Replay Value: 10
Ever since the release of the original Tony Hawk back on the Playstation, I've been screaming for an in-line skating game that dealt with professional skaters like Chris Edwards and Shane Most. I wanted something that resembled Tony Hawk in every way imaginable. So come four years later, my prayers have been answered by Acclaim and Dave Mirra developer Z-Axis. Originally titled Chris Edwards Aggressive Inline, the game is certainly no Tony Hawk clone, not by a long shot. Z-Axis has done so much to the core of the game to really make it stand out as a unique experience. I'm a huge inline enthusiast and I skate on a regular occasion. I love inline skating, and you can only imagine my face when I first played Aggressive Inline, or how happy I was to hear that finally after years of waiting the first inline skating game debuts on the PS2. How does it manage to hold up? Pretty damn well!
Visually, this isn't the prettiest PS2 title, but it surely doesn't look bad. On one hand the stages are extremely large and feature a ton of intricate details everywhere. Seeing as how almost everybody reading this plays or is interested in extreme sports titles, you all know what to expect from the nine courses that the game has to offer: ramps, kickers, rails, half-pipes, and everything else you can imagine. On the other hand, while textures on environments are done well and look fine, character model textures seem a bit bland and lackluster. The character detail just isn't as defined as Tony Hawk 3's, as their appearance seems a bit blocky around the edges. Unfortunately, Aggressive Inline also suffers from a case of aliasing (jaggies). They aren't horrible looking or as painful to look at as the first-generation games, but they are there nevertheless and they are noticeable. The frame rate though is very consistent and doesn't detract from the gameplay, as it is always stable and locked at 60. The game is environmentally sound. There are a ton of objects all over the place and there is no show of any pop-up of any kind. It also needs to be said that the course designs are done well and rival Tony Hawk 3's efforts. Lastly, the stages in Aggressive Inline make some of THPS3's courses pale in comparison. The amount of depth in some of the levels is just astonishing. Overall, while it may not boasts the prettiest visuals, the game still looks good enough to be merited slightly above an eight.
Now when I say that Aggressive Inline separates itself from the pack, I do not kid you. The Career mode in Aggressive Inline plays out deeper than you'd think. There is no story involved, so don't get the wrong idea, but every stage is riddled with tons of objectives to accomplish, secrets to find, all with no time limit to do it under. Instead of constant repetitions and sessions, like Tony Hawk's two-minute timer set, you are just given the stage to complete with no set time. So no, you are not pacing against the clock trying to score 450,000 points in the session. As soon as you do score a certain amount of required points in a level, you will be notified. But once again, there is no timer in the Career mode you are free to roam around and complete the stage any way you wish to. Now what sets Aggressive Inline's Career mode apart from every other games, is the fact that you gain attribute points by gaining experience points (EXP). So it's almost as if you're playing an extreme sports title with a hint of RPG thrown in for works. As you play the game and you do grinds, grabs, spins, jumps, wall rides and etc, your EXP for each category will go up until it reaches a certain point at which you will gain a level. The maximum levels to be gained per statistic is 10 and it needs to be said that it takes quite some time to do so, which creates an enormous amount of replay value for the game.
Now that we've got Career mode aside, let's talk about what the game features. For starters, the cast is not fictional (save for Chrissy) so you do have actual inline skaters in this game, and not some made up skaters. The skaters include Jaren Grob, Taig Khris, Eito Yasutoko, Franky Morales, Matt Lindenmuth, Shane Yost, Sven Boekhurst, Sam Fogarty, Matt Salerno, and Chris Edwards. With the skaters come the skate parks, which include a movie lot, the civic center, boardwalk with an amusement park, and much more. Every level is filled to the end with grinds and big air. The stages will also change as you play through them. Some portions will be later unlocked in a stage as you progress further on in the career, or you'll trigger some sort of event by completing a mission of some sort. Just think of the Los Angeles stage in Tony Hawk 3 and you have the right idea. There are ten multiplayer modes, so those looking for even more incentive to replay Aggressive Inline have all the incentive in the world. You can just call up a bud or ask your sibling to play and enjoy! Much like Tony Hawk 3, Aggressive Inline does feature a deep skate park editor, but no skater editor. The game is jammed with easter eggs like secret characters and I believe a course or two. Now do you see where the ten for replay value comes from? This is one of the largest and deepest non-RPG videogames I've played since Gran Turismo 3. There's just so much to do in this game and on top of that you can swing vertically and horizontally from poles, not to mention vault off of elevated and interactive objects like rails, walls, and etc. The fun factor in Aggressive Inline is definitely there. The game is incredibly addictive and I praise Z-Axis efforts on a job well done.
The game boasts an impressive cast of bands such as P.O.D, Limp Bizkit, Hoobastank, Saliva, and Sublime, among others. Now I'll let it be known that the soundtrack is pretty boring, and with the exception of about 3-4 songs, the whole soundtrack for Aggressive Inline is terrible. It doesn't fall in well with the extreme sports atmosphere of the game -- especially a depressing song like "Youth of the Nation" by P.O.D! Maybe you can bare with the soundtrack, but chances you just won't enjoy this as much as Tony Hawk 3 or Dave Mirra 2. As for the rest of the sound, it's pretty generic and doesn't really require me to go into detail about it. It sounds good, and that's all you need to know.
Now seeing as how we are on skates, and not a skateboard, there are no flip tricks. Aggressive Inline makes you use the square button to do grabs and physical flips with your body. Triangle is to grind, circle is the action button that will allow to spin, vault and interact with civilians who will ask of favors from you that will act as objectives. X is of course jump, and R2 is the cess-slide which basically changes the characters position to a fakie (riding backwards). You can link cess-slides with strings, just as you can inverts in Tony Hawk 3. The left analog stick is supported, and the dual shock works great, and now that you know that, we can move on to the conclusion.
After spending much time in front of the screen with Aggressive Inline, I can safely say that this is (along side SSX) is easily Tony Hawk's biggest challenge. It may very well be that by the second 'Inline title, we may see Tony Hawk dethroned. Visually it's not jaw dropping, but it gets the job done and looks fine. The game plays superbly well, otherwise I wouldn't be giving it this glowing review. The modes of play and career mode are incredibly good, not to mention diverse and one of a kind. And while the soundtrack disappoints, the rest of the game is a dream come true, especially for me. Extreme sports fans, and all inline skaters, I urge every last one of you to purchase Aggressive Inline right this very moment!