Oh, that wacky Bam Margera. When will he ever listen to his mom and settle down a bit? Now he's gone and roped good ol' Tony Hawk into partaking in some crazy shenanigans around the world, destroying beloved cities, terrorizing citizens and causing general chaos.
Now the World Destruction Tour has made its way to the Sony PSP and it hasn't lost one bit of its raucous attitude in the process. Indeed, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix is a near-perfect port of the console version of THUG 2. The controls are nearly spot-on, all of the game types and options are intact, the soundtrack is as big as ever and the game looks almost as good as its console brethren.
Not content with doing a simple port, developer Shaba Games has added four new levels to the game and played with the game's progression a bit, hence the Remix title. Gamers who've played through THUG 2 on a console will notice that the level order has been reshuffled and expanded, thanks to the four new levels. Aside from those changes, everything that you found in the console version now fits in your palms, even things like multiplayer and the face mapping feature.
Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix offers up two main modes of play, Story Mode and Classic Mode. Story Mode pits players as a member of either Tony Hawk's assembled crew or Bam Margera's assorted troublemakers. You don't get to pick a side - rather that's part of the story. The game takes you through various cities as the two teams make the rounds on their World Destruction tour, the focus being the destruction part. Many of the goals in the game are based around either blowing something up, destroying something, generally be a public nuisance or the like. There are still the classic C-O-M-B-O, high score, find "X" item goals and whatnot as in past Tony Hawk games, but there are plenty of story-based, per-level goals as well.
While Story Mode essentially lets the players run (or skate, actually) free, finding various goals to complete on their own time, Classic Mode brings back the old-school two-minute run style of the first three Tony Hawk games. Many of the goals in Classic Mode are copied over from one level to the next, such as collecting S-K-A-T-E and finding the secret tape, as well as the aforementioned C-O-M-B-O and high score goals. It's nice that the game includes this mode as I personally prefer it to the story-based direction that the series has taken. To each his own.
If you've played any of the past Tony Hawk games then you know the sort of city environments that levels are made up of; liberal use of famous landmarks, a quasi-realistic layout of a famous area in said city scattered with ramps, rails and odd pedestrians. The levels are basically caricatures of various cities, if you will.
The four new levels fit in perfectly with the existing set. For example, the Las Vegas level uses poker tables, slot machines and other vices as rails and ramps. It's set up in a similar fashion to Neversoft's original creations in that there are lines everywhere. While Las Vegas is wholly original in both its existence and design, a couple of the other levels seem to borrow from older stages. For example, the Santa Cruz stage is much like Australia with its beach and waterfront property. Kyoto is a little better off, though sections of it very much remind us of the Tokyo stage found in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. Sure, they're both in Japan so it sorta makes sense, but still...
The Tony Hawk series is what it is because of its dead-on control scheme. The inherent problem though is that people are so in-tune with the series' control setup that any slight adjustment can entirely screw up the experience and even ability to play well at all.
THUG 2 Remix has ported the controls over almost as perfect as they could be. Since the PSP doesn't have all of the same buttons the PS2 does, there had to be a few adjustments made. For example, since there's only one analog nub on the system, you need to hold Circle while standing in order to look around, otherwise you'll walk. As well, the R trigger is multi-functional depending on what you're doing; while in the air it will level you out, after just landing it'll perform a revert, while running it'll grab ledges and if you're over a ramp it's used to drop in. A problem with this example is that sometimes you want to grab a ledge, but if you're over a ramp your skater will drop off a ledge, stick to his board and hit a quarter pipe.
While you can get used to that, there were a few things that the developers didn't take into account well enough. The analog nub takes you into Focus mode when you have special, which would be fine except that it's very close to the D-Pad and you end up hitting it inadvertently from time to time. Luckily, turning on Focus is actually beneficial, so it's not too bad, though what sucks is when you're in Focus and you accidentally hit the analog stick again because you'll leave Focus. Oh, while we're on the subject of the analog nub, it should be known that the game is D-Pad only for skating; except if you hop off the board, there's no analog love this time around.
Aside from that, the controls work very well once you get used to playing THUG 2 on a small handheld. Personally, I'm reasonably violent with the controls when I play as I'm trying to do 200 things in a split second, so having the screen move with my hands took a little getting used to, but that's a generalized portable gaming thing.
Graphically the game is very close to that of its console kin. Draw distance is a non-issue as you can always see to the other side of a stage, though sometimes you'll see a pedestrian or object pop into view. It's reasonably rare and doesn't hurt the game whatsoever so it's of no concern. There is a graphical oddity here or there where you'll see overlapping polygons fight it out in the Z-Buffer, but again you won't spot that too often and it has no impact on the gameplay.
Framerate, which is of utter importance in a Tony Hawk game, is smooth as silk. Textures and details are as clean as you'd expect them to be, and the environment is just as cluttered with objects as the console versions. In all, this is a great looking game that does well to show what Sony's little handheld can do.
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