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Think you have what it takes to board with Tony Hawk?

Sarah Vabulas | Thursday, November 6, 2003

The new Tony Hawk sequel could be easily called, according to PlayStation Magazine, “create your own Tony Hawk sequel.” It is the most customizable of any Hawk game yet. Underground gives users the ability to make their own tricks, decks and level objectives (complete with easy-to-use editing tools), as well as giving the ability to customize their own character or even make one themselves.

Users can e-mail Neversoft a photograph and then connect their PS2 to its online server and type in the given password in a reply e-mail. All users need to do to finish off the process is to pinpoint their eyes and mouth once the picture is uploaded to the PS2 unit, and the game correctly maps the face onto the character’s body.

And if putting yourself inside the game isn’t cool enough, the new story mode, formally known as “career mode” in past Hawk games, has been dramatically improved. In the game’s 27 chapters, a gamer can skate around town, fulfill the objectives and get such skaters like Arto Scari, Mike Vallely, Paul Rodriguez, Jr. and even skater/director Stacy Peralta to notice your mad skating skills.

In Underground, rather than focus on replacing the levels and adding new layers of depth to the gameplay, Activision and Neversoft have tried to turn the entire series upside down, taking the focus off of the skaters who are already professionals. Instead, the spotlight is placed on an unknown skater and his quest for fame, which takes him from the mean streets of New Jersey to the heights of skateboarding stardom.

These qualities make Underground feel more personable then simply skating around, doing tricks or objectives with no storyline behind it.

The game mirrors Grand Theft Auto in many ways, making this Hawk game more than worthwhile. You find yourself driving cars, chasing drug dealers, harassing cops, all the while, attempting to gain sponsorship and learning new tricks along the way.

Underground is a great improvement from the pro skater line of Hawk games.

For the first time in the Tony Hawk universe, the game has difficulty settings. Since the story relies on you being an unknown skater, it requires you create your own skater rather than using a pre-made professional.

In the past games, in order to improve your skills, you must earn money to purchase skill points. In Underground, skaters are upgraded by satisfactorily executing stat-specific challenges rather than by being awarded stat points for completing goals.

As it stands, the game essentially has you attempting to accomplish the typical sorts of goals that the Pro Skater series is known for – like collecting different items and doing multiple specific tricks. You’ll collect scraps of sheet metal, Hawaiian leis, doughnuts, stickers and lots of other little trinkets along the way. A gamer also have to perform specific tricks in certain situations, reach specific score plateaus, and achieve other typical Tony Hawk-style goals. As you become a sponsored amateur and, eventually, a bona fide pro skater, you’ll partake in judged competitions. These are best-of-three timed runs, and they work roughly identically to the competition levels that have been in the series since the beginning.

Underground proves just as addictive as the rest of the Hawk games. So when you sit down to play, be sure to budget quite a bit of time to tackle this new version of skateboarding adventures.