounding on the grind button, which is a great way of getting your anger out on those hard moves to master. The player will do anything from cracking his board in half with his foot, throwing the board like a Shot Put, or my favorite, breaking the board across their head in a fit of rage, accompanied by censored swearing.
One great improvement with the goal system is that you can select one and then go even further into detail, including a description or hint of what to do, and a camera shot of where the goal takes place, sometimes with highlights illustrating the exact spot. This really ends up being a lifesaver, as the goals are sometimes a lot more complex than previous installments. Some of the more interesting goal examples I witnessed in Boston, without giving too much away, were finding a Ben Franklin impersonator, coordinating tricks to a boom box’s beat, and wheeling a sick kid to see his idol, Tony Hawk. Once you have completed enough goals (different for each difficulty setting), it is back to see Coach Hawk, and you are off to Barcelona, home of bullfighting and the next round of challenges.
Barcelona has a ton of vertical areas and you will quickly see how important the all-new sticker slap is. You can ascend vertical railings much easier with this new move. The area is faithfully represented with bullfighters, Spanish décor, and of course a raging bull, ready to terrorize the town. Other goals include changing a bridge so a boat can get free, finding your pal Steve-O, and tagging a big huge mural high in the sky. From there it’s anyone’s guess where the teams’ worldly travels will take them - Neversoft is keeping that under wraps for now.
If you get frustrated with story mode and just want to bring it back to the old school, Classic Mode is surely going to be a welcome change. The team has taken all the new levels and incorporated original Pro Skater goals. Back again are the collect S-K-A-T-E, C-O-M-B-O, and finding the secret tapes, within two-minute runs. This can be a nice break from some of the more challenging goals in World Destruction Tour. We were also told that there will be six classic Tony Hawk levels able to be unlocked in Classic Mode, but what they are is anyone’s guess at this point.
If you are all about online play, like previous versions, only the PlayStation 2 is supported. In addition to the previous modes from THUG, there were two new online modes we saw, one called Elimiskate, and the other called Scavenger Hunt. In Elimiskate, you face off against your opponents trying to land the biggest score by the end of the time limit. The player with the lowest score gets booted from the round until there is one victor. The catch is you must land your combo before the time runs out, so there won’t be any padding of the clock as long as you can hold your manuals. Scavenger hunt is also a welcome addition, where you and your teammates place five coins each around a level and then collect as many as you can within the allotted time. All versions of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 will also include split screen multiplayer.
Also worth mentioning are some of the new graphical improvements found in the engine. Now each level has a full day and night cycle, as well as lens flares. The water also looks much improved, as well as the decal system. Now when you do a wall ride, your board’s wheel marks show on the wall, which is a nice touch.
Tony Hawk’s Underground introduced a wealth of create-a-player options and this year it’s expounded even further with the introduction of create-a-graphic. You are able to create a ten-layer tag with different fonts, shapes, graphics, transformations, and scaling. You can then use this tag in the game to mark your turf, add extra points to combos, and help with some of the goals. You can also use the graphic on other items like your skateboard and clothing.
As you can see, the game is bursting at the seams with tons of content, hours and hours of replay value, and great multiplayer madness. This is just a small taste of what’s to come. Check back for a full review when the game hits the shelves this October.
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