Tony Hawk's Underground
|Tony Hawk's Underground|
|Developer(s)||Neversoft (PS2, GameCube, Xbox)
Vicarious Visions (GBA)
|Genre(s)||Adventure, role-playing, sports, platformer|
Tony Hawk's Underground is a skateboarding-adventure video game published by Activision between 2003 and 2004 as part of the Tony Hawk's series. Neversoft developed the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox versions, while the Game Boy Advance adaptation was developed by Vicarious Visions and the mobile phone version by Jamdat.
Underground is built upon the skateboarding formula of previous Tony Hawk's games: the player explores levels and completes goals while performing tricks. However, the game features a new focus on customization such that the player, instead of selecting a professional skater, creates a custom character. Underground adds the ability to dismount one's board and explore on foot. The plot follows the player character and their friend Eric Sparrow as the two become well-known professionals and grow apart as friends.
The game was developed with a theme of individuality, which was manifested in the extensive customization options, the presence of a narrative, and the product's characterization as an adventure game. Real-world professional skateboarders contributed their experiences to the plot. Underground was critically acclaimed: reviewers praised its wide appeal, soundtrack, customization, multiplayer, and plot. The graphics and the controls for driving vehicles and walking were less well received. Underground 's PlayStation 2 version had sold 2.11 million copies in the United States by December 2007. A sequel, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, was released in 2004.
Like its predecessors in the Tony Hawk's series, Underground is centered on skateboarding in a series of levels. The player performs tricks via combinations of analog stick and button inputs. For example, the player initiates an ollie (a jump trick) by holding and releasing the jump button. During an ollie, the player may change the position of the analog stick and press one of two buttons to perform either a flip trick (such as an impossible or kickflip) or a grab trick (such as a benihana or nosegrab). The player can grind on certain edges and rails; different tricks may be performed during a grind based on the position of the analog stick. On quarter pipes, the player may execute lip tricks. While skating on flat surfaces, the player may manual in multiple ways via button combinations. Miscellaneous tricks include acid drops and wall-rides.
While a grind, lip, or manual trick is underway, a balance meter appears: unless the player prevents this meter from falling to the left or right, the character will bail and need a few seconds to recover. Bailing can also be caused by falling without one's board facing downward. Completing tricks in succession without bailing is called a combo. Comboing raises the player's score and fills up the Special Meter; when it is full, the player is granted access to more elaborate tricks worth more points. Underground introduces the ability to dismount one's skateboard, which allows the player to explore levels more carefully and reach new areas. Each level features at least one vehicle, usually a car, that the player can drive.
The levels are based on regions of the United States and other countries. In each level, certain tasks that advance the game's narrative must be completed before the player can move on. These tasks include score attacks, races, item collection, and reaching one of many gaps[i] found in a level. Each level houses one professional skateboarder, who provides a sidequest that unlocks a trick for the Special Meter. On account of the levels' large sizes and the integration of goals into the story, Underground has been described as an adventure game. Characters can level up their stats—which include jump height and speed—by completing optional goals in a level; this adds an element of role-playing gameplay. Other gameplay modes include multiplayer minigames—one, a combat mode called "Firefight", can be played online in the PlayStation 2 version of the game—and a "free skate" mode that lets the player explore levels with no goals or story.
Underground features extensive customization. The player creates a custom character for the story mode, and may not play as a pre-made professional skater outside a special scene late in the game. A level editor allows the player to create skate parks with a large array of objects, ranging from traditional skate park elements like half-pipes, ramps, funboxes, and grind rails to more outlandish pieces like buildings and sections of elevated freeways. The player can change their park's time of day and environmental theme. Tricks, skateboards, and level goals may be customized as well.
While the console versions of the game are fully three-dimensional, the Game Boy Advance version is rendered in an isometric style that incorporates both 2D sprites and 3D models. This version is a more traditional Tony Hawk's game, with little attention given to story or customization. The mobile phone version is similarly restricted.
