Replay Value: 9
They say that "imitation is the best form of flattery", but in the case of Grind Session vs. Tony Hawk that's not something that you can easily say. Let me explain, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was released last year in October and had wonderful sales that surprised the whole gaming industry. After awhile we heard about a game which takes much cue from Tony, and even plays in the vein of the title. Grind Session was the name of this new skateboarder. At some degree people claimed that the game was a rip-off of Tony Hawk, but the cold hard truth is that it may be Tony Hawk's Pro Skater that is the rip-off. Grind Session has been in development by Shaba Games (former developers of Crystal Dynamics) for nearly two years, while Tony Hawk was about a year give or take a few months. Technically Grind Session was born first but Tony was finished quicker and released first. So which is the knock-off and which was the first and only, honestly if what Sony says about Grind Session's development time is true then GS is the first and only otherwise Tony Hawk is.
Tony Hawk's incredible sales figures were extremely impressive, for a first time title Tony sold like a wonder. Not much hype surrounded the game, it was when the game it self was released that's when all hell broke loose. After Tony we saw Thrasher: Skate and Destroy, which sold like warm lemonade on a 98 degree day. It was sad though, Thrasher was a pretty good game, but maybe it wasn't hyped up enough. Street Sk8er 2 was released around March, I gave the game a hearty thumbs up and I thought that the game played nicely and much better than the first. THPS2 has a long way to go to its October 2000 release, so in the meantime see if Sony's/Shaba's Grind Session is a good fix.
The visuals are no Tony Hawk, but they are still good looking. Character detail is somewhat scarce but the textures look great. We all remember Tony Hawk's textures, they were overflowing with tremendous detail that made them almost look like they were right there in front of you. I can gladly say the same about Grind Session. GS has the same smoothly detailed textures that made Tony Hawk's visuals look so nice. GS's textures may not be superior to Tony's but they do come extremely close. Environments were the trouble with Tony. Visually they weren't bad, in fact they looked marvelous, but they weren't too big. There was tons of things to do in them, but compared to games like Grind Session and Street Sk8er, Tony Hawk has small parks. Grind Session definitely excels over Tony Hawk's level sizes and there is vastly more to explore in Grind Session than in Tony Hawk. Final note on visuals will be on skater detail. This is the set-back, the skater detail is a bit grainy and jaggy. The outline of the skater isn't very smooth, and when compared to THPS' finely modeled skaters, Grind Session doesn't hold up. Grind Session shows great effort in the visuals, it may short in some areas but it makes up in other ones.
It was great move on behalf of Shaba to make the control layout play the same as Tony Hawk. Triangle is for grinding, Square is for board flipping, O is for pulling off big air moves, while X is for ollies/jumps. The gameplay is totally different from Tony Hawk Pro Skater. First of all it is much more difficult, playing Tony is a breeze after you've played Grind Session. It will take weeks to get good at the game, not master you'll just be "good" in it. I'm not complaining though, I think that is good to have some challenge, besides the challenge and obstacles that are given are a lot of fun to pull off. There is no doubt about it that you will suffer throughout the game and trying to accomplish big moves, but yet again there is no doubt that you will be jumping up and down with joy when that one task is done.
At start Grind Session gives you six real life skaters to choose from, as you progress, you will gain access to new stages and earn new boards. The main goal in GS is to become the most respected skater. To achieve that triumph, you must accomplish many different tasks. Some tasks include you grinding and jumping from rail to rail or even onto a piano. There are three levels of Tech Lines (that is the term used for the extensive grinds). The easiest level is Green that will give you 5 seconds of time, the second level is Yellow, that gives you 10 seconds, and the hardest level is Red, that gives you 20 seconds. Scoring big on those rails also earns you more respect and more respect means more secrets and stages.
Grind Session also lets you create your own skater but that feature is not very deep and is extremely limited. GS features many modes to play, the multiplayer modes are great, there is a variation of Horse called C-H-U-M-P. But unlike Tony's H-O-R-S-E you can't change the letters. Grind Session is an extremely deep game, there is so much to do in the game that it will take months to fully experience the game. Grind Session also has the BurnSide stage in it, since it is a real world skate park, the main difference between the Tony version and Grind Session version is that you can actually jump out into the parking lot as well as explore more. Grind Session isn't as speedy as Tony Hawk but for those who need a good fix should definitely pick up Grind Session.
The game has a very impressive soundtrack featuring GZA Genious, KRS One, ZEN Guerrilla, Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Cornelius, NOFX, Jurassic 5, Man or Astro Man, Dr. Octagon, and the X-Ecutioners. Great beats accompany the gameplay and this is not one of those types of games where you'd rather listen to your walkman or CD player. Great showing in the sound: Thumbs up!
Control, why bother, I'll say a few words and that is it. Grind Session has an identical control scheme to Tony Hawk. Grind Session has more moves than Tony Hawk so some double tapping will be required to pull off a regular trick. Dual Shock and analog are both supported and are used nicely.
Shaba put great effort into Grind Session. After playing the hell out of the game I can safely say that Grind Session deserves to be right next to Tony Hawk. If a sequel is planned the only thing that should be changed is the speed, I felt as if GS didn't have enough speed and at times the tricks were tough to land otherwise this is a great title. Grind Session is worthy of a purchase especially for the THPS fans. This game deserves all the praise it can get! Kudos Shaba!