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The GoodThe bestselling sequel to the bestselling skateboarding game of all time is...even better.
I wanna get something right off the bat here, folks, THPS2 is NOT realistic. If you're expecting to grind the length of a highway overpass and do 540 Kickflip McTwists on flat in real life, it ain't happening. The biggest rival of the Tony Hawk series, Thrasher: Skate & Destroy, boasts a more realistic engine, but it's not nearly as fun.
And fun is the best way to describe THPS2. The strength of the game is in the sheer fun of knowing that almost everything you can see in the game, you can interact with. Wanna grind that staircase? Ollie off the airplane? Plant that taxi? Go for it! Neversoft has created a beastly game engine, and the control is very tight, and allows for even the least gifted of gamers to jump in and learn the scheme quickly.
The main refinement to gameplay is the manual. Basically a wheelie, the manual lets you continue combos a short distance over regular ground, allowing you to link grinds and wallies for insane scores. Also, several new skaters and tricks have been added. The parks are large and well designed, with secret areas usually unlocked by grinding a certain object. The career modes have changed, instead of collecting videotapes, you have to accomplish a set of tasks ranging from the standard (score 50,000 points) to the tricky (kickflip over a certain gap) to the positively weird (ollie the magic bum 5 times) for cash, which can be spent on pumping up your skater's attributes, buying new tricks and decks, and of course unlocking new levels.
Graphically, THPS2 is not that big a jump from the original, with slightly better textures and more detailed skater models. The create-a-skater feature is a nice bonus, with many different styles possible.
All the sounds are very dead-on. The soundtrack, which was alternative punk in the original, is much more diverse, and features some old-school hip-hop (Public Enemy) along with the more mainstream rock (Papa Roach, Rage, Powerman 5k). Very nice.
The pick of the litter, however, is the Park Editor by a landslide. You are given a large blank space set in one of four themes, and you can place half-pipes, quarter-pipes, rails, funboxes. pools, benches, just tons of stuff. The choice of pieces may seem limited at first, but Neversoft helpfully includes OVER 60 sample parks, all made with the editor. You can even go so far as to customize gaps, that you have to grind through, manual through, wallride, or of course fly over. DexDrive owners, rejoice!
The BadWell, for those of you who are into realism, prepare to be burned.
As for some more concrete objections, the two-player modes are fun, but due to the limitations of the PSX, the framerate takes a serious hit, pop-up becomes abysmal, and entire sections of the level are walled off or missing (go to the Bullring to see what I mean). THPS2 is just not all that fulfilling in its multiplayer.
The addition of the manual has skewed the game heavily towards street skating. You can use the manual to extend grinds and wallrides indefinitely, but once you take a combo to the ramp, that's that. Vert skaters have no hope of reaching the insane point totals grinders can. When it come to racking up the points, Tony Hawk is one of the worst characters in the game. That ain't right.
Also, the create-a-skater will only create males, a but puzzling when Elissa Steamer is a selectable character. Meh.
And finally, this game is a bit on the high side of the difficulty curve