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Tony Hawk | Underground | review | game | Lollipop

Tony Hawk's Underground

(Activision for PS2 and Xbox)
by Eric Johnson

Expanding upon the already ideal Tony Hawk series was bound to cause problems. All things considered, the series was perfected by the third installment, and any expansion on the basic formula was bound to attract criticism. From the very beginning, its success has rested on an amazing control scheme, complex yet intuitive enough to make interacting with the game environment inherently fun. In the past, the Tony Hawk games were presented as sports titles, with timed runs, and stated goals completely free of any storyline whatsoever. Underground bucks the trend by giving the player a character to develop, a plot to unravel, and a destiny to fulfill.

Starting in the great state of New Jersey, your customized protagonist is put on a journey from ordinary street punk to sponsored professional skating superstar. Sounds like a great idea, doesn't it? Without the time constraints of previous installments, levels can be infinitely larger, packed with goals, hidden content, and character interaction. Unfortunately, at least for me, it just didn't work out. A lack of enjoyable character interactions, a dry plot, bad dialog, and the inexcusable mistake of incorporating vehicles as well as foot travel into the story interfered with what should've been limitless skating abandon. Grand Theft Auto is clearly an influence here, but many of the lessons have been misapplied. Instead of a world to explore, too many mini-games and an invasive, irrelevant plot sap the energy of what could've been a great title. It's unfortunate that a great series trying to innovate and mature strikes a sour note. I applaud their effort, but do not enjoy the results one bit. I do, however, hold out hope for whatever they come up with next.

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