The playable protagonist and their best friend, Eric Sparrow, are two skateboarders who have been friends since childhood and live in suburban New Jersey. Professional skater Chad Muska is impressed by the protagonist's talent, and he suggests that they seek a sponsorship from a skate shop. The protagonist fails to get sponsored by Stacy Peralta's nearby shop, and then travels to Manhattan with Eric, who is on the run from drug dealers. There, the pair shoot a skating video that impresses Stacy, who tells the protagonist and Eric to attend the Tampa AM skate event in Tampa, Florida. Eric is arrested for insulting a police officer in Tampa, and the player does favors for the police to secure his bail. Afterwards, Eric is admitted to Tampa AM, but the protagonist is forced to impress local professionals before being allowed into the competition. The protagonist wins Tampa AM and is offered deals by major skateboard sponsors. After picking one, the player and Eric head to San Diego to meet Todd, the manager of the team. The pair complete several photo shoots and appear in a magazine, and both are recruited to the team the next morning despite Eric's laziness.
The team is sent to Hawaii to film a video, and so the player searches for local spots that skaters have not touched, such as unused canals and landmarks. The protagonist notices a tall hotel, takes the elevator to its roof, and recruits Eric to do a film atop it. However, a police helicopter arrives to arrest them for trespassing. Eric wants to run, but the protagonist uses the opportunity to perform a McTwist over the helicopter and onto the awning of an adjacent hotel. Eric, who filmed the trick, is awestruck, and the two evade police pursuit. The team then travels to Vancouver, Canada. After doing favors for locals and finishing their part of the team video, the protagonist is allowed into the Slam City Jam. However, the final edit of the video implies that Eric was the one who jumped the helicopter. Todd, who was not present for the original jump, is impressed and declares Eric a professional. Incensed, the protagonist enters the contest and defeats professional skaters and Eric himself.
As recognized professionals, the player and Eric are allowed on a team trip to Moscow, Russia, where they meet up, reconcile, and skate together for a while. That night, Eric gets drunk and joyrides in a Russian military tank. The player hops in to steer the tank safely, but it crashes into a building. While Eric jumps out and runs away, the protagonist is trapped inside by a fallen chunk of concrete and is found by the Russian military. Unwilling to pay the damages, Todd pretends the protagonist has never been on the team and kicks them off. The American Embassy bails out the protagonist in exchange for favors, and then deports the player back to New Jersey. It is revealed that Eric, who is now sponsored, has abandoned the team and had plotted from the beginning to bring down the protagonist. Moreover, Eric has long abandoned the idea of "soul skating"—skating for enjoyment rather than riches. The player counters by teaming up with Peralta and several professionals to create a soul skating video. The protagonist challenges Eric to one last skate-off: if the player wins, Eric will hand over the helicopter tape; but, if Eric wins, the player will never skate again. The player is victorious and Eric breaks down in anger. In an alternate ending shown after the story is completed more than once, the protagonist knocks Eric unconscious and steals the tape instead of holding a skate-off.
The GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox versions of Tony Hawk's Underground were developed by Neversoft, while the Game Boy Advance version was developed by Vicarious Visions and the mobile phone version by Jamdat. Activision, which had acquired Neversoft in 1999, published all versions of the game.
Underground was created with a theme of individuality: it stars an amateur skater in a true story mode, whereas each previous Tony Hawk's game had starred professional skaters and had lacked a plot. One reason for allowing the player only to use a custom character was that certain criminal acts completed in the plot would not reflect well on real-world skaters. Previous games in the series had included character-creation features as well, but Neversoft expanded customization in Underground by implementing face-scanning for the PlayStation 2 version: if the player emailed a photograph of their face to firstname.lastname@example.org, the company would digitize it for use in the game. Regarding the customization options, especially the park editor, producer Stacey Drellishak stated that Neversoft was "trying to create the most customizable game ever." The developers used storytelling and exploration to distance their product from the plotless, task-based format of previous Tony Hawk's games, which led Neversoft president Joel Jewett to describe Underground as an adventure game.
