Until the advent of the PSP, portable games have always seemed limited and rather linear. However, Sony's new handheld seems to have opened developers' horizons substantially. A fantastic example of these heightened expectations is Activision's Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix, which features the depth, open-ended levels of its console cousins in the palm of your hand. Placing players on either Team Hawk or with the rebellious Bam Margeta, the game allows players to traverse a variety of locales around the world as they perform stunts, set off wild pranks, meet other skaters and generally wreak havoc wherever they go. Excellent graphics, intuitive controls, and challenging gameplay make THUG 2 Remix even more appealing. Read our review to find out more as we discover why it's an essential purchase for early adopters.
Like it's big console cousins, Activision's THUG 2 Remix for the PSP allows you to take control of a number of pro skaters including Tony Hawk, Bam Margera, Bob Benhquist and others. What's most impressive is that the PSP version features an almost identical set of levels, challenges and modes as a full-fledged console game. The number of options is quite impressive from the start. Instead of seeming like a watered down version of the same old thing, you have a robust title that offers plenty of options. As you begin the game, you can choose from a group of professional skaters including Hawk, Bandara, and others. There are several available initially, with more you can unlock later on. You can also choose to create your own skate if you wish with the extensive customization mode. Here, you can select the skater's sex, hairstyles, facial hair, clothing, skateboards, hats, shoes and more. Players can also scan their own image, download it to the PSP's Memory Stick, and digitize themselves right into the game. The customizations features don't stop there - players can also create their own tricks, edit their characters' moves lists and create their own goals. You can also create your own skate-parks, design your own boards and even edit the graphic or tag your players will sign when they're spray painting graffiti. The extensive level of customization is quite impressive on its own, and THUG 2 Remix's simple interface allows players to put their stamp on the game effortlessly.
You'll need to complete hundreds of different goals and objectives scattered throughout the levels as you battle the other teams in order to move to the top ranks. THUG 2 Remix's story mode fuses classic Hawk skate tricks with role-playing elements to give it a large, expansive feel. In this mode, you travel to different cities, perform stunts, meet local skaters while finding secret areas, hidden bonuses and more. You can also to trigger elaborate and sometimes hilarious pranks, and explore each level to complete all its objectives. What's really cool is that you can switch between different skaters during each level. You can play as your default character and meet up with other pro skaters, switch between characters, and take up their goals. This definitely adds to the challenge, since each level offers a ton of different goals. In addition to the pros, you can play as local heroes or guest skaters as you meet them. During each level, you can interact with locals and find out where hidden areas are as well. Each time you complete a goal, you earn points for your skater, which you can use to purchase items. Once you reach a preset number of points, you'll then unlock another area and eventually additional skaters.
THUG 2 Remix offers 16 different levels with 4 exclusive PSP areas that range from Santa Cruz to Barcelona and Las Vegas. The large and varied array of levels gives THUG 2 plenty of depth. It will probably take even good players many hours to explore, unlock and play until they've seen everything that the game has to offer. In addition to the two main single player modes, THUG 2 also offers a number of multiplayer modes using the PSP's Wi-Fi abilities that allow you challenge nearby gamers. These online modes include High-score, Trick challenge, Graffiti, Scavenger hunt, Goal attack, Capture the flag and King of the hill modes. Players can also challenge other players in Horse mode, Elimination, Combo attack and Firefight modes to name just a few. There's a surprising number of these modes, which extends the game's replay value substantially, making this quite a deep experience.
From a gameplay standpoint, THUG 2 Remix offers excellent balance between pure skating skill and exploration. There are short-term objectives that make it excellent for a quick fix of on the run play but there are also deeper modes that allows for a deeper experience. During each level, players are given a number of goals to complete - but these range from simple stunts to more complex tasks with multiple sub-objectives. THUG 2's difficulty depends on the skill level of the character you select. This gives the gameplay plenty of replay value and means novice players and veterans alike will be able to jump right in and have fun almost immediately. As you skate through each level and successfully perform stunts, your Special Meter increases, allowing you to perform some elaborate tricks. Most of the moves and styles should be familiar to Hawk veterans, but there are a few new twists. Players can now perform moves in slow-motion using the new focus feature and the game's overall feel has been refined with easier balance meters that make it easier to balance your skater. Another really cool addition is the new Freak Out meter that appears. Pressing the button rapidly makes the skater violently take out their frustration when they mess up a trick. This is really kind of funny and adds to THUG 2's dangerous, rebellious feel.
THUG 2 Remix's controls and interface are excellent, and the game's overall feel is as smooth and intuitive as they've always been. Players will find each skater's moves and controls to respond smoothly using the PSP's analog nub to control movement while the shift and face buttons control tricks. Activision and Neversoft haven't really messed with the formula too much. However, players will now find many more additional objects such as cars and buses that they can overpower and use. One of the coolest features of the THUG series is the ability of the skaters to get off their boards and walk around, which comes in quite handy during the role-playing areas. This is a cool yet is only a small aspect of the game, which still emphasizes skating. As you'd expect, the basic moves such as grinding, spins, grabs, and jumping feel and control as they have in previous games. Experts should have little trouble jumping right in because most of the standard tricks haven't changed much. However, there are several cool new tricks that add to the game's depth such as the new lightning speed and slow motion trick abilities that allow you to pull off some impressive moves, cool tricks and massive combos without breaking into a sweat. Overall, the developers have done an excellent job in translating the series' feel and attitude to the smaller PSP screen.
Taking a look at the screenshots, you can be forgiven for thinking that we've accidentally used console screens for the game. Don't be fooled, THUG 2 Remix's engine is remarkably robust, with the same large environments, interactive breakable objects and lively layouts as the console version. Each level is large and features a remarkable level of detail that makes it seem alive with hidden areas and secrets in abundance. There's quite a lot of variety to the terrain as well, from crowded streets to more open areas, to skate parks and more, you definitely won't find yourself bored by the game's level. The designs and layouts of each area are also excellent, offering a good balance of gaps, ramps, jumps and other objects on each level. You'll find excellent skating in unexpected places like abandoned warehouses, swimming pools plus many paths to hidden areas where you can perform absolutely massive jumps. The game looks slick on the PSP's bright, crisp LCD screen with fluid animations and a silky smooth frame rate making this an aesthetically pleasing title throughout, with a stylishly urban underground flair evident throughout. THUG 2's soundtrack is likewise excellent, and features an excellent mix of alternative, pop-punk and hip-hop tracks that compliment the aggressive, anarchic action perfectly. The production values and overall look of the game are excellent throughout. This is all the more impressive for a handheld title and a strong testament to the PSP's processing power.
THUG 2 Remix is an enjoyable title that should appeal to players of all abilities and styles. The sheer number of levels, gameplay modes and styles means you won't be bored. It's nearly non-linear structure allows you to complete goals and missions in the order and time you want. This approach makes it perfectly suited for handheld play, but the depth means the appeal will last for quite awhile. The intuitive controls make good use of the PSP's controls and button layout, making for an easy to play game that matches previous titles in terms of feel and enjoyment. From a visual standpoint, the game's expansive levels, fluid animation and sleek production values nearly match the console editions. Overall, THUG 2 Remix is an entertaining, exciting title that should please Hawk veterans and newcomers alike with its deep, challenging gameplay.