The PC and PlayStation 2 versions get the additional bonus of online play and a face mapping feature that lets you take a picture of yourself and put it onto your created skater. The face mapping works largely as it did in the previous game, though the PlayStation 2 version now has EyeToy support, making it a bit easier to get your face in the game. The trade-off is that you'll usually get better results with a photo from a digital camera. On the PC, you simply must crop a face image down to 128x128 pixels and import it from the game's front end. Every version of THUG2 also has a handful of different create modes. Aside from creating skaters and parks, you can also create graphics for stickers, decks, and the like.
If you're experienced with the Tony Hawk series, you'll be able to blow through the game's story and classic modes in ten to 12 hours.
The online game is largely the same as it was in the previous game, with a few additional modes. Up to eight players can participate in the standard game modes like trick attack, score challenge, combo mambo, slap, king of the hill, capture the flag, firefight, and graffiti. The game's new modes are elimiskate and scavenger hunt. The former works like a knockout race in a driving game, where the player in last place is eliminated at specific intervals until only one player remains. Scavenger hunt has two phases. In the first, each player skates around and drops five coins at different spots in the level. After that, it's up to the players to collect as many coins as possible. The first to collect them all, or the player with the most coins when time expires, is the winner. The online mode hasn't seen many additions this time around, but the modes are still fun. The Xbox and GameCube versions of THUG2 are limited to two-player split-screen games, which are also available on the PC and PS2. This method of play is functional, but the game is really more exciting with a full eight players.
THUG2 has a slightly different look from the previous Tony Hawk games. Specifically, the models used in cutscenes have a slightly more exaggerated apperance to them. While they may not look quite as realistic, this over-the-top look makes the characters--Bam Margera, in particular--seem much more expressive and animated than they have in the past. This fits well with the off-the-hook nature of the story mode, which has you going all over the place and busting stuff up in an unrealistic, but satisfying fashion. In the game, the worlds are colorful and unique looking. The skater models look good and animate well, which is unsurprising given that much of the game's animation is recycled from previous games in the series.
Despite having a full feature set and widescreen support, the PlayStation 2 version doesn't look as good as the other versions. Distant objects get very blurry in widescreen mode, to the point where you sometimes feel like you're watching a 3D movie without the red and blue glasses on. It also has a pretty sketchy frame rate, a problem that is amplified when you play it in widescreen mode. Conversely, the PC version is the best looking of the lot, but even it has some problems. Some custom skater haircuts simply vanish or pop in and out of view when in cutscenes, for example. The Xbox version looks quite sharp and is only a half-step behind the PC, and the GameCube version also looks decent, but blurry. With those versions lacking the full features of the PC and PS2 releases, they're harder to recommend to multiplatform owners, particularly on the Xbox, where online play is nearly standard. The control difference between versions is less noticeable, but PC players should definitely expect to play this game with a gamepad.
With over 50 songs on its soundtrack, THUG2 delivers some great music.
The audio in THUG2 is impressive. There's a lot of voice work from various pro skaters in the game, and most of it comes across quite well. The sounds of actual skating haven't changed much, but they still fit well and sound great. The soundtrack is as varied as the previous game's, containing a hefty list of really crazy songs. Have you ever skated to Frank Sinatra tunes? You'll get your chance here, as Old Blue Eyes joins artists like Metallica, The DOC, Ween, Less Than Jake, Violent Femmes, Atmosphere, Ultramagnetic MC's, X, Ministry, Brand Nubian, and, yes, Audio Two, who contribute the classic track, Top Billin'. With over 50 tracks in all and the ability to turn off tracks that don't fit your tastes, you'll probably find a suitable bunch of songs to skate to.
All in all, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 is a strong skateboarding game, though if you've remained devoted to the series, you might not be so impressed with its changes. Nevertheless, the gameplay remains fast, fluid, and exciting. The visuals are, for the most part, pretty sharp, and the story mode, though short and devoid of much of the character development that made up most of the previous game's story, is still fun to blast through. So fans of the series will definitely have some good times with THUG2, though you'll probably also come away feeling that THUG2 is merely more of the same.