The console versions' levels were significantly larger than those of earlier Tony Hawk's games. Neversoft expanded each level until it ceased to run correctly, then shrunk it slightly. Most of the levels were modeled closely after real-world locations; the designers traveled to locales representative of each city in the game and took photographs and videos as reference. The New Jersey level was a replication of a neighborhood where team artist Henry Ji had grown up as a young skater. Neversoft wanted the player to become familiar with the basic game mechanics quickly and to notice Underground 's differences from previous Tony Hawk's titles immediately. To accomplish this, they introduced foot travel and the ability to climb along ledges in the first few missions of the game. While Neversoft wanted to keep Underground realistic and relatable for the most part, they added driving missions as an enjoyable diversion and to push the boundaries of freedom in skateboarding games. However, these missions were intended not to take away from the main experience of skateboarding.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, Underground 's predecessor in the Tony Hawk's series, had received criticism for its difficulty: Neversoft had not realized that each game in the series was drawing new fans who were unaccustomed to the demanding tasks. As a result, Neversoft added four difficulty settings to Underground 's story mode, ranging from "Too Easy" to "Sick". Neversoft wanted players to develop skills for higher difficulty settings on Too Easy while still progressing through the story. The company had included extremely difficult missions in each previous Tony Hawk's game; the methods used to create these missions were the inspiration for Underground 's Sick mode. At first, the game's basic gameplay mechanics and structure were developed quickly. However, by the end of August 2003, only two months before the game's American release, the mechanics and structure still had not been finished.
While the game's cutscenes are animated with 3D graphics, the team recorded live-action videos to introduce the real-world skateboarding teams, so that players could better understand each team before selecting one to join. Neversoft interviewed professional skaters about their experiences of becoming known in the skateboarding world, then compiled elements of these stories into the game's script. Every skater who appears in the plot helped to craft their own scenes and voiced their own character.
Promotion and release
The game was promoted with a playable demo at Microsoft's "GameRiot" event held at Lollapalooza in July 2003. Activision stirred up enthusiasm for Underground with the Tony Hawk's Face Off Mobile Tour, a series of promotional events across 29 cities in October 2003. Attendees could play the game early and compete in it for tickets to Boom Boom Huck Jam 2003, which the real-world Tony Hawk attended. Activision, which sponsored the October 2003 Gravity Games extreme sports competition, promoted the game at the event and used its rendering engine to model tricks performed by the real-world skaters. The console and Game Boy Advance versions were released on October 28 in the United States, November 14 in Europe, and May 2004 in Japan. The mobile version was released worldwide in 2004.
The game features 78 songs, 75 of which are immediately playable in the main game; the other three are unlockable. They range from the late 1970s to the early 2000s by release and are categorized into three genres: rock, punk, and hip hop. The songs are as follows:
|1.||"Rapps on Deck" (Aceyalone)||Hip-Hop|
|2.||"Armageddon" (Alkaline Trio)||Punk|
|3.||"A Prototype" (Anacron)||Hip-Hop|
|4.||"She Said" (Angry Amputees)||Punk|
|5.||"Rebel Yell" (Assorted Jelly Beans)||Punk|
|6.||"Everyday" (Authority Zero)||Rock/Other|
