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Tony Hawk | Underground 2 | review | game | Lollipop

Tony Hawk's Underground 2

(Activision for the PS2, X-Box, and PC)
by Eric Johnson

Underground 2 is the fifth installment of the Tony Hawk series, but only the second to present itself as something other than a sports title. While it retains all the classic, zero learning curve, highly improvisational, and brutally challenging skateboarding madness that made the original an instant classic, for me, something about the series soured with Underground and continues here. No, it isn't the injection of disingenuous old school skate punk attitude into what's clearly a multi-million dollar franchise. And I assure you, I approached Underground 2 with the dormant poser in me giddy for wide-open skating abandon. I genuinely liked the game and took joyful note of the resurrection of classic mode, unprecedented do-it-yourself support, as well as the ungodly amount of levels and extra content. Even the heavily Jackass-influenced story mode worked for me, but I've finally realized what's pissed me off about Tony's recent releases. Your "to do" list, the goal system that allows you to unlock additional levels and content has turned from an enjoyable dose of structure in an otherwise freeform game into a sadistic and very specific scavenger hunt. Not all goals suck, launching off a pile of bullshit and performing a 5000-point combo was an inspired bit of mayhem, so was puking on rent-a-cops, but I'd say that a full 40% of the goals are included specifically for the experienced and obsessive player. Ordinarily, I'd consider that a serious asset, as many sequels screw over their existing fans in the pursuit of some fictional untouched fanbase, but in this case, the balance is unevenly tipped towards the experts to the point where finishing the story steps over the threshold of challenging into pain-in-the-assville.

Assisting you is a parade of guest stars more appropriate to an episode of Love Boat, including Jesse James from Monster Garage, Steve-O from Jackass, and Benjamin Franklin, our chunkiest, smartest, and horniest founding father. Online play is sadly only available on the PS2, and its controller is better suited to the game than the Xbox's, so despite a slight graphics downgrade, the PS2 is the best system to experience this game on. All complaints aside, I still love this series. No other extreme sports title is in the same league.

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