Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam Review
Anybody remember the Xtreme games for the original
PlayStation? There was ESPN Extreme Games (which would late be
known as 1 Xtreme), its sequel 2 Xtreme, and the final (and
worst) 3 Xtreme. The games have always combined skateboards,
rollerblades, bikes, and snowboards and spread them across
various stages. It was essentially Road Rash, minus the bikes.
You can argue that the concept of competitive downhill extreme
sports originated here (even though the Xtreme games weren't
often hilly). Soon enough SSX would reinvigorate the downhill
sub-genre, and it's quite a surprise that it took Tony Hawk
this long to catch up. I guess, seeing as how successful the
franchise is on its own, Activision saw little reason to develop
another variation of Tony Hawk. But nevertheless, I came away
very surprised by Tony Hawk Downhill Jam, solely thanks to its
simplicity and focus on fun.
Downhill Jam is unlike the past Tony Hawk games, as you already know by now. Aside from being a downhill racer with combat capabilities, it also doesnt feature any of the professional skaters from the series, with the exception of Tony Hawk himself. Additionally, the theme of the game drops the realistic approach and is very cartoony, highly reminiscent of SSXs style and aesthetics. Thus, the character detail is changed, and doesnt look very realistic anymore. The look of the game may seem a bit standard, but nothing about it looks poor. Looking standard isnt bad for the game, because Downhill Jam already looks decent enough for a game of this sort. The stages are filled with objects, there is no pop-up, and the framerate is solid thats good enough for me.
Progression in Downhill Jam clearly isnt done like the most recent Tony Hawk games, and are broken up by events and tiers. There are a number of events per tier, and for every one you complete with a gold ranking, you earn 4 progress points. Once you accumulate a certain amount of points, youll move up a rank to the next tier of events. As you move through the events, various events will unlock various secrets like boards, costumes, and so on.
The objectives per event are clearly defined, and the events themselves are rarely over a minute and a half long (until you get towards the further events), which makes Downhill Jam ideal for quick bursts. The stages are riddled with multipliers and time-effects thatll allow for some insane combos. Likewise, the game is much more forgiving (as opposed to regular Tony Hawk games) when it comes down to landing tricks. Landing a trick poorly will often not result in a bail, but a clumsy landing and a slightly lower score.
Some of the objects will require you to place first, others will require you destroy a certain amount of property, knock over a certain amount of people, skate through a bunch of gates, and forth. Events lack a wide variety of objectives, but the simplicity sure is appreciated. As far as replay value goes, there seems to be quite a bit of it. Completing all of the tiers with a single player can take a few hours, and when you consider the fact that the game has 12 skaters, theres a lot of game to play. Multiplayer is limited to two players, and the game isnt online. But it should certainly prove to be a worthy two player game. Tony Hawk Downhill Jam is definitely a fun game, it may not be as fleshed out as the main series is, but the gameplay still makes for a good diversion, regardless.
If theres one thing thats never faltered in Tony Hawk, its always been its sound. The series is known for having superb soundtracks, often mixing a variety of genres. Because Downhill Jam is a much more straightforward and aggressive skating title, it primarily features a rock soundtrack. But despite being a spin-off, Downhill Jam doesnt skimp out on selection. There are 41 songs on the soundtrack; and, as always, the selection of titles is better good than bad. The full list is as follows:
1. Anti Flag - "Press Corpse"
2. Time Again "Broken Bodies"
3. stellastarr* "Jenny"
4. Thursday "At This Velocity"
5. Photo Atlas "No, Not Me, Never"
6. Escape The Fate - "Reverse This Curse"
7. Motörhead - "Motörhead"
8. Razed In Black - "Visions"
9. The Loved Ones - "Suture Self"
10. OSI "OSI"
11. The Bronx - "Oceans Of Class"
12. The Dirty Heads "Morning Light"
13. Dead To Me - "By the Throat"
14. The Golden Gods - "Even I Don't Know"
15. theSTART "Shakedown"
16. The Autumn Offering "Embrace The Gutter"
17. Jadox "Cause and Effect"
18. Sol Asunder "Mislead"
19. Lupe Fiasco "Kick,Push"
20. Dead To Me - "By the Throat"
21. Charizma "Here's A Smirk"
22. The One The Only Typicals "Accelerator"
23. The Bouncing Souls - "The Gold Song"
24. Ministry - "Palestina"
25. Strike Anywhere - "The Promise"
26. The Futureheads "Yes/No"
27. Lagwagon - "Heartbreaking Music"
28. Left Alone - "Dead American Radio"
29. The Descendants "Myage"
30. Shadows Fall - "In Effigy"
31. Priestess - "No Real Pain"
32. Iron Maiden "Different World"
33. Prototype "Synthespian"
34. Damone - "Out Here All Night"
35. Excel - "Drive"
36. Good Riddance - "Texas"
37. White Zombie - "More Human Than Human"
38. Wildchild "Code Red"
39. Sahara Hotnights "Hot Night Crash"
40. Time Again "Broken Bodies"
41. Charizma "Here's A Smirk"
Theres a whole bunch of voice acting in the game, as every one of the 12 skaters has a plethora of things to say, most of which is said during an interview right before a race. A lot of times the dialogue is pretty funny actually, so the inclusion of these interviews makes for a good laugh.
I feel that fans of the original two Tony Hawk titles and the SSX series will probably enjoy Downhill Jam quite a bit. It takes the series to a territory that it shouldve been at quite some time ago. With the next gen consoles, Downhill Jam probably has quite a bit of potential to grow in - that is even if Activision decides to bring it out for another one. I, personally, was surprised to find the game to be as much fun as it is, and this is coming from a very harsh Tony Hawk critic who hasnt been too happy with the series direction as of late. Theres nothing extremely overwhelming about Downhill Jam, but the game certainly does thrive on its simplicity and its instant accessibility.
5/27/2007 Arnold Katayev