|7.||"Big Bang" (Bad Religion)||Punk|
|8.||"Drive" (Blind Iris)||Rock/Other|
|9.||"Don't Wait" (Blue Collar Special)||Punk|
|10.||"2 Rak 005" (Bracket)||Punk|
|11.||"Imaginary Places" (Busdriver)||Hip-Hop|
|12.||"It's Alright" (CamaroSmith)||Rock/Other|
|13.||"Iron Galaxy" (Cannibal Ox)||Hip-Hop|
|15.||"Crazy and Stupid" (Crash and Burn)||Rock/Other|
|16.||"A Better Tomorrow" (Dan the Automator featuring Kool Keith)||Hip-Hop|
|17.||"Positive Contact" (Deltron 3030)||Hip-Hop|
|18.||"Cosmic Assassins" (DJ Q-Bert)||Hip-Hop|
|19.||"Time to Go" (Dropkick Murphys)||Punk|
|20.||"Annie's Grave" (Electric Frankenstein)||Rock/Other|
|21.||"To Ride, Shoot, Speak..." (Entombed)||Rock/Other|
|22.||"Mississippi King" (Five Horse Johnson)||Rock/Other|
|23.||"I Want It All" (Flamethrower)||Punk|
|24.||"Blah Blah" (Frog One)||Hip-Hop|
|25.||"California Crossing" (Fu Manchu)||Rock/Other|
|26.||"Crush 'Em" (GBH)||Punk|
|27.||"Hung, Drawn, and Quartered" (High on Fire)||Rock/Other|
|28.||"Remedy" (Hot Water Music)||Rock/Other|
|29.||"Embody the Invisible" (In Flames)||Rock/Other|
|30.||"Braggin' Writes Revisited" (J-Live)||Hip-Hop|
|31.||"Suffer Some" (Jane's Addiction)||Rock/Other|
|32.||"The Circle (Pt. 1)" (Juggaknots)||Hip-Hop|
|33.||"A Day at the Races" (Jurassic 5)||Hip-Hop|
|34.||"God of Thunder" (Kiss)||Rock/Other|
|35.||"Lick It Up" (Kiss)||Rock/Other|
|36.||"Rock-N-Roll All Night" (Kiss)||Rock/Other|
|38.||"King Kong" (L.A. Symphony)||Hip-Hop|
|39.||"War Games" (Living Legends)||Hip-Hop|
|40.||"Crusher Destroyer" (Mastodon)||Rock/Other|
|41.||"The Days" (Mike V and the Rats)||Punk|
|42.||"Underground Up" (Mr. Complex)||Hip-Hop|
|43.||"Skin Therapy" (Mr. Dibbs)||Hip-Hop|
|44.||"Phantom" (Mr. Lif)||Hip-Hop|
|45.||"Transitions as a Ridah" (Murs)||Hip-Hop|
|46.||"The World Is Yours" (NAS)||Hip-Hop|
|47.||"Run Fat Boy Run" (Nine Pound Hammer)||Rock/Other|
|48.||"Separation of Church and Skate" (NOFX)||Punk|
|49.||"Your World Will Hate This" (Orange Goblin)||Rock/Other|
|50.||"Womb Envy" (Paint It Black)||Punk|
|51.||"The Next Step II" (P.U.T.S.)||Hip-Hop|
|53.||"Low Class Conspiracy" (Quasimoto)||Hip-Hop|
|54.||"King of the Underground" (RA the Ruggedman)||Hip-Hop|
|55.||"New Noise" (Refused)||Punk|
|56.||"Like the Angels" (Rise Against)||Punk|
|57.||"(I Wanna) Pierce My Brain" (Rubber City Rebels)||Punk|
|60.||"Circle of Fear" (Smoke Blow)||Rock/Other|
|61.||"Mommy's Little Monster" (Social Distortion)||Punk|
|62.||"Suspect Device" (Stiff Little Fingers)||Punk|
|63.||"Refusal" (Strike Anywhere)||Punk|
|65.||"It Takes No Guts" (Superjoint Ritual)||Rock/Other|
|66.||"Internationally Known" (Supernatural)||Hip-Hop|
|67.||"Viva La Revolution" (The Adicts)||Punk|
|68.||"American Werewolf in Calgary" (The Browns)||Punk|
|69.||"White Riot" (The Clash)||Punk|
|70.||"No Revolution" (The Explosion)||Rock/Other|
|71.||"(Gotta Get Some Action) Now!" (The Hellacopters)||Rock/Other|
|72.||"It Ain't Nuttin'" (The Herbaliser featuring MF Doom)||Hip-Hop|
|73.||"The Legend of Black Thunder" (The Hookers)||Rock/Other|
|74.||"Loaded and Lonely" (The Midnight Evils)||Rock/Other|
|75.||"California Babylon" (Transplants)||Punk|
|76.||"Black Woman" (Unida)||Rock/Other|
|77.||"Secondary Protocol" (Wildchild)||Hip-Hop|
|78.||"Sailor Man" (The Real Mc Kenzies)||Rock/Other|
Tony Hawk's Underground was released to critical acclaim: its scores ranged from 85.27% for the Xbox to 90.58% for the PlayStation 2 on GameRankings and from 85% to 90% on Metacritic. GameZone's Michael Knutson stated that Underground is "one of the best skating games around" and that players of every skill level would enjoy it. Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell concurred: "as a 'pick-up-and-play' sort of game, THUG is endlessly rewarding once you get your head round the basics, and it's the best entry point for the series to date."
