Tony Hawk Underground
Release Date: 10/28/2003
AWARD WON: BEST NON TRADTIONAL SPORTS GAME -2003
I have to be honest here. I’ve never played the game, but with the staff we had at the time, Pankonin, Berg, Laflin and the like – they all loved it. I’ve played only one TH game and it was TH4 for the Game Cube and I was bored with it within an hour. Maybe that opinion was felt by many, because the fifth game took a dramatic shift in theme and mood from the first four.
THU gives you an actual storyline and has you playing as a generic skater guy like the tens of thousands that get chased out of public parks by irritable policemen on a daily basis. You impress a pro skater and bam! You’re on your way to superstardom.
I dunno. Just recapping what the game is about does nothing for me. Especially when I read that the big innovation was that now you can WALK in the game. Gasp of shock and amazement from the peanut gallery, right? Still, I’m not a sports gamer, and there’s something here that heavily impressed the 2003 edition of the KLIQ, as this game walked away with top honours and was the first and only game that would ever win this award as we would discontinue it in 2004.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was the “extreme” game that all others aspired to be. The combination of easy to learn and hard to master controlls and direct involvement of the legendary Tony Hawk (this was no case of just throwing a face onto a game) meant that gamers swooped on this from it’s first release. Others tried to outdo the franchise with snowboards (SSX), bikes (Dave Mirra BMX) and, when that failed, tits (BMX XXX). Nothing could supplant the king; THPS was the #1 game in control, graphics and name recognition. Every subsequent version added a little more and a little more, but it was getting to the point with THPS4 that the series was falling into the standard rut usually associated with more traditional sports games: THPS was in danger of becoming little more than a yearly roster update with a fresh coat of paint.
Enter Tony Hawk Underground.
My first reaction to THU was that it was like Grand Theft Auto with skateboards and without wanton killing. That might seem like a bad comparison, but when you consider the gameplay mechanics – roaming around a town/city looking for quests in order to go to other places and advance the story – it makes sense. Plus, they made the gameplay better than before, and for the old school guys that still wanted to get high scores, they had that option as well.
Four years later, I still consider THU the highwater mark of the whole Tony Hawk franchise.