Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 Review
Year 1999 was with no doubt the "year of the skater", Tony Hawk's Pro Skater that is. Arriving in October, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was a game not greatly known to be released but was known by all gaming journalists (such as me) to be one of the best games of the year. Earning titles like "Game of the year", "Sports game of the year" and to some greatest game of all time, Tony Hawk was a force not to be reckoned with. This gravity defying, high trick scoring, super addictive skateboarding game left all of us glued to the screen for literally hours. The game had a heavy cast of ten professional skaters such as Bob Burnquist, Kareem Campbell, Elissa Steamer and of course Mr. 900, Tony Hawk himself. The sales for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater were better than expected, Activision has struck gold and even decided to take Neversoft under their wing by acquiring them. Tony's success any 15 minutes of fame, later on the game was ported to Nintendo 64 and following that Dreamcast. All three console versions of Tony Hawk were number one sellers at one point, and then came that day in around March/April when Activision officially announced that Tony Hawk 2 would be coming out before the years end. So wait was on, September/October would be the projected release date for THPS2, as months go by so do many preview builds and new screens until finally Tony Hawk 2 is complete as we receive the finished version of the game. The game ships today and should be available in stores by tomorrow or Thursday the latest, but I've had tons of time with the game to complete with almost every skater, and I am ready to report.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater pushed the PS' limits, but not how the Final Fantasy series did. The skaters were nicely constructed but it were the amazing parks that made Tony such an exciting game. The textures were unbelievably detailed, hell the only thing missing from the texture detail was probably the wood gaps on the ramps. Luckily THPS2 fares much better than its predecessor in almost everyway. The skater detail has been significantly smoothed out, polished and refined. The skaters have a much better body build that really distinguishes them from one skater to another. Take Bob Burnquist for example, he is a pretty thin guy, then we have Steve Caballero who is a bit husky and big boned if you will, little detail like that earns big points. The clothing doesn't seem like it was painted on the skaters as it did in the first one, the clothes look more realistic and stand out more than they did in the original Tony Hawk. But THPS2 does suffer from one thing, and that would be pop-up. In Tony Hawk 1 the environments weren't as big as THPS2's so the pop-up wasn't as noticeable (although it was there). The pop-up is more noticeable because of the severely bigger environments, but thankfully the pop-up isn't anything like it was in the demo. The faces now seem to have a bit more detail in them, facial features like the nose, mouth and eyes look better compared to other skateboarding games out there. The textures were as I mentioned the big thing with THPS1, and they have returned even better, the half-pipes, quarter-pipes, pools, trash cans, garbage dumps, and even skateboards look significantly better then the first ones did. I'm not downing THPS1 by any means, it's just that THPS2 is a dramatic improvement in almost every field visually.
The environments to navigate are incredibly larger than the first. The amount of things that are accomplishable in the newer parks is astounding, you can actually do a wall ride all the way to a ledge, grind it and then continue through the roof for some secret gaps. Parks like School 2, California are actually based on real life locales, if you've ever beaten Tony Hawk 1 with Officer Dick then you would have seen the Tony Hawk development crew busting their asses in a school-like area, take a look at the track School 2, California notice the picture now? Marseille, France is another real skateboarding park. My point is that Neversoft has even gone through the trouble of creating parks based on real courses.
If the original Tony Hawk wasn't enough of an addiction, Activision sends us another one so that we can kick back and enjoy whipping out a few 900s, followed by a few kick-flips here and there and maybe a Darkslide to top it all off. With Tony Hawk 2 the combinations are endless, you have hundreds of tricks to pull of along with signature moves like a Kickflip Mctwist, or a 540 Varial Flip and the well-known 900. Speaking of the 900, Tony Hawk 2 has seen such a gravity-defying boost that you can even throw in a a kick-flip or a heel-flip after the 900 is over, in some cases if the ramp permits you, you can soar up to the ceiling pulling a 900 Rocket Air without even worrying. Surely the gameplay has remained the same which without a is the best thing for a sequel like THPS2, but Neversoft has decided to throw in a lot of extra stuff and most of you by now know what it is. Instead of having the original cast of 10 re-appear in THPS2, Activision went and signed deals with other skateboarding superstars such as Steve Caballero, Eric Koston and Rodney Mullen all of which are exceptional skaters in their own way. Along with adding new skaters, new stat features were also added for every character, instead of 5 stats the skateboarder now has 10 which are: Air, Hangtime, Ollie, Speed, Spin, Landing, Switch, Rail Balance, Lip Balance and Manuals. For those who aren't familiar with what a manual is, let me explain; a manual is a new addition that can be pulled off by pressing Up and Down, or Down and Up on the d-pad. What it does is make the skater almost pop a wheelie and balance the skateboard on either the two back wheels or two front wheels.