Over the years, Activision and Neversoft (Publisher and Developer, respectively) have gone to their absolute greatest efforts to provide us with the most realistic skateboarding game to date, and every single time, they've gone one better. From the very beginning, the gaming world has been stunned repeatedly by the Hawkman's ability to have his name branded on unbelievably spectacular video games, how he does it, we'll never know. And it would seem Activision, and Neversoft, recognise the power they possess in their hands, as they decided to take a chance, a chance to revolutionise video gaming, forever, and holy extreme sports, it paid off.
This is where an unfortunate series of dramas unfold as you pass through cities and scenarios, quicker than Oprah passes through baked hams. You soon find yourself skating a tournament in Tampa Bay, in Florida, this is where you discover that Eric isn't all he seems, as conflict occurs, and a break-up is all that is left for your friendship. But then, thanks to a helpful fellow named Stacey Peralta, the same figure who helped Tony on his journey, you'll soon be on your way. And as the story mode progresses, you'll find yourself confronted by various professional skaters and celebrity figures, either to guide you, or compete with you. Then again, in Peralta's case, he'll throw you a job, so there is a wide variety that is for sure.
The many revolutions the gameplay mechanics of past Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games have received are quite apparent. First, it was manuals, then it was reverts, then of course came skitching, and flatland abilities, but never before has gameplay been revamped like it has with the release of Tony Hawk's Underground. This addition to the mammoth franchise includes the ability to get off of your skateboard, and walk around by foot, this also comes with the ability to shimmy along electric wires, and roof guttering on citizen's houses. And you can now even, at certain points, drive fully functional cars. And if you don't think that's cool, there is an obvious problem with you.
The whole experience of being able to leave the sanction of your skateboard is almost like the free roaming of Grand Theft Auto, only with boundaries. Not to mention that Tony Hawk's Underground is much faster, and more so reality-based.
The gameplay is generally refreshing, with it's much-needed changes, but unfortunately, there are obvious flaws. The bland multi-player mode returns to haunt us gamers, once more. You'd think Activision would jot it onto their list of priorities to revamp the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series' multi-player mode, because after five consecutive games of playing 'Horse', and 'Trick Attack', it has become a little more than boring, and repetitive. However, 'Firefight' is a refreshing change, I mean, the ability to haul fireballs at Bam Margera is reason enough for me to buy this game.
The graphics, one of the more impressive elements to what makes this game one of the undisputed games of the year. A definite improvement from it's predecessor, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. Many may have thought that improving over the past two games would be a tough achievement, but the shift between the years is noticeable, as obvious technological improvements have helped this game to be one of the cleanest looking games of the year. This time around, the graphical improvements are so smooth, you could eat a steak off of them. Sure, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4's character models, and environments seemed to push the limits of most television sets, with it's extra clarity, some considered it to be somewhat too neat. Whereas, in Tony Hawk's Underground, the environments look much crisper, and grungy, to suit the underground feel of the game.
Tony Hawk's Underground is a perfect example of how inventive and creative Neversoft can be. They just keep doing it, don't they? They just keep outdoing themselves, and it never gets old. Especially offering such a realistic and enjoyable skateboarding experience on a video gaming console, it's something special. All this can do is leave one wondering what can they do to top themselves, again? We'll have to wait and see in the inevitable sequel. But honestly, compare Tony Hawk's Underground to the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, for the baby brother console to the PlayStation 2. It's becoming apparent that Neversoft can perform revolutions all in a day's work. But as for this game, there aren't many better ways to spend your paycheck.
Review By: Brodie Gibbons