Genre : Sport
Publisher : Activision
Developer : Neversoft Interactive
Release date : October 28, 2003
Skateboarding has always been a popular sport, but an incredibly talented skater named Tony Hawk took the establishment - and the gaming world - by storm. With Tony Hawk Underground, Activision has brought out yet another impressive extreme sports game for the console.
What could Activision possibly do to make their impressive extreme sports franchise even better? The first thing you'll notice is that there is a new mode of play, career mode, which is quite similar to Madden's franchise mode. Unlike Madden, where you maintain a team, THU has you managing your own skater and taking small baby steps in getting name recognition in the professional circuit.
If you think you are hitting the ramps to test your skills, think again. The first task at hand is to understand the new moves, or extra abilities. You can actually get off the skateboard and maneuver around the buildings and jump over items that you can't normally get across with your board. No longer is the game just about jumping ramps and showing off. With this seemingly minute addition, the Tony Hawk franchise is being taken to the level of simulation gaming.
When you think of the Sims, the first thing that comes to mind is controlling a character's entire life. Well, in a sense, you are controlling the skater's entire skateboarding life without having to worry about life essentials, like food. As a skater, you eat and drink nothing but asphalt, and in the game, there is nothing but skateboarding running through your mind. Every visible object is fair game to do tricks, such as telephone lines to grind, jumps to bust out new moves and skills, and even walls to skate across.
If you think you are going to find a completely new skating system, dream on. Like all companies, once a powerful product has been developed, the company will keep milking it for all its money's worth, with slight tweaks to make the next versions better than the last. Well, Neversoft Interactive is doing the same thing by adding small details to make the game more enjoyable. Players of the original Tony Hawk games will probably pick up the controls and start busting out the crazy 100,000+ trick points per jump as well as linking up the tricks making an incredible combo.
Like the previous Tony Hawk titles, the developers have kept the special ability, where you can execute an incredibly awing special move once the special bar is full. In THU, you can actually create your own special move; I've created my own Hankzilla, a 360-degree turn with a flip. You can make up some more creative ones, but the game already has so many special moves to learn that one less certainly wouldn't hurt. I personally love the moonwalk, a move where you grind while doing MJ's famous move … the moonwalk. If I saw someone doing this in real life, my jaw would probably just drop in awe. Someone please close my mouth for me.
The reason I know about the moonwalk move is because it was a mission that I had to complete. It took me forever to figure out exactly how to pull it off, but once I completed it, the move was added to my move list. You will gain many more moves by completing missions of this caliber.
The entire game revolves around you completing missions. Within each area, you are required to finish primary missions. Finding the missions that are hidden all around the city is probably the primary goal. Once you find them, you will get your objectives, which range from simple skateboarding tasks to tedious platformers. I personally prefer the missions which let me drive a car.
Driving a car in this game isn't exactly nuclear science. It's so easy that a newborn can probably drive it with ease. The cars don't seem to have any physics behind them; they seem like moving boxes in which you must hit the brakes at the right times to take a turn. Don't expect anything similar to GT3. However, cars can still play a crucial factor in this game, as they can get you places and be used to launch your moves. In the first stage, you will see the power of holding onto the car and jumping the bridge. Without the help of the car, there is no way you could possibly have passed that objective.
Once you have finished the main objectives in that city, you can move on to another. Each city has its own perks as well as its downsides. For example, when you get to the fourth city, the downside is that you are working for the cops - not that I have anything against them, but in the fourth stage, you do nothing but tasks for them because they arrested you for no apparent reason. Even with these tedious tasks, you have got to enjoy each city. Each place has its own set of ramps, jumps, and obstacles that you must try at least once.
There are places they say you shouldn't skate on, but because of your skater blood, you know you just can't help but try out the tricks there. Well, the developers have heard your plea and have incorporated places like the Veteran's Memorial and the Brooklyn Banks.
Remember, this is the road to your fame, so don't be surprised if you will be running tasks for your sponsor because free gear and name recognition are powerful things. For each city completed, you will gain something to boost your name as well as give the sponsor more recognition. Not only that, but you will personally get rewards such as skateboard upgrades to make your board better and badder than ever before.
I'm pretty certain the fans of Tony Hawk would love to catch a glimpse of his board, and the graphics in THU actually allow you to do this. The graphics of the boards are very detailed, having the color of the wheels all the way to the vinyls or designs. The skaters' facial features look really good, and you can clearly see their facial expressions as well as their mouths moving when they talk. Perhaps the best feature in the game is that even if you don't know the other skaters, you can just use your own face. THU has an option that allows you to download and put your own face into the game. Most players probably wouldn't care that much about the facials since you will be focusing mainly on the background as well as the moves, which are incredible to see! What makes the moves even more awing is probably where you execute them, some of the hottest cities and locations. I personally have never visited these hot spots, so I can't say these are exact replicas of those areas, but I can say that the details at these spots are just more then words can describe. If you find these areas are not up to snuff, you can also create your own arenas.
Well, the arena may be awing, but you can't forget the sounds, especially from your board. I personally enjoyed hearing the grinding of the board as well as the wipeouts. To hear the character grunt in pain when failing to land a trick is a must. Each character has a distinct voice that matches their appearance. However, what is the best out of the bunch is probably the music, very upbeat, rock/alternative tunes that fit the game very well.
Overall, the game is very solid and drastically improved over its predecessors. Even though the improvements are very slight, the game is extremely enjoyable. The game also has online play, a critical feature that seems to guarantee that games will fly off of the shelves these days. You can go online and show off your mad skills against other skaters, and if you need an EGO booster, you can always try and find me at skaterDCT. I'm still a newbie who needs many days of practice before I can even compete with the big boys. The heart of Tony Hawk Underground truly lies in the single player mode, making the game into an adventure. Underground lives up to the Tony Hawk name, and for you fans out there, I believe you will enjoy this newest installment. Don't just take my word for it, go rent it and find out for yourself.
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