Evolution Skateboarding Review
Someone very wise once said, "imitation is the highest form of flattery". If that is true, then Activision must feel truly complimented, as it seems that every developer out there is trying to follow in the footsteps of their amazing Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. The latest of these imitations is Konami's Evolution Skateboarding, and while it does offer a few unique twists, it is so derivative of the Tony Hawk series that only the most hardcore skating fan would find any redeeming qualities.
Graphically, Evolution Skateboarding is certainly nice looking, though far beautiful. The individual skaters look fairly good, but are somewhat lacking in detail. Most of their animations are pretty wooden and unrealistic, too, but not nearly as bad as other offenders in the genre. The backgrounds in this game are a different story, as they actually look rather good. In addition, many of them will appear quite familiar to fans of other Konami games, as some of the levels are based on popular franchises like Metal Gear Solid and Castlevania. Most of the levels have quite a bit of detail, and while not as large as levels in other games, such as the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, they are certainly large enough that they require a bit of exploring to uncover everything. Some of the animations are pretty weak, however, such as blood splatter when you have a rough landing. When this happens, about a half dozen little red spots, which don't much resemble blood, will pop up on the screen, as if falling off your board at 5 miles an hour is capable of causing an eruption of blood from your major arteries. What's worse is that the amount of blood that appears after missing a landing never changes, regardless of how hard or fast you hit the ground, making the addition of such a feature absolutely ridiculous.
The gameplay in Evolution Skateboarding is really nothing more than a sloppy copy of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, with the same mechanics, control, and, for the most part, objectives. The only difference is that where Tony Hawk's controls were sharp and precise, Evolution's controls are slow and often unresponsive. Whenever you enter a level, you start out with several basic challenges, and a set number of these must be met before you can proceed to the next level. The objectives vary from gaining a particular high score to finding items and causing certain unique events. The one slight, albeit insignificant difference is that in certain levels in Evolution you can battle boss enemies, such as a vampire in the Castlevania level.
As stated before, the control in Evolution Skateboarding is fairly simple, and familiar. Pressing X will cause your skater to ollie, or jump. While in the air, holding square allows you to perform a flip trick, circle lets you perform a grab trip, and hitting triangle when landing will allow you to grind on certain objects such as rails and benches. When performing a grab or flip trick, you can hold down the L1 or ‘fakie' button to do more complicated tricks, as well as the L2 and R2 to rotate your skater in either direction. The result is a fairly wide array of available tricks, none of which are particularly impressive, unique or very much fun to perform. Not only that, but since the controls are sluggish and unresponsive, you'll often find your skater doing a face-plant while still trying to complete the trick you performed at the peak of his jump. Such lethargic control really makes it hard to appreciate anything else in the game, which doesn't really matter because there isn't a whole lot to appreciate in the first place.
Evolution has some extras added into the game, such as how different objectives on different levels will vary based upon what skater you use, as well as the ability to unlock various hidden characters such as Metal Gear Solid's Solid Snake. Of course, no replay feature is worth the price of admission if the core gameplay is as shoddy as that of Evolution Skateboarding. Since there is no reason to play the game for any extended period of time in the first place, then there is no point in sticking with the game long enough to unlock any special features.
A wise man once said ‘you cannot put a good face on a bad situation'. That certainly didn't stop Konami from trying dress up Evolution Skateboarding with some edgy tracks from popular bands like Unwritten Law, The Dickies, CKY, and more. A total of 15 bands contribute their work to the game, making for quite an impressive soundtrack which, unfortunately, is the strongest point in the game. Most of the music is upbeat punk/alternative rock that really helps rev up the tempo of the game, which is hard to do when you keep falling and tripping over sloppy controls.
Regardless of decent graphics and a quality soundtrack, there is nothing whatsoever about Evolution Skateboarding that warrants a purchase or even a rental. It is a game that is overshadowed in every aspect by franchises such as the Tony Hawk series. Any fan of the extreme sport genre should avoid Evolution Skateboarding, opting instead for the more polished Pro Skater series.
12/10/2002 Ryan Hartmann