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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2x (Xbox) Review

Background Info

Perhaps it's a cruel twist of fate, but Sony's PSOne and PS2 and Nintendo's GameCube have each received the latest and greatest skateboarding game from Neversoft, THPS3, while the most powerful console system on the market, the Xbox, merely receives an enhanced version of THPS2 from Treyarch. Treyarch can dress up THPS2 as much as it likes and even add a shiny little X at the end of the game's title. The fact remains, however, this is not THPS3, for which Xbox owners must wait until sometime in 2002. Nevertheless, THPS2x does have a good amount to offer Tony Hawk fans--featuring all the levels from THPS and THPS2, plus five Xbox-exclusive levels.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
THPS2x is definitely the best-looking version of THPS2 available. Treyarch spruced up the environments, beefed up the skater models, and added new special effects. However, nothing in THPS2x will really knock your socks off, especially considering the Xbox's powerful hardware is capable of so much more.

The models of the skaters are slightly fancier than the ones in the Dreamcast version of THPS2. Clothing is sharp and realistic, but a few of the facial textures are grotesque. Skaters give off a colorful motion-blur effect whenever the Special Meter turns yellow. Thankfully, you can disable this new graphical feature, as it does become distracting. The animation appears to be rougher and shakier than it was in THPS2, and it is far less impressive than the animation in THPS3. Bails are less varied than in THPS3, obviously, but as in THPS3, you can speed through the bail animations by rapidly pressing a button.

As mentioned, all the levels from THPS and THPS2, as well as five exclusive ones, are included. You will find expanded background scenery, bump mapping, new lighting effects, better-looking water, and volumetric grass (i.e., individual blades of grass). In addition, Treyarch added a lens flare on some levels. While the THPS and THPS2 levels are almost exactly as you remember them, they have never looked this good. Apart from making a few small changes and adding some extra details to the levels, such as a control tower on the Hangar level, Treyarch has not altered the layout of the old levels. The five new levels (night club, construction site, skatepark, subway, and rooftops), though fresh, are not particularly well suited for skating--save for the new skatepark level, modeled after a real skatepark in Tampa. Unlike THPS3, THPS2x does not have animated spectators, making the environments appear lifeless.

THPS2x's frame-rate is smooth, with only some minor stutters detracting from the action. However, anyone who has experienced THPS3's wickedly fast frame-rate will be looking for a turbo boost in THPS2x, which runs much slower. THPS2x does not have any noticeable draw-in, but it does have a few graphical faults and bugs, like clipping and instances when skaters stick to the environment.

Presentation/Audio : 85
The one thing THPS2x has that no other skateboarding game has--not even THPS3--is Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. If you have the proper setup, you will hear music pumping loudly from the front speakers and the sound effects playing aggressively from all around the room. THPS2x makes good use of the center channel and LFE, but like many Xbox games, its DD 5.1 mix does not offer any directional surround-sound effects. Still, it is a relatively strong mix and a first for a skateboarding game.

Sound effects are solid, with varied surface sounds and some interesting ambient noises. The game's soundtrack consists of all the songs from THPS2--from acts like Papa Roach, Rage Against the Machine, and Anthrax--and a brand-new techno song that plays during the Club level. Although the levels from THPS are included, the original THPS songs are not. Fortunately, THPS2x lets you play the music you have stored on the Xbox's hard drive. This definitely eliminates repetition, but unfortunately, the songs do not alternate automatically during Free Skate mode.

Interface/Options : 80
THPS2x has new menus and some features not found in THPS2. All the professional skaters from THPS2--including Bob Burnquist, who has abandoned the Tony Hawk series--are in the game. The skaters are rated in 10 categories, and each skater has a specific stance (regular or goofy) and skating style (street, vert, or all-around). Beyond tinkering with the game's standard options, like audio adjustment and controller configuration, you can edit a skater's trick set and create your own skater. THPS2x's create-a-skater features lets you create male or female skaters and offers several style options. It is not nearly as extensive as THPS3's create-a-skater feature, but it improves upon the one in THPS2. Additionally, the game's park editor cannot compete with the one in THPS3, though it does have a few extra features not found in THPS2's park editor.