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me describe how many missions are supposed to be accomplished in every skating park. As usual there are three out of 8 courses that are competition, so those five courses require you to complete 10 objectives in a matter of unlimited two minute runs. Doing so will grant you cash rewards which can be used towards things like upgrading stats and buying new moves for your designated skater. Upgrading stats is the first thing that should be done when playing the game, buying new moves should be done only if you have spare cash. Now getting cash isn't as easy as you think it would be, the objectives can be incredibly hard to do but possible with time and patience. The 8 stages may be a small number but with the Park Editor that number could be quickly turned into a double-digit number in a matter of minutes. The skate park editor lets the gamer choose from around 200 different skating pieces such as Pools, Ramps, Tables, Kickers, Quarter-pipes, rails, off-set rails, high run pipes and many, many more. Not only can you place all of those objects on your custom course but also you can even create your own park Gap, by selecting the second option and placing where you want the gap to start and end. After you've done that you will now have to name your gap and you have about 25 letters of space to do that. After you're through with naming your gap, select the amount of points that you want to be rewarded with if the gap is pulled off, you start from 50 all the way to 5000. The last option you have is to select the type of gap you want, by selecting a rail gap that means you would have to do a grind at least once within the area of where gap was set. An air gap is if you do at least one air move like a 360 shove-it while grinding. Choosing wallride gap, is as you guessed it has to have a wallride in it. A manual gap is a bit tricky, you have to connect a manual with the gap in order to pull it off.
Neversoft went through the trouble of even giving you a Skate Editor that course lets you customize your own skateboarder from head to toe. My skater is an all black wearing skater who's name is Johnny Bravo. The mode lets you pick skin color, skin tone, faces, hair, pants, shirts, sneakers, skating style, and set up his tricks as well as specials. Upon doing all of that you also have to set his weight and height, which is another great inclusion that I found to be quite nice. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 includes 13 real-life skaters, with 8 finely detailed courses, as well as a Park Editor and Skate Editor, the game is virtually endless. Before I go, I need to mention the two-player modes like Horse, Trick-attack, Graffiti, Free Skate and Tag. Free Skate is explanatory, so is Horse and Trick Attack and Graffiti, but what is Tag? Tag is where two skaters battle it out for a period of time by skating and trying to tag one another, if you are "it" then you will have to chase your opponent, but be careful he can slow you down by doing lots of tricks and speed himself up.
Yes you read right, a perfect score for the sound, why? The answer is simple, with bands like Papa Roach, Rage Against the Machine, Powerman 5000, Naughty by Nature and High and Mighty why shouldn't I give the sound a perfect score. The soundtrack consists of a mixture of Rap, Hip-Hop and Rock. The Rap and Hip-Hop falls under High and Mighty, Naughty by Nature, Public Enemy and more. The Rock soundtrack barely makes the majority of the game, with bands like Powerman 5000, Papa Roach, Rage Against the Machine, Dub Pistols and many more, the soundtrack in THPS2 is unstoppable and has no comparison. Hopefully in the next Tony on PS2 we will maybe see some Three Doors Down tracks, they are absolutely my favorite band and I seriously think that many of their songs are Tony Hawk material. The sound effects are great, the grunts, falls, jumps, landings, audience "ooohing" and "awwing" and the sound of bull turd being run over sounds great. The soundtrack in Tony Hawk 2 can be defined only as incredible, blood-rushing and one hell of an adrenaline pumper.
I'm guessing most of you reading this own or have played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater at one time or another, I feel that I shouldn't talk much about the control because it has remained absolutely the same. The grab tricks are done by holding O, the flip tricks are done by pressing Square, grinding is still Triangle, and to Ollie is still X. Spinning your skater faster is done by holding L1 and R1, R2 is to switch positions and L2 is to bring your feet toward the nose of the board a by pressing X you will do a Nollie. Absolutely nothing has changed in the control, it remains as tight as ever, with great analog feel and superb force feedback. One quick note, for beginners it may take some time to get used to everything but it'll only take about 30 minutes.
Being the most anticipated games of 2000, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 turned out to be the most addictive game of the year and is my final contender for "Game of the Year" in the PSX Extreme 2000 awards that will be sometime late December. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 will go on sale on the 20th and I hope that you have a pre-order slip for the game because a frenzy may begin, and it could very well sell out everywhere. My final comments on THPS2 is that this is one amazing game that I never expected to get as good as it was now, the visuals, the gameplay, the sound, the control everything about this game is perfection or near perfection. With all of these modes jammed into one 650MB CD, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is without a doubt the most addictive videogame ever created.