I’ll start off by pointing out that I didn’t even own THPS 2 until several years ago, and even worse, back when I was in high school and throughout my first few years in university, I hated the series. I had a group of friends who had a party every day, and by party, I mean a bunch of them, usually about 20, went to one friend’s house, and they smoked pot and played THPS. EVERY DAY. FOR YEARS. That’s all they did. Smoke up and play THPS.
I hated those games because they were always so stoned yet so good at them and they never wanted to do anything else. They kept playing HORSE, and since the winner kept playing and you had about 20 people wanting to play, it meant I had no chance to play more than 3 minutes every hour, so I never got to improve. I never owned a PS1 (until very recently), and while I had a PS2, my hate for the series was too strong. I just associated it with a lame waste of time that was entertaining only to my permanently baked friends and people like them.
At around the time my first kid was born, I was looking for something mindless, fun, and easy to play that I could pick up for 15 minutes and pause whenever needed. I was playing Demon’s Souls and loving it at the time, but my kid sucked at sleep, usually waking up every hour and often needing half an hour to fall asleep again. I quickly grew tired of Demon’s Souls infuriating lack of a pause feature (and I didn’t play it online because I hate online gaming, so it really was ridiculous that you couldn’t pause), so I found THPS 4 for about $5. I loved it. I played the crap out of it. The game is amazing. I decided to buy other Tony Hawk games as well. I got THPS 1, 2, and Underground 2. THPS 1 was too.. .crappy… after starting with 4, but 2 has aged well enough for me to bother playing it.
As much as I’ll admit to liking THPS 2 and can say positive things about it, it still pales in comparison to the 4th game in the series for me, so every positive thing I’ll say can usually have “but THPS4 did it better.”
I’ll start with the soundtrack. While I personally think it’s the worst of the four Pro Skater games, it isn’t entirely terrible. Yes, it has Anthrax (with Public Enemy), Millencolin, Swingin’ Utters, Bad Religion, and Lagwagon, but it also has Powerman 5000, a Rage Against the Machine track not from one of their two good albums, Papa Roach, and a bunch of other crap I don’t remember. I’m not complaining about the number of tracks, but the ratio of good to bad songs. While a game like THPS 4 isn’t immune to having terrible songs (it has ACDC, Flogging Molly, The Distillers, and a few lame rap tunes), with songs by Agent Orange, Avail, The Bouncing Souls, The Offspring (from one of their four good albums), Jody Foster’s Army, Iron Maiden, and Rocket from the Crypt, plus a bunch of rap that isn’t terrible, you quickly forget about the few bad songs. With THPS 2, I am constantly pausing the game to skip the terrible music because I hate 66% of the soundtrack. With THPS 4, I l isten to the songs I hate because it they only make up something like 5% of the soundtrack. Seriously, even THPS 1 had better music than 2. Still, it is a fairly minor gripe. It would be impossible to pick tunes everyone would love. I’m sure some people prefer THPS 2’s soundtrack to the others.
A little research did reveal that this game introduced one of my favourite elements in the series: manuals. I have to praise the game for this. Sure, it would still be fun to pull off incredible tricks, but the ability to manual from one rail or ramp to another to string massive combos kind of changed everything. You always have to debate being conservative and just landing you trick for a small amount of points, or maybe trying to manual just a little further to reach another rail and pile on more moves, but while risking falling down and losing everything. I’ve thrown more than one controller in rage over losing 6-digit scores by being too greedy.
It also added cash, create-a-park, and create-a-skater. None of these things were particularly interesting to me. I suppose cash was as fine as anything else they could’ve added to have you level up the skills of your skater. Create-a-park never interested me at all. I might’ve tried it for a minute before quitting forever. As for creating a skater, what’s the point? The game already has the greatest skater in history: Rodney Fucking Mullen! Most of the tricks you can do in the game were invented by this guy. If you’ve scoffed at Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for allowing players to make completely ridiculous moves, especially when it comes to using manuals to string combos, take a look at this:
That’s it. Reviews over. Rodney Mullen is in the game. 10/10. GOTI (Game of the Infinity).
But seriously, this game isn’t that special in a lot of way. No story. Bad graphics. Hit-or-miss soundtrack. Yet somehow, it’s is incredibly fun and even a little addicting. A great game to pop in for a quick 15 minute gaming session or a multi-hour grind-fest without the tedium of the grinding most gamers are used to. There is so much stuff to unlock, so many skaters to play with, secrets to find, gaps to clear, things to collect, and just plain fun to be had that you almost never even noticed that you’ve essentially been playing a sports game all along. I personally may have preferred THPS 4, but since it didn’t make the list (nor did any other Tony Hawk game so far), I am very pleased that not only did THPS 2 make the cut, it ended up taking 102nd place. If you’ve never played one of these games, this one is a good place to start. You won’t regret picking it up, unless you don’t enjoy fun.
So what’s your favourite Tony Hawk game? I’ve heard the Underground games are pretty good, but I’ve heard nothing but bad things about the subsequent games. I’d love for someone to make one of these for modern consoles, without the silly skateboard peripheral nonsense. Just a traditional Pro Skater game, but with better graphics, maybe the ability to download and play user-created parks, online multiplayer for the people who enjoy that shit, an expanded soundtrack, etc. I’d buy it…as long as it wasn’t total garbage.