For those who have been living under a rock for the past five years, the Tony Hawk games have been one of the most popular alternative sporting series around. Originating on the PlayStation then making its way to the PlayStation 2, the Tony Hawk games have gone from being all about realistic skating to an all out arcade game with insane tricks and goals. Now, the latest iteration, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 Remix, has gone portable on the PSP handheld system and only takes that craziness further.
The main focus of the game is the story mode; the ‘World Destruction Tour’, where two teams, team Hawk and team Bam, attempt to cause havoc in an around the world in a globe skate competition. You can no longer choose which pro skater you’d like to take through the story mode as was the case with previous Tony Hawk games, instead, you take control of your custom skater and join team Hawk as you work to build up your stats, along with the stats of your teammates, all the while trying to complete set goals.
You begin in the training warehouse where you can get the majority of your stats up by reaching certain criteria. For example, to get your ‘rail’ stat up you must grind for a set period of time. It proves to be a practical way for new players to the Tony Hawk series to get a hold of the controls and learn what they can and can’t do. From there you embark on the global tour, going to destinations such as Australia, Kyoto, Las Vegas and New Orleans among many others.
In between, the slightly-over-the-top levels are just as comical. With cut-scenes involving Bam Margera, Phil, the two teams, and the ‘wheel of loogies’, where anything and everything will happen. You’ll also find some ‘interesting’ guests in the levels themselves, ranging from Wee-Man to Jesse James. Finding these guests will unlock a whole bunch of new wacky goals to achieve.
Gameplay stays mainly unchanged from the PS2 version of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, however accommodations are made for the two less shoulder buttons on the PSP. Some tricks do seem to be harder to get right on the PSP version though, as it proves difficult to simultaneously press ‘up’ and ‘right’ to pull off the diagonal d-pad tricks.
The PSP adaptation has four more levels than the PS2 version, and the levels are still as huge as ever. With plenty of hidden areas for you to discover and some secret levels, you’ll be amazed at how much depth can fit into each level consider the game comes on a UMD disc. One downfall to having such a vast game is the loading times, which when wanting to just pick-up-and-play your PSP, can get quite irritating. While the majority of the loading is done when first booting up the game, it can feel over the top, especially when you’re looking at an 84 second wait from when you turn your PSP on till you get to the main menu.
Aside from the story mode, the ‘Classic Mode’ is available for old-school fans of the series who want a no-nonsense, goal based level, without the fancy storylines. One thing the game does lose from the PS2 version is the Create-A-Park mode, however Create-A-Skater, Create-A-Trick and Create-a-Graphic are all still in, and are nice and simple to work with. The two player ‘Horse’ game also makes its way onto the PSP version, allowing you to pass around your PSP and out-trick your mates. Wireless play holds up pretty well, and makes the game a bucket load of fun. With a plethora of game modes to choose from it can keep you and your mates entertained for hours.
Graphics aren’t an issue for the PSP version. Everything is clear to see and you won’t notice that you’re playing on an 11cm wide screen as you really get immersed into the game. The only problems that may arise are clipping issues, specifically with a created character’s clothes; for some reason, shirts just love to be too small. You can also find yourself falling in between jumps or behind quarter pipes and momentarily getting stuck. One of the funnier ‘glitches’ in the game come about in the cut-scenes, where the character’s eyes seemingly pop out of their heads.
The soundtrack for Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 Remix is nothing short of amazing. With tracks from Johnny Cash, Disturbed and Rancid just to name a few, you’ll be rocking out to the beats all night long. However, the audio is let down by a horrible crackling sound in the background when characters are speaking in cut-scenes, and it can even be noticed in the background of the music. It’s the damper on an otherwise fantastic audio experience.
While the game is essentially the same as Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 on the PS2, if you’re looking for a great, high-energy game for your PSP you should definitely check it out. New comers to the series may also want to check this out, as it’s easy to pick up and provides plenty of replay value.