The anti-establishment sport of skateboarding—rewatch Dogtown And Z-Boys; those guys wanted to drain your swimming pool, then take your daughter behind the middle school and get her pregnant—needed to have its anarchist edges softened in order to gain mainstream acceptance for videogame purposes.
The result: a decade's worth of solid but uneven Tony Hawk games featuring cop cars being driven by Rosco P. Coltrane-like officers munching donuts. Once Bam Margera began routinely appearing in the games, it was over. The series officially ollied the shark.
So it's no surprise that skate 2—the sequel to skate., 2007's supposed "Tony Hawk killer"—features the usual faux anti-establishment narrative. Dig this: a corporation known as Mongo Corp. has taken over the fictional city of New San Vanelona, and it's up to you, Radical Skater Dude, to take it back. That's right, it's another virtual chance to stick it to the virtual man. Up yours, yuppie scum!
All movement except grabs (use the triggers for those) is again handled via the dual analog sticks. While skate 2 should involve training your thumbs to master kick-flips and pop-shuvits, the most impressive tricks almost always involve flailing at the controller, which leaves a tainted sense of accomplishment.
Beyond the game: skate 2 celebrates bailing. Get up enough speed, fly far enough, hit the ground hard enough, break enough bones, and you'll earn points in "Hall Of Meat" mode. Only potatoheads and subnormals will find this entertaining for more than a few minutes.
Worth playing for: The game's opening cinema. There's more panache, spirit, and humor in this three-minute prison-yard montage (set to "Showdown" by ELO and "Anubis" by Anubis) than there is in the entire Tony Hawk series.
Frustration sets in when: You wind up spending three hours trying to earn a measly 800 points in an "own-the-spot" challenge.
Final judgment: The city bustles, yet simultaneously feels devoid of life. And the Old Testament-esque do-it-again-until-you-do-it-right gameplay will prevent casual gamers from seeing the final third of the game. That aside, skate 2, like its predecessor, continues to make the genre relevant again.