Take your skateboard and hit the international hot spots of Marseille, New York, and Venice Beach as you compete against a full roster of the top pro skaters in the world. Players are free to customize clothes, trick sets, and the personal appearance of their favorite skaters, or create a new one from scratch. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 continues the excitement of the 1999 original with new challenges, combinations, and tricks (including manuals).
If the new tracks aren't to your liking, a skatepark editor is provided so you can place various ramps, rails, obstacles, and quarter pipes. The real-world 3D environments feature shortcuts, interactive objects, secret areas, and more as the player attempts to move up in the rankings as he or she travels from venue to venue. Unlock mini-games while embarking in a career mode and review past performances via instant replay.
This is a game for twitchers. You'll not only have to bring your reactions to Quake-like levels, but you'll have to toss off combinations of buttons like a fighting game. This means that initially, the game can be a bit frustrating, especially if you aren't really a console gamer. Give it some time though, and play the levels in Free Skate mode, where you'll be able to play for as long as you like. You'll start to figure out how tricks can be combined, how to link different tricks into combos, and how to turn those combos into some big, big points by putting them together with manuals and key gaps (special place you can jump over for extra points). It may take you a few solid days of play, but you'll have yourself wowing your friends in no time. And it's all worth it.
Because the game is based on points and secrets in order to move onto the next course, each one has been designed to capitalize on replayability. The sheer number of secret gaps, special combos, and unlockable special areas is astounding. Just when you think you've figured out everything in an area, someone will come up and grind that rafter that you never even dreamed you could possibly reach, unlocking a whole new section of the area. We've come to be fairly bitter as PC gamers lately with the amount of unfinished product that gets put on shelves, so it's nice to see a title where the gameplay has truly been honed to razor sharp angles. There's also a good amount of variety in the look of each location as well, from replicas of real environments like Skate Street and Venice Beach to wilder environments like tweaked schoolyards, a bull ring, and the mysterious "heaven."
There are a variety of options to choose from in TH2 to keep you busy, from the Create a Skater option, to the Career mode and the park editor. The Career mode allows you to choose from a selection of real skaters and take on a set of locations, each with a set of tasks. Each task gives you money, and you can take that money and pump up your individual stats like air time or spin speed, or give yourself more special moves, or items. The tasks are tweaked from the original TH, so while you'll still get money (another new addition to TH) for getting high scores, you'll also have specific tasks like doing a special grind over a specific gap. The ability to choose how your stats change give you the freedom to "RPG-ize" your character by picking and choosing their skills to match your own. If you're big into grinding and manuals, then you'll focus your character on those abilities first before worrying about air time. As you progress through specific courses, you'll open up new ones -- including a few special tracks from the original game, made better this time around because you can pull off all the new tricks in some old environments. So what if you don't like any of the skaters the game lets you choose from? Why not just make your own? My boy Sir Delicious can out grind Hawk anywhere, thanks to my special tweaks. You can give your characters a special look, pick their stats, and then bring them through career mode just like any other character.
The park editor is yet another way that Neversoft has socked any and all competition, by pretty much handing a simple but powerful way to make custom tracks to fans. You won't be able to create your own cityscape, but you can put together truly insane courses to keep you entertained after you've exhausted every little nuance of the game. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Neversoft has also included a whopping 60(!) pre-made parks as well to keep you entertained, ranging from Tag and Horse-specific parks to straight-up trick-friendly maps. You can save your tracks, mail 'em to friends, and show off your handiwork. Of course, it does hurt that the PC port has the same size limitations as the PlayStation version, for no apparent reason. It would have been nice to have created a 100x100 map instead of being limited to the smaller sizes, but the editor is still a solid, friendly addition to the game that goes above and beyond most editing additions for games. Sure, it's not Worldcraft, but then again, how many of us out there can truly make a great level using advanced level creators? This is a way for all of us to create skate parks LEGO style, by plunking down blocks and checking out how it plays, piece by piece.
Multiplayer, while still a blast, is one of the weakest parts of this port. You can play over LAN but not over modem (not even point to point), and you're limited to two players. Plus, games tend to be laggy, even over great connections. Characters were imprecise, and framerates tended to chug down more than they should have. Again, while it's nice to have such a strong multiplayer feature, it's sad that it's so far behind most of the competition out there. But in terms of gameplay... a completely different story. Horse puts you and a friend in a competition for who can do the highest-point trick (only one trick) from a variety of locations. Graffiti has you competing for space -- every trick you do on a ramp or area "tags" it to your color. If your competitor does a higher-point trick though, they can flip it to their side. Trick Attack is a simple point brawl for who can reach the highest score, while Tag is the newest member of the multiplayer family, and plays like you'd expect it. Tag your enemy, and his countdown timer starts to tick down. They can slow you down, however, by doing tricks and racking up points. The first one to zero loses. Now, take all of these modes and multiply them by the courses and the pre-made and custom parks, and you've got yourself some serious multiplayer fun ahead for you.
While the graphics are good, they're certainly not on par with the current PC market, and nowhere near the beauty of games like Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2. It's more than obvious that this is just a PlayStation port, and while the textures are crisp, they certainly aren't as detailed as you'd expect on your computer screen. This is all made sadder by the fact that the Dreamcast version sports all sorts of tweaks to utilize its architecture, such as higher polygon count models -- something that would have been welcomed with open arms on the PC. When you combine the characters with the great environments, and throw in some great graffiti details though, you've got a package that will still satisfy you about 73% more of the time than a King Size Snickers. And that's pretty satisfying.
The music is a pop perfect collection of punk and hip hop songs that magically seem to be enjoyable and annoyance-free at the same time. The nice number guarantees that you'll play through a few levels before hearing the same song, and the volume is low enough that the beats provide a nice backdrop for your grinding without distracting you. Of course, you can always just turn off the music and enjoy the sound effects as well. Grinds are authentic, grunts and groans are perfectly timed, and the fleeting voices of cabbies and cart drivers give you reason to enact revenge on them after you've been party to a head on collision. Your head, their bumper.
This game is as close as it comes to perfection on the consoles, but it's pretty obvious that PC was never the focus for this title. It's a minimal port of the game, which would be annoying if it wasn't for the tiny fact that it still just happens to be one of the greatest game experiences you'll ever have*. It's bittersweet, because while we should all be happy that Activision even ported this to the PC in the first place, it would have been nice to have seen some tweaking to make it shine on the PC, just as with the Dreamcast version. One especially nice addition, though -- it's great that Activision opted to include some of the tracks from TH1, since most PC gamers haven't had a chance to experience the first game. Thanks, big corporation. We appreciate the ability to manual on the Phoenix downhill park.
That, in a nutshell, is your new friend Tony. He's cool, he'll make you happy, he'll never ask for much, and he'll never make you mad -- for long, anyway. Just remember to treat him well, or you might not see him for Tony Hawk 3.
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