The Tony Hawk series started with a share of skepticism, and not many people predicted it would be as successful as it has been. Tony Hawk is extremely popular and we've seen a version released annually since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. The franchise has appeared on ten different platforms including the Gameboy Colour, Gameboy Advance, N-Gage, PSOne, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Xbox, Playstation 2, Gamecube and PC. The Nintendo DS will see a Tony Hawk game at the end of this year.
Make that eleven platforms, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix arrives on the PSP, ready for launch. The game is based around Tony Hawk's Underground 2 World Destruction Tour which was released for consoles last year. Evidently not happy with just a port, the developer Shaba has reworked the game, hence the remix tag. So is Tony starting to get old (he's actually getting on a bit in reality) or is this just as playable as every other Tony Hawk title?
Whilst the core of the game has remained the same Shaba have made a few changes so the game isn't instantly familiar to THUG2 veterans. There are four new levels which have been developed exclusively for the PSP including Las Vegas, Atlanta, Kyoto and Santa Cruz. These are integrated into the story mode, so there inclusion isn't a distraction and it doesn't make the levels feel like they have just been tacked on. Each of these levels also includes new goals and secret characters, Las Vegas is one of our favourite Hawk levels.
Everything that was in the console versions has made the transition to the PSP, there are two main modes for players to spend time in; story mode and classic mode. Story mode takes players on a skating blitzkrieg, where there are two teams (one led by Tony Hawk and one led by Bam Margera). Players assume the role of a rookie skater who must fulfil certain challenges to skate around the world. The classic mode pays a homage to the past and gives playrs two minutes to complete a set list of challenges. Each of these two modes is very deep and this makes the game an extremely long game to complete.
The Playstation 2 version of THUG2 allowed players to import their face into the game for their custom skater. This is also possible in the PSP version, with players able to use the memory stick to import their face into the game.
Full multiplayer support has been included with wi-fi support for up to three players. Every player will require a copy of the game and there are over ten multiplayer games to indulge in including SLAP, Scavenger Hunt and more. The multiplayer mode is a lot of fun and is likely to get a lot of playtime.
The gameplay of Tony Hawk was refined back in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 and Activision hasn't really made many changes since then. The focus has drifted a little off the skating, and players can take control of vehicles, and get off the board and walk, this makes it easier to get to those hard to reach places.
The freak out mode has been added to the game though, when your player doesn't land a trick players they're prompted to press triangle. The more they press triangle the angrier your player becomes and eventually you perform a 'freak out' move, which can be linked to a combo. There is also a sticker slap move which is a wall plant and shoves the player off the wall with a boost of acceleration.
When filling the special bar it is possible for the player to enter focus mode using the analog nub. when entering focus the action slows down, and this makes it easier for players to get those insane combos. This is a good little touch, and makes a good incentive to fill the special bar.
The control system had to be reworked for the PSP transition as the PSP has two less buttons than the Playstation 2 controller. We're pleased to report that whilst it does take a little while to get used to the controls, it doesn't take as long as we thought it would. The L2 button actually moves the skater off the board, which threw us aback a little initially, but after you get used to it it is very easy to pick up and play. The PSP controls are very suited to a Tony Hawk title. Unfortunately the analog nub isn't used to control Tony, so players are forced to use the directional pad.
The loading in the game is really fast as well, considering how open ended the environments are we were very surprised by how quickly the game loaded, the statup screen is a bit slow, but once you navigate past this there isn't much waiting at all.
Graphically the game is almost up to the calibre of the Playstation 2 version. The environments haven't lost any of their detail and they are very vast. The skaters all look good, and aside from a few graphical glitches rarely the game looks great.
The soundtrack in Tony Hawk has always been great, and it is no different with THUG2: Remix. The soundtrack is huge, and contains bands such as the Violent Femmes and Metallica. In total there are over fifty tracks, with the option to customise which ones play and which ones don't. Most of the audio in the cut-scenes has been removed, but overally this doesn't really make a difference to the game, as the cut-scenes are sufficient enough.
The game itself will take an incredible amount of time to complete. With two fully scoped out game modes, as well as multiplayer and a vast range of "create-a" options (level, goal, character) this game will take an extremely long time to fully complete. The bonus PSP levels just make the experience that much longer. If you want a game that will last longer twenty hours then you simply cannot go past THUG2.
Tony Hawk's Underground 2 is a brilliant game. It is simply one of the best games on the PSP, and only has a few downfalls. The game is becoming dangerously close to being repetitive and the emphasis needs to be put more on skating. If you played THUG2 to death you may want to give this a miss, but if you've been ignoring the series for a while it may be worth returning to THUG2, it's a hell of a way to return.