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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

Year released: 2000
Company: Activision
Genre: EX-TREME!! Sports

A couple of year ago, Gamestop's resident magazine Game Informer did an article listing what they felt to be the 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time. This game came in fourth. Above Super Metroid, above Mega Man 2, above Pac Man, even above my own all-time favorite. (Which, if you didn't know, is Chrono Trigger. ) I derided the magazine for putting this game in what I thought was the second most egregiously overrated spot in the countdown (right behind Doom, who came in fifth). Maybe there's a little bias there - I'm definitely not a fan of the skater culture - but there was also a bit of common sense there. I mean, come on - a silly little skating game couldn't be that good.

Could it?

Well, I'll say this much - it's better than I had originally given it credit for. I bought it at a discount price (at a discount store, no less) and figured if it stunk then I'd wasted less than on a typical Playstation disc. Lo and behold, I've really been enjoying myself with this thing. Is it worthy of a #4 position on a be-all-end-all list? Don't push your luck.

The concept of the game, as you might surmise, is pretty simple. You take vicarious control of one of several skateboarding pros, who are then plopped into a skate-friendly setting, where you then proceed to grind, ollie, kickflip, and other such stuff. Primarily, you'll be using the Free Skate option to explore each area and get a feel for them, then move up to career mode to accumulate money and points. That money is then used to augment statistics and buy better equipment, but more importantly leads to the opening of new environments to carve up.

First of all, the graphics do a fantastic job, keeping the player oriented considering some of the heights you'll be reaching. The animation is quite nice, and when you get started you'll immediately be drawn in to the many ways your skater can take a beating. Each skate park has its own feel, from the cold and dingy atmosphere of an abandoned airplane hangar to the graffiti fishbowls of Marseilles. Each skater has two different choices of wardrobe, which helps because usually one choice is markedly better than the other.

Audiowise, I have one problem, but it's on my end. The disc is filled with songs by real bands to help give the game some tunes. That's fine and dandy - if you like the bands. Personally, I find Rage Against the Machine, Papa Roach and Bad Religion akin to a garden rake on a blackboard, but luckily you can turn the music off. The sounds are by-and-large accurate, but then again what do I know - I've never been on a skateboard in my life, so how could I tell if those are really the sounds that rolling wheels make?

While the play control schematic works fairly well, I do tend to run across some problems. Mainly, for each trick, you have to implement both a direction on the control pad and one of the buttons. I'd prefer if each button had some default action that could be taken (aside from the X button, of course). Also, it's a major pain in the butt to turn around, particularly in narrow areas. When you're racing the clock in career mode, it can be awfully frustrating to spend a good 15 seconds trying to align myself with a specific rail the right way.

One of the great things that the game does is have multiple goals for each park, and a reward for each goal. Some are easy, some are more elusive. For instance, many parks have the letters S-K-A-T-E littered about the area; scoop them all up in one run and you pick up some cash. Each park tends to have a specialty stunt (Nosegrind over the pipe, kickflip across rooftops) that triggers a windfall. And of course, getting a particularly high score will earn money too. Unfortunately, I have to stop praising the game right here. The third park that you come across involves a faux competition, requiring you to place 3rd or better to move on. I can get as high as 6th... if I'm lucky. I can understand the need for proving grounds as you go on, but stonewalling is just as bas as coddling. (And believe me, I'm doing everything I can to do well in these contests.)

Still, this ranks up there as one of the most addictive games in my repertoire. It's bad enough that you can Free Skate all available parks as long as you want without a time limit, but throw in the pursuit of doodads and tagging school bells and you're lucky I managed to peel myself off the game long enough to write a review about it. I haven't been able to explore all the parks - and it'll likely be a while before I will - but in the meantime I'm still having a ball. And I haven't even mentioned the park editor. It's pretty ardurous to create your own skate park, but the ones readymade are fun to play around with.

I still think that #4 is an awful generous positioning for a magazine to give a game of this nature, but at the very least, THPS2 has won over someone who really didn't give the game enough of a chance.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 13
Plot: Exempt
Challenge: (Hard)
Aesthetic Score: 15
Overall Score: 79%