Enroll in a 12 step program before playing.
I had it bad. Really bad. Like 3 in the morning, eyes glued to the television,
haven’t showered in a few days bad. The kind of bad only truly understood by inmates,
crazy homeless guys and die-hard Dr.
Who fans. The kind of bad that, until this very moment, I entirely refused
to acknowledge as having actually happened.
My name is Ben, and I am a Tony Hawk’s
Pro Skater addict.
It started innocently enough. “Hey! Now that’s a cool game! I should take
home a copy…” No, Ben, you really shouldn’t. Because taking home a copy of
Tony Hawk Pro Skater would wind up leading to the kind of late-night
obsessive activity usually reserved for manic-depressives. Yeah, I had it bad.
So when a gold burn of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 ollied up into the
GR mailbox, there was little doubt as to who would be covering this highly-anticipated
sequel. Sure, others made efforts to wrestle it away, but you don’t take crack
away from a crackhead without suffering the consequences.
And as that self-proclaimed crackhead, I’m delighted to inform you that Tony
Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is just about the sweetest crack any of us could have
hoped for. It’s a better game than the original in every sense, a tour de force
of programming wizardry that might well be the last truly great game on the
Tony Hawk’s name carries a lot of weight, and this is apparent by the A-list
of pro skaters who lend their likeness to the game. You can skate as the Birdman
himself or one of 12 other pros, ranging from old-school Bones Brigade legends
like Steve Caballero to upstarts like Andrew Reynolds.
You’ll find all the same gameplay modes – Free Skate, Single Session, and
an all-new Career mode round out the single player hijinks. This time around,
Career mode allows you to earn money by completing level objectives, which is
then used to buy better gear, new moves, or to increase your skater’s various
skills. This is a great addition and gives the game more depth.
THPS 2 has 8 enormous levels, each easily double the size of the levels
in the original. You’ll grind subway rails in New York, go ramp crazy at Ventura
Beach, tear up liberty bells in Philly, and even test the patience of a bull
in Mexico. And where the first game only had 5 objectives per level, this one
has 10…and some are REALLY hard. Scoring over 200,000 points in one run is
not easily accomplished by beginners. Trust me on this.
The environments are also chock full of objects, and nearly every surface
can be skated and tricked off. You’ll even find secret areas that are only accessed
by accomplishing certain unnamed tasks, giving each level its own replay value.
The original introduced a control scheme that has been imitated by just about
every extreme game since (Grind Session and
Dave Mirra BMX,
to name a few). Thankfully, they haven’t really changed anything, aside from
adding on some new moves. Perhaps the most useful is the manual, which you can
use in between grinds and jumps to link up some insane combos. This can lead
to level scores way up in the millions (though my scrawny addict ass has barely
managed to break 250,000).
The excellent control is really what pushes this game from great to fantastic.
Skating around the immense levels while linking up chains of moves really captures
the essence and flow of real skating. Sure, it’s over-the-top, but that’s part
of what makes it so fun. This is simply one of the best game engines ever built,
and the Neversoft guys deserve yet another round of drinks.
amazing depth is furthered when you take into account the all new Level Editor.
You can design your own skate park from scratch, including themes, scenery,
and every ramp, step, kicker and pool. The interface is intuitive and easy to
learn, and adds replay to a game that doesn’t even really need it. You can spend
hours on the single player Career mode alone. I just can’t imagine getting bored
with this game.
More customization can also be found in the Skater Creator. You can build
your own little thrasher, complete with his own outfit, skill set and moves
list. While not nearly as impressive as the yet to be matched player creator
from WWF Attitude, this is still a
step up from the original.
Considering the impressive amount of material crammed on this game disc, the
graphics have barely changed. They still look great and the game moves well.
Occasional pop-ups and somewhat cheap textures are hardly worth mentioning,
since the game looks better than about 90% of the Playstation games that have
come before it. I shudder to think about the upcoming Dreamcast and PS2 versions
and what they might do to my already pathetic social life.
I’ll readily admit not being the biggest fan of contemporary punk rock, which
made the soundtrack from the first game sort of tough to swallow after the thirtieth
time. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 features a wider assortment of music,
from punk to rap to metal. Plus, it’s got the Anthrax/Public Enemy classic
Bring the Noise, which is so cool that trying to explain how cool it is
will do Chuck D. a disservice. Yeeeeeahhhhh boooyyyyyeeeee!
As if all this wasn’t enough (it is, by the way), you can still play against
friends in Graffiti, Trick Attack, HORSE, or the new Tag mode. You don’t have
to spend all those shameful late night hours alone after all.
So is there anything wrong here? Yeah, sort of. The replay feature is a bit archaic and still won’t let you manually control playback. This can get irritating, particularly when the CPU playback totally misses the kick-ass moves you wanted to see again.
The camera is fixed, meaning there is but one option. It’s pretty solid, but
THPS 2 could really use a ‘free look’ feature like the one in Grind
Session, or at least a few different angles to choose from. You can’t look
up or down, which can lead to frustration when trying to locate a certain ledge
But to be honest, that’s about all I can complain about. This is that rarest
of sequels, one that betters the original from start to finish. It’s so good
it should come with a warning label – or at least some methadone.