Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (And why it’s above your expectations)

Thug cover

Your Destruction Tour team captains

Activision has done pretty well for itself in the past few years. Franchises like Call of Duty, Spyro, Guitar Hero, and Prototype have propelled the company to soaring heights. And when Activision joined with Blizzard and it’s triple-threat juggernaut of the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo series, the newly formed, and unoriginally named Activision Blizzard struck fear into the hearts of all the other publishers. But Activision doesn’t have a perfect record. A few genres have slipped through their grasp, one of them being skateboarding. EA’s Skate series, with its emphasis on realism and the highly praised “trick-stick” control scheme, has knocked the former king Tony Hawk off his throne. But if Tony Hawk is the Michael Jordan of the board, with American Wasteland, Project 8, and Proving Ground being his days with the Wizards, (and Ride being his recent horrible season as GM of the Charlotte Bobcats), then Underground 2 would be his last days with the Chicago Bulls. In the days before realism was cool, Underground 2 takes you around the world, cavemanning off of roofs into empty pools, grinding along wooden fences down a mountainside, and pulling off tricks with a bonanza of fun and frightening characters.The Underground series took Tony Hawk in the right direction by introducing story mode. But the game does include the classic mode of various skating challenges in a certain time period that made the the Pro Skater series stand out in the first place. The story takes place after the events of the first Underground, in which you, a no-named skateboarder from Jersey, try to go pro. Underground 2thrusts you into the World Destruction Tour, a global skating competition headed by Hawk and Bam Margera. This tour takes you to locations such as Germany, New Orleans, Spain, and Australia, and lets you skate with and as Tony, Bam, Bob Burnquist, Rodney Mullen, and many more professional skaters. Each level has a list of challenges worth various amounts of points that can be completed. There are four people you can play as during each level: your character, a pro teammate, a special guest usually on something other than a skateboard, and a secret character related to the level you’re on, such as Ben Franklin when you’re in Boston. The game also features other unlockable characters and locations aside from the story, such as a super fun Canadian forest level, and characters such as Steve-O, Bigfoot, and Shrek (who is not to be confused with Bam Margera’s dad, Phil, who is also available to play as).
One of many fun, bonus characters you can play as

Ben Franklin lets the wind give him his momentum

Before the World Destruction Tour kicks off, there’s a brief tutorial inside of a warehouse to teach you the ways of shredding. Beginning with basics like ollies and kickflips, each of the pros teach you something different, like wall rides, how to get off your board, or spine transfers. Although, if the point of the challenge is racking up points, you can get away with finding a ramp and button mashing about 99% of the time. But there are other cool challenges, such as dropping off buildings, stringing together combo lines, and as the name suggests, mindless destruction.

THUG2 is not without its faults though. No matter what terrain you are on, or how much momentum you have, you always go at one speed: blindingly fast. And while it makes challenges and stunts that require a lot of air and/or speed easier, it makes turning or anything that requires precision incredibly difficult and frustrating. And after about half an hour of hearing some “gnarly” skater lingo, you start considering emulating some of these stunts in real life just to make it all end. All the attempts at comedy really appeal to the skateboarding/Jackass crowd, but if you’re a fan of those things, then of course a skateboarding game will appeal to you. Logic. Yeah.

So, is this game worth revisiting? Well, the game puts enough difficulty into the challenges so that it isn’t so difficult that it’s frustrating, but difficult enough that completing the challenges is very rewarding. I mean, challenges should be challenging right? And the lack of realism, in both the amount of destruction the guys get away with during the tour, and in the physics-defying skating that takes place, actually improves the game. Other genres such as shooters are going into this gritty, realistic phase, and it’s why non-realistic games like Duke Nukem Forever are a bust. Every popular shooter is about someone in the military, or was in the military, or is some sort of space marine, like Warhammer 40K’s Space Marine. EA’s Skate series did rise to the top because of its realism, and there’s nothing wrong with it, in fact the Skate series is an excellent series. But in Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, you can hang from a helicopter in mid-air, drop into a half-pipe on a rooftop, spine transfer over to another rooftop, then shoot up that halfpipe, fly up, and grab onto the same helicopter. Yeah, and it’s f***ing sweet.

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