Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Professional skateboarders are incredible athletes - take our word for it. As anyone who's ever taken to a board knows, it ain't easy to stay on it once it's moving (cue flashbacks of a misspent youth, bleeding elbows flayed raw and scabby knees).
True skate pros - like Mr Tony Hawk, the guy Activision is pinning all its hopes on for this game - are not only capable of staying on their boards for more than five seconds, but they are also capable of pulling-off some of the craziest mid-air stunts imaginable. And without v killing themselves. How on earth they do it is beyond us, but it is obvious from playing this game that a few broken limbs and the odd skin graft are all part of the learning process, and that the more scars you have, the better you are at skateboarding...
Quick Thinking Required
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 provides the opportunity to experience all the thrills and spills of the real thing - by either creating a skater in your own image, then improving them and making a professional career out of it, or by assuming the role of an existing skate champ, of which there are 13 real examples to choose from in the game. By its nature, skateboarding is an extremely fast sport, requiring not only deft foot/board work, but also some pretty quick thinking.
In competition, professional skateboarders have to do as many 'flash' tricks as possible within a certain period of time, and to do this they need to utilise every available surface, curve and rail they encounter along the way. You have to do this too as you hurtle up half and quarter pipes at 10 mph, praying to not only land feet first, but also to scrape a few points in the process. It's not easy, we can say that, and bone-crunching falls (complete with cool blood spurts) are order of the day for, well, everyone bar the most learned of players.
THPS2 is very 'console-y' in look and feel (which is no surprise, since it shares the same code as it's already released PlayStation and Dreamcast cousins), but in our minds benefits hugely from this because the control system is piss simple, as well as being difficult to master.
such as 'ollies' Gumps) and spins, are easily combined using the space bar and arrow keys. Other, more complex stunts, such as flips (when you spin the board while in the air), grinds (when you slide along a surface on the board) and lip tricks (when you skate up a ramp or pipe, stop and do something fancy on the edge) are brought into play using a combination of four 'action' keys (kick/flip, grind/slide, grip/grab and 'special') and two 'stance' Keys. Initially it takes some getting used to, but like a good beat 'em up - and like real skateboarding - practice does indeed make perfect.
Mind The Gap
The courses you ride differ in scale and complexity and come littered with rails, ramps, halfpipes and gaps - all of which can be ridden/used in conjunction with various flip/grab tricks to earn points. Gaps - invisible triggers that activate when you jump from one part of the course to another - are hugely important and can earn big points, or even open a secret area, if uncovered.
Whether you're playing in single-player mode or in any of the hilarious and worthwhile multiplayer modes (skate tag anyone?!), the basic aim is to amass points quickly by skating every available gap in every available permutation of moves. The more variety in your act, the higher your points total at the end of the heat. And what do points make? That's right: cold, hard cash, which can then be spent either improving your skater's 10 I adjustable stats or adding to f their repertoire of mind-boggling tricks.
Can't Have Everything
Fortunately for the longevity B of this game, not all the courses are available Mm when you start off. The ' completion of various tasks (for example, collecting floating letters to spell the word S-K-A-T-E, or jumping three 'hangtime' gaps), plus the breaking of certain points barriers in Career mode opens subsequent levels, which really pushes you to do well. Not only that, but when secret switches are tripped, certain sections of the course change radically and new gaps are created, which is great.
Every third course unlocked is a competition that you must compete in to unlock the next area. Competitions are difficult because you actually have to go up against Tony Hawk and other real-life pros and come at least third to progress. Needless to say, it takes hours and hours of practice to get even a bronze medal, but when you do eventually pull it off you'll be punching the air, and anyone watching will think you're a god. In fact, a good player in THPS2 will draw a crowd around their monitor - just like a good skater attracting a throng of spectators around a drained-out pool in the real world. It's that good to watch. Along with the eight Career courses there are 12 custom courses available. And if that isn't enough, a park editor has been included as well - allowing you to create, save and swap your own parks if you so wish. We mucked around with it (see the results on the ZONE cover CD next month), and although limited, we've gotta admit that we were impressed by how easy it was to make a decent park in no time at all. And the resulting files were little more than 5K in size, facilitating their distribution via cyberspace.
This addresses the issue of longevity to a further degree, although it is a pity you can't map your own textures onto your park... Still, I guess you can't have everything.
Little To Moan About
Graphically, there's little to moan about, and aside from the odd glitch (probably more to do with my graphics card than the software) and the fact that there doesn't seem to be any lens flare, THPS2s an absolutely splendiferous sight in full flight.
Sonically, though, it's in another dimension. If, like your humble reviewer here, you're into your skate punk music, then the names Rage Against The Machine and Bad Religion will mean something to you. If you're not into your skate punk music... well, don't despair because there's some fantastic hip-hop in there, too. Do the names Dub Pistols, Chuck D and Naughty By Nature mean anything to you? Yes, that's right: THPS2 has the baddest-assed soundtrack of any PC game doing the rounds at the moment, and it deserves to be cranked up loud so that it really annoys the neighbours.
If there is a downside to THPS2 it's got to be the manual, which dedicates more space to the bloody licence agreement than it does to the control system. Aside from that, this is a diamond game - it's hard, it's hip, it's original and it's fun. Skate the Tony Hawk's way and you can't go wrong.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 Screenshots
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