The story was well received. Joel Rybicki of Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine celebrated that "for the first time I can remember, an extreme-sports game actually has a real story [with] honest-to-goodness characters". IGN's Douglas Perry called it "a kick, albeit relatively lightweight in nature". He especially praised the pervasive sense of humor in the narrative and in the portrayal of real-world skaters. Knutson called the story "unique" and stated, "I really like that Neversoft had the guts to try something this radical and ditch the formula that they know works so well." Ben Silverman of Game Revolution described the game's plot as a "silly" cross between those of the 1980s films North Shore and Gleaming the Cube, but he praised it for giving context to the level goals and keeping distance between the skill unlocks. Bramwell called it "hackneyed". Rybicki found that the plot hurt the game's replay value and caused missions to be overly simplistic. By contrast, Game Informer 's Justin Leeper thought that "it serves to make some of the less-entertaining goals tolerable, because there’s a reason for doing them."
The game's aesthetics were generally well received. Bramwell called the graphics "unchanged and increasingly antiquated" and criticized the presence of "sharp, angular character models, eerily unrealistic lighting and odd little moments when the player is trying to turn round and ends up banging into a curb". However, Knutson was positive toward the graphics, art, and animation: he called them "nearly flawless" and praised the realism they brought to the inherently fantastical skateboarding genre. Williams said that "THUG 's cityscapes are incredibly well designed" and singled out the GameCube version of Underground as exceptionally well rendered. Rybicki called the levels "big and beautiful". Knutson commended the soundtrack's large size and the sound effects' realism. Perry appreciated the "hilariously hurtful" injury sounds and the extensive song list. By contrast, IGN's Craig Harris praised the graphics of the Game Boy Advance version but was more mixed on the soundtrack.
The alternate gameplay modes were received very well. Knutson lauded the game's high degree of customization; he summarized that "everything is expounded a hundred fold: from create-a-skater to create-a-park mode, it is simply amazing". He singled out the level editor as one of the deepest he had ever seen. GameSpy's Bryn Williams identified the level editor as an "extremely well-designed" feature that contributed to the overall "brilliance" of the full product. Leeper said that each customization mode is "intuitive and user-friendly", and both he and Rybicki especially enjoyed the trick-creation feature. Reviewers for Famitsu magazine praised the story mode, whose open world format they compared to the Grand Theft Auto series. Knutson and Perry enjoyed the multiplayer, particularly the online Firefight mode. Williams thought similarly and stated that "the most notable disappointment" of the game was the lack of online play for non-PlayStation 2 owners. Harris found the board customization of the Game Boy Advance version to be poorly implemented, though in-depth. Despite his praise for the customization modes, Leeper admitted that his greatest enjoyment still came from "seeking out great lines and beating my scores".
However, the walking and driving controls were criticized. Bramwell claimed that these modes feel "like they've been attached with an old stick of glue that's about as adhesive as baby oil." Knutson agreed, though he praised the novelty of these diversions. However, he stated that "the Tony Hawk series has always had exceptional controls" and that Underground, overall, is no exception. Perry felt that the feature increases levels' replay value. Similarly, Famitsu reviewers noted that, although the game's fast pace makes it extremely challenging at times, the high difficulty provides a sense of accomplishment when jumps and tricks are performed correctly. Williams found the GameCube version's controls mediocre, albeit manageable. Damon Brown from GameSpot stated that the mobile version's restrictive controls—many tricks require three button inputs—were that version's only caveat.
Sales and accolades
Underground won Best Sports Game at the 2003 Game Critics Awards hosted by Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The 2004 MTV Video Music Awards introduced a new category, Best Video Game Soundtrack, which Underground won. As of December 2007, the PlayStation 2 version of the game had sold 2.11 million copies in the United States.
Neversoft and Activision returned for a sequel, Tony Hawk's Underground 2. It was released on October 4, 2004 for mobile phones, Microsoft Windows, and the GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation Portable consoles. The plot continues that of Underground and focuses on the player character and their team sabotaging an opposing team. The gameplay, structure, and level design are very similar to those of Underground. However, Underground 2 features new tricks and gameplay mechanics, like the Natas spin, the ability to plant customized stickers in levels with the "sticker slap", a slow-motion "Focus" mode, and the ability to earn points by having a tantrum after bailing. The plot is set entirely in new locations, such as Boston, New Orleans, Berlin, and Barcelona. The game received positive reviews, though less so than its predecessor: its Game Rankings scores ranged from 70.33% for the Game Boy Advance to 86.20% for Windows.
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