Tony Hawk's Underground Updated Impressions

Activision shows off the online gameplay in its upcoming skateboarding game.

At a recent Sony press event in San Francisco, Activision representatives were on hand with a work-in-progress version of the company's upcoming skateboarding game, Tony Hawk's Underground. We were able to try out a handful of online multiplayer modes on the game's first level.

The major addition to Underground's gameplay is the ability to jump off your skateboard and run around. This is accomplished by hitting L1 and R1 at the same time, and you can even do this in the middle of a combo. If you dismount in the middle of a combo, an onscreen meter appears and shows you how much time you have left to get back on your board before your combo ends there. Fortunately, getting back on your board is as simple as executing a trick. The game also has wallplants, which appear to let you plant one foot on a wall and then quickly kick off of it, usually in a different direction. How wallplants are performed, exactly, wasn't immediately clear, but it seems very similar to the wallride mechanic found in previous games. All of the other Tony Hawk techniques, from spine transfers to reverts, are also present. Also, like in Tony Hawk 4, you can bust out of manuals into special manual tricks by tapping out combos on the buttons. The same rules apply for grinds and lip tricks.

As you might expect, the ability to hop off your board really opens up the combo system a great deal, especially since you can also climb walls up onto roofs and move hand-over-hand across telephone lines. Now you can pretty much halt your momentum entirely and take off in an entirely new direction. The level we were shown featured plenty of opportunities to do just that, and it appeared to have some pretty staggering combo potential.

While the game does have a career mode and loads of other features, we were able to play online against Activision employees who were stationed back at the company's headquarters in Santa Monica, California. The game ran quite smoothly. The modes we saw are all returning modes from previous Tony Hawk games. Score attack is a straightforward point-based competition. Graffiti requires you to "tag" as many surfaces as you can by executing high-scoring tricks on them. Combo mambo keeps track of each player's highest combo score and awards first prize to the highest combo. King of the hill pits players against each other to keep control of a crown, which is knocked off when players collide, though the crown in Underground looks a bit better (and a bit more ornate) than it did in previous games.

Tony Hawk's Underground definitely seems to play like the rest of the games in the series. We'll have to wait to see how the game's career mode develops to know how well the game truly comes together, but the tools for a great game are definitely present. We'll have more coverage of Tony Hawk's Underground soon.

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Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

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