THPS2x's control scheme is similar to the one in the Dreamcast version of THPS2. In other words, the trigger buttons control spins in the air and enable switch-stance and nollies on the ground. The remaining controls are identical to those of the original PlayStation version, with the left analog stick or digital pad controlling movement and the face buttons performing specific trick functions. The controls in THPS2x do not feel as tight as they did in the original PlayStation version of THPS2, and the violent vibration of the Xbox controller is quite annoying (luckily, you can disable it).

Gameplay : 75
Everyone should know what the Tony Hawk games are all about, and since THPS2x is merely a "director's cut" of THPS2, not much explanation is needed. You skate around the fully interactive environments--littered with ramps, rails, pools, and other skateable objects--stringing together tricks and grinding everything in sight. Doing tricks slowly fills your Special Meter, which lets you bust high-scoring special tricks once full. Manuals let you extend combos and rack up additional points, while the boneless and no-comply let you catch extra air and reach distant areas.

The only major difference in gameplay between THPS2 and THPS2x lies in the Career mode. Because THPS2x contains all the levels from THPS and THPS2, as well as some new ones, it consists of three different Career modes. The main Career mode revolves around the THPS2 levels and is the same as the one in THPS2. That is, you must complete objectives and win competitions to earn the cash needed to unlock levels and to buy stat points, tricks, and boards. Once you win the final competition level in the THPS2 Career mode, you unlock the Xbox-exclusive THPS2x Career mode. This mode features two goal-based levels and one competition level. Completing this mode unlocks the original Career mode from THPS, which is sure to spark fond memories. Sadly, neither the scores nor the locations of the objects in the THPS and THPS2 levels have been changed, so Tony Hawk veterans will breeze right through them. Moreover, the new levels do not offer much challenge and feel tacked on.

Treyarch has not added any new tricks to the game, though you can do all the THPS2 maneuvers, including manuals and no-complys, in the THPS levels. Anyone who has played THPS3 must readjust to life without the revert, the innovative linking move of THPS3, because it is not available in THPS2x. Beyond the Career modes, THPS2x has the obligatory Free Skate and Single Session modes, along with a multiplayer mode that lets you and your friends play via a split screen or system link. The games in the multiplayer mode include the now-familiar Tag, Graffiti, Trick Attack, and Horse.

Overall, the gameplay in THPS2x is a bit stale, and it certainly cannot compare with THPS3's gameplay. Hawk veterans will likely find the gameplay to be less challenging and not nearly as tight as it was in the original PlayStation version. The addition of the original THPS levels in THPS2x is welcome. However, once the nostalgia wears off, you are left with relatively small and inferior levels originally designed around the limitations of the PlayStation, not the Xbox. Newcomers to the Tony Hawk series will receive the most enjoyment and challenge from THPS2x, but fans of the series may want to take a brief trip down memory lane, courtesy of the Xbox.

Replay Value : 85
All the hidden characters, secret levels, special videos, and cheats found in THPS2 are in THPS2x, meaning there is a great deal to unlock. You can also spend a lot of time clearing the various gaps hidden throughout the game (a handy gap checklist will assist you). The create-a-skater feature and park editor obviously extend the replay value, and, as always, the multiplayer mode is enjoyable. But while THPS2x features the most levels of any Tony Hawk game, die-hard Tony Hawk fans will encounter very few surprises.

Overall : 81
THPS2x is worth playing if you are a fan of the Hawk series--and if you have not played a Tony Hawk game, THPS2x is the ideal game to get, since it has all the levels from the first two games. Still, if you have played THPS and THPS2 to death, THPS2x has very little new to offer besides a better audio-visual presentation and five poorly designed extra levels.

By: Cliff O'Neill 12/28/01

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