Tony Hawk's Underground Review
While the classic Tony Hawk gameplay is still fantastic after all this time, the new story mode doesn't make as dramatic of a change as it probably could have.
When it comes to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, there are some standards that have remained constant throughout the entire series. In the game's career mode, you picked a professional skater and went from level to level, completing goals that really didn't have much to do with being a professional skater. Year after year, the career mode got bigger and bigger, piling on more and more goals and slowly tying them into the pro skater's real-life career. Sure, starting with the second game in the series, you could create your own skater, but that was more of a secondary bonus than anything else, and the focus from year to year was on a series of new moves that kept the gameplay fresh and made the next installment in the series just as addictive as the last. This year, rather than focus on replacing the levels and adding new layers of depth to the gameplay, Activision and Neversoft have tried to turn the entire series upside down, taking the focus off of the skaters who are already professionals and instead putting the spotlight on an unknown skater and his quest for fame, which takes him from the mean streets of New Jersey to the heights of skateboarding stardom. While the classic Tony Hawk gameplay is present, and still fantastic after all this time, the new story mode doesn't make as dramatic of a change as it probably could have.
So the career mode from the Pro Skater games has been morphed into a story mode in Underground. Since the story relies on you being an unknown, it requires you to use a created skater. The first order of business, when starting the game, is to create a skater, though you can go back and change your skater's look at any time. The options for your skater are pretty good, with a lot of different parts to resize and texture, and accessories to place, like shorts, shirts, hats, glasses, and so on. The PlayStation 2 version of the game takes the personalization one step further by letting you map a photo of your face onto your skater. Once you've created a skater, the game puts you on the streets of New Jersey as just some skater kid without a lot of money to his name. Chad Muska comes to town to skate a demo, and one of your goals is to impress Chad. He recommends that you get sponsored by your local shop, and your quest for fame and glory sets off from there. As you proceed, you'll get into wacky hijinks and travel the world, but you'll mostly learn to hate your "good buddy" Eric, who tags along for the ride, annoying voice work and all.
The story mode is where we encounter Tony Hawk's Underground's first real problem. The game has been redesigned to be all about you, as this customizable skater rising to fame. It's been redesigned to tell a story, but the story it tells isn't written particularly well. It has its ups and downs, but most of the game's goals don't tie into the story at all, and the game doesn't really make effective use of the long list of professional skaters in the game, which has expanded to include Arto Saari and Paul Rodriguez. Mike Vallely, who appeared in Tony Hawk 4 as a hidden skater, now appears on the regular roster as well. The pro skaters pop up rarely in the story, so in most cases they're merely found skating around in levels, offering extra special trick slots if you can complete their challenges.
In between each of the game's 27 chapters, you'll advance the story a bit, but the story doesn't have very many interesting twists and turns, and it doesn't end in a particularly satisfying fashion, either. While the concept of following a skater from the bottom to the top is a great idea, the dialogue here could have been better, and the game's objectives should have been integrated a little tighter with that story. As it stands, the game essentially has you attempting to accomplish the typical sorts of goals that the Pro Skater series is known for--like collecting a lot of items and doing a lot of specific tricks. You'll collect scraps of sheet meter, Hawaiian leis, doughnuts, stickers, and lots of other little trinkets along the way. You'll also have to perform specific tricks in certain situations, reach specific score plateaus, and achieve other typical Tony Hawk-style goals. As you become a sponsored amateur and, eventually, a bona fide pro skater, you'll partake in judged competitions. These are two-out-of-three timed runs, and they work roughly identically to the competition levels that have been in the series since the beginning.
There are also goals that don't really require much skating. For example, you'll be asked to drive a car on numerous occasions, and you'll even hop off your board and do some light, Tomb Raider-styler platforming by climbing up onto buildings, shimmying power lines, and so on. While hopping off the board has value as a combo expanding gameplay element, the driving in the game is ill-conceived. The cars look and control pretty poorly, and the goals involving vehicles seem like filler, much like some of the minigames--like hitting baseballs with your skateboard--found in Tony Hawk 4.
- Player Reviews: 53
- Game Universe:
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (DC, N64, PS, GBC, NGE),
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (PS, PC, DC, GBC, N64, GBA, MAC, IP),
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (XBOX, PS2, GC, PS, GBC, PC, GBA, N64, MAC),
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (MAC, PS2, GC, XBOX, GBA, PS, PC, ZOD, MOBILE),
- Tony Hawk's Underground (PS2, XBOX, GC, GBA, MOBILE, PC),
- Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (MOBILE, PS2, XBOX, GC, PC, PSP, GBA),
- Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (XBOX, GC, PS2, X360, PC),
- Tony Hawk's American Sk8land (DS, GBA),
- Tony Hawk's Project 8 (X360, PS3, PSP, XBOX, PS2),
- Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (PS2, WII, DS, GBA)
- Offline Modes:
- Number of Players: