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Tony Hawk's Underground PlayStation 2

Published by Activision
Developed by Neversoft
Released: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Rather than simply tweak a few gameplay aspects and churn out Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5, Neversoft decided to go for the throat this year and completely change the format of the series. This time around it's more story based and includes the ability to get off your skateboard and walk around. It's certainly refreshing to have a different style to the game but do all these changes actually make the game any better? It's time to find out.

Your goal in Tony Hawk's Underground is to go from being an unknown local to a superstar. To achieve this you'll have to once again complete objectives and build up your skill through a variety of levels. Various characters will have objectives for you to complete in a level. To obtain the challenges you simply ride up to them and press the circle button. It's as addictive as ever. The story mode has four difficulty levels, Too Easy, Beginner, Normal and Sick so matter how good or poor you are there should be a difficulty level to suit you.

The story mode is not the be all and end all of the game though. There is a free skate mode, a create/play goals mode (which allows you to take a level and insert your own goals and these can be exchanged online) and of course there is the multiplayer modes. There are an impressive range of 2-player split-screen modes to enjoy such as Trick Attack and the classic Horse. You can also take the game online and play games such as Goal Attack and Capture the Flag. In total there are 11 multiplayer games although some are 2-player or online only. The PlayStation 2 version is the only version to offer online play though.

Graphically I think Tony Hawk's Underground takes the series probably as far as it can go on the PlayStation too. The games levels are absolutely huge, although you can't access all of a level until you've completed certain objectives. The character models look good and animate as you would expect if you've played any of the previous titles in the series (although it's a little ropey once you get off the skateboard). This year you can even apply your own image to your character. You simply take a digital photo and email it to Neversoft who will in turn email you with a code. You then go online (with the PS2) and insert the code to retrieve the image. It's a nice touch and makes the game feel more personal. The only complaint I have, is with the camera which can occasionally feel a little twitchy. It doesn't spoil anything but I'm surprised that it occurs.

Tony Hawk's Underground is OK for deaf gamers. The objectives that you receive are all in text as well as speech and you can take your time to read them as they require a press of the 'X' button for them to be removed. As with other titles the trick lists can be accessed from the pause menu, and all other information is shown via text. All tutorial messages are shown in text too. The disappointment comes in the form of unsubtitled cutscenes though. These aren't really essential but seeing as the game is attempting to add a story to the skateboarding action you would think it would be subtitled wouldn't you? The manual for Tony Hawk's Underground is also worth a mention because it's actually rather useful and it explains all you need to know about the game and how to use the park editor.

Tony Hawk's Underground is an improvement on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 but I'd still go with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 as being the best in the series. The games story is of no use for deaf gamers because of the lack of subtitles but it doesn't really spoil the game. The size of the levels and their design is fantastic and the graphics are about as good as they are going to get on the PlayStation 2. It's also a nice touch that you can now import your own face to the game. The park editor also makes a return although it has been dramatically enhanced this time around. Essentially though it's another great addition to the series and fans of the previous games will be more than happy with Tony Hawk's Underground.

Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10
Whilst I still prefer Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, Tony Hawk's Underground is brilliant and feels fresh enough to appeal to fans who have become tired of the usual format of the series.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The cutscenes aren't subtitled and this is a disappointment although it doesn't spoil the gameplay in anyway. Still all the information you need is shown in text.