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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 

 


        

 


With tons of new features, enhanced graphics and the expected intuitive gameplay intact, it should come as no surprise that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is an outstanding game and one of 2000ís best. Just how good is this exceptional skating game? Read the Laserís review and find out for yourself what gaming perfection is all about.

There is little argument that the first Tony Hawkís Pro Skater for the Dreamcast was one of the best extreme sports titles ever created. Now, the long-awaited Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 has arrived. This rare sequel improves on its predecessor while keeping the feel intact. The follow-up features new locations, skaters and adds additional tricks to the skatersí repertoire, but the new features donít stop there. THPS 2 features entirely new and elaborate customization modes that add significant longevity to the title by allowing players to create their own skaters and custom parks to race in, allowing them to manipulate the environment with their own ramps, jumps and grinds positioned wherever they want them to be. Taken together, these customization features allow for seemingly endless possibilities while the addictive gameplay remains unassailable. This makes the entire experience one of the most well rounded and satisfying to date on the Dreamcast.

THPS2ís gameplay is simple and intuitive and the feel stays true to the series while improving in the key areas with new obstacles and better course-layouts. The levels are much more interesting this time out. The freedom of movement and expansive environments allow for individual playing styles and plenty of versatility. This is due to additional hidden areas and secrets to explore in the much larger levels. The courses also feature a wider variety of ramps and obstacles making them less predictable and allows for even more freestyle skating. One of the keys to Tony Hawkís success is that it allows for individual expression in how itís played while still keeping rules and rewards to motivate the player. This is why players will be happy to know that THPS 2ís game structure sticks with the tried and true: free skate, single runs and career mode are present once again. In addition, the multi-player modes are more extensive and creative.

Players will most likely spend the most time in the deep career mode. Here, you select a pro skater and go through the levels in a timed run. You perform moves, tricks, and specials to earn points and can earn higher scores by jumping over gaps, collecting items, or destroying certain objects. The game's mission structure very straightforward but allows plenty of challenge because players are competing against themselves. In addition to the standard runs through the levels, every couple of levels, there are special meets where you compete against other computer-controlled skaters in a match judged by the computer. Your best 2 of 3 runs against the opponents count with the highest score earning the gold medal, second highest the silver and third, bronze. This allows you to unlock even more areas and items, further expanding the gameís universe. After successful runs, skaters win cash and can then purchase tons of extras and characters. They can also buy increased abilities and stats, which keeps the motivation-factor high while infusing the gameplay with renewed vigor and fun as you acquire new moves and skills. Tony Hawk 2 achieves near-perfection in replay-ability thanks to its incredible amount of secrets and extras. Even though it seems easy at first, truly mastering the game requires skill, persistence, and talent. Its multi-layered play gives THPS 2 an exciting, non-linear feel as you decide in which order to complete the objectives and allows you to have plenty of fun almost immediately without a steep learning curve. This is the secret of THPS 2ís appeal, since itís non-linear form and intuitive structure allow you to jump right in immediately.

The tricks range from extremely simple grinds to advanced multiple-chain combos which are incredible to see in action and enormously satisfying to pull off. This versatility in the moves is incredible, setting the game apart from the pack. THPS 2ís intuitive controls make this even better. This allows the player plenty of freedom. THPS 2ís controls are extremely responsive and deceptively simple. Itís easy to pick up, but performing the elaborate chain combos and special moves can be difficult requiring precise timing. Some of the moves seem impossibly hard, but nothing beats the rush of successfully pulling off a difficult move. Success in THPS 2 depends on your momentum as the more tricks you pull off; your power-bar grows rapidly allowing you to perform the specials. Itís this challenge that gives the game itís unbeatable flow and addictiveness, which means you can play for hours perfecting your moves and timing.

Even though the levels are larger and more sophisticated this time, with the selection available. There's also a new park-customization mode included. This allows you to set up the way you want with ramps, jumps, hills and rails where you want.  Players can then test the track and save the good ones when they are satisfied with the designs. The park creation interface is excellent and works in real-time. The only problem with this mode is that the special courses aren't available during the career mode, which is a shame, but a minor flaw. You can also create and save your own skater, customizing their appearance and tricks, to make one who looks and fits your style. Custom skaters can be used in any game mode, but THPS 2 doesnít allow for all the extra boards and tricks to be unlocked with them, which is mildly disappointing.

THPS 2ís visuals are outstanding and show a marked improvement from the first game with more realistic lighting, a smoother frame rate and more detailed skater models with higher polygon counts. It uses the Dreamcast power quite effectively. The look is largely similar to the widely imitated approach of the first game, which was close to perfect in its execution and effectiveness. The camera moves in close when you perform a trick, giving Tony Hawk 2 quite a cinematic flair without losing the flow or intuitiveness of the gameplay Ė the camera is incredibly effective throughout, almost always keeping the player at a good angle without getting in the way or distracting from the action. Additionally, the Dreamcast version features smooth frame rates and solid models with no breakup or pop-in that made the PlayStation version less than stunning. Additionally, from a visual standpoint, the DCís power makes the Sega consoleís version the definitive TH2 for now at least. THPS 2ís soundtrack is more varied, encompassing more hip-hop in addition to alternative rock. This added variety also helps to keep your interest in the game high for an extended period without sacrificing too much of the cohesiveness that made the first gameís ska soundtrack so refreshing. The music selection is decent for a video game, but still a bit too predictable with Public Enemy the most notable surprise artist on the speakers.

Few other games have come close to accurately capturing the feel and individualism that makes skateboarding so popular. It is even rare that a sports gameís controls are perfect: easy to learn yet hard to master. Add in the tons of options and secrets, and it quickly becomes obvious why the verdict on Tony Hawkís Pro Skater 2 is so positive on all fronts. Tony Hawk 2 is the deepest, most-balanced, addictive, and fun skating game on the Dreamcast. It is also a prime example of how all games should be made in an ideal world. Franchises as consistently satisfying as the first two Tony Hawk titles are rare in the gaming industry. So far, the pair of games released so far have been nearly perfect and hasnít yet fallen into the predictability and laziness thatís ruined many other series such as Tomb Raider and Test Drive. Activision and Neversoft prove once again why the dozens of cheesy imitators havenít come close to matching their masterpiece. Yes, this is a masterpiece of gaming design, ranking right up there with the elite games in terms of sheer replayability and addictiveness. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 is strongly recommended and should absolutely be considered a required purchase for all system owners.