Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix (PSP)
By: Matt C. on April 11, 2005
If you look at Tony Hawk's Underground 2 running on the GameBoy Advance and cell phones, it's obvious that they have been simplified to accommodate the lack of horsepower found in most portable devices. However, with the extra processing power locked away inside the Sony PSP, Shaba Games has actually managed to create a near perfect port of the console version of Tony Hawk's Underground 2, which appeared on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and PC October of last year. I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. And as you can tell by the game title, the PSP copy of THUG2 has been "remixed" with four new levels (Las Vegas, Atlanta, Kyoto and Santa Cruz) not found on consoles.
If you've played the console version of Tony Hawk's Underground 2, you'll know exactly what to expect in the PSP version. As you know, the PSP has the same button layout as the PlayStation 2, so X is still used to crouch and ollie, circle for grab tricks, etc. The lack of R2 and L2 buttons on the PSP does not greatly affect the gameplay. One R button is more than enough to perform reverts and spine transfers, and the L button is used for getting off your board and running around on foot.
All in all, the controls work surprisingly well on the PSP, but you're going to have to get used to the smaller buttons and having the screen move while you mash away on them trying to keep up long combo. So rest assured if you had any worries about how the game would play on the PlayStation Portable. As for the square button, it is needed to perform flip tricks (which are obviously important in this game), but it hasn't given me any problems. Besides, all American PSPs had its square buttons fixed and they should no longer get stuck (my PSP is from the first Japanese launch shipment, but my button works fine).
THUG2 Remix provides a Story mode and a Classic mode. In Story mode, you'll follow Tony Hawk's team and Bam Margera's team through a "Word Destruction Tour" which takes you to various real-life cities. At each city, you will have the option of switching between a total of four skaters or characters (such as Ben Franklin, a cowboy, a hippie, and many more -- and some of them don't even use skateboards to get around), each with different goals to complete. Some goals are standard stuff, like having to get a certain score within a certain amount of time, while other goals are more interesting and require you to destroy an object or cause trouble. In between goals, you can go around the city and do whatever you want.
As you can probably guess by its name, the Classic mode brings back old-school goals from previous Hawk games, including goals like collecting S-K-A-T-E letters, reaching a certain score within one two-minute run, and more. Not only can you visit THUG2 Remix levels in Classic mode, but you can also visit re-released levels from older Tony Hawk titles, each with new goals. The Classic mode is a nice addition to the game, because the old-school goals it offers can still be quite fun.
One charming feature that has helped keep the console Tony Hawk games popular and full of replay value after all these years is its multiplayer modes. Sadly, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix cannot be officially played online, but it does offer 4-player wireless multiplayer modes (such as trick attack, score challenge, combo mambo, slap!, king of the hill, graffiti, firefight, capture the flag, H.O.R.S.E, elimiskate, scavenger hunt, goal attack, or you can just relax and free skate with your buddies and watch them try different combos).
Like many PSP WiFi enabled games, one PSP is the host and the others must connect and join the game as clients. The host can select the game type, the time limit, change levels, and other various options. While the host is busy tweaking settings, everyone else can just skate around freely and practice, much like the console version. And when you want to change levels, there is no need to exit the game and have everyone join the host again. Instead, everyone automatically moves over to the next level. The WiFi feature works well and runs just as smooth as the single player game.
Other features and game modes are available to keep Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix faithful to the console versions. There is a Create-A-Skater mode, which is just as robust as the PS2 version. There are a large variety of face types, hair styles, and clothes (shirts, jackets, pants, shorts, shoes, etc) to choose from, so getting a skater the way you want him or her to look shouldn't be a problem.
Players can also create their own graphics to be used on their clothes, skateboard, or for their own custom graffiti tag. And it doesn't end there -- it is possible to create your own tricks and your own goals. Even the face mapping feature is possible on the PSP. Just transfer a JPEG of your mug to your memory stick, download it to the game, and put it onto your skater. Getting the face to line up and match the body can be tricky, but if you spend some time with it, the results should be satisfying.
Much like I said in the intro, the PSP's powerful hardware has enabled Shaba Games to make Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix look very, very close to PlayStation 2 version. Animations are smooth, and so is the framerate. Levels are just as large as their PS2 counterparts (with very, very little pop-in I might add), and many of the same details on buildings and such are still here, although there seems to be some tweaks here and there to help save some memory. Needless to say, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix looks great on the PSP. The time of day even changes in real-time.
The only problem I have with the visuals are that many textures are on the blurry side. Some signs and billboards are so blurry you can barely read them. However, this doesn't affect gameplay, and the levels can be quite large, so you'd be foolish not to expect some lower quality textures to fit everything into memory. Speaking of fitting everything into memory, be prepared for some lengthy load times inbetween levels.
The soundtrack in Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix is massive, and it includes songs from Metallica, Brand Nubian, The Doors, Johnny Cash, Disturbed, and dozens more. You can easily edit the playlist in the options menu to keep songs you don't like from playing, or even disable the music completely to save battery life.
I can't stress this enough: Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix simply looks great and plays just as good as the PlayStation 2 version. If you've overdosed on THUG2, then you might want to pass on the PSP version, because the four exclusive PSP levels probably won't be enough to make you play through the game again. If you don't fit into that category, I highly recommend Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix as one of your first PSP games, even for beginners (there is a training level and an easy mode).