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Get on a roll with ‘Pro Skater 2’

Tony Hawk and friends will wipe out even seasoned gamers.

I’ve spent at least as much energy stepping over skateboards as I have riding them, so I didn’t expect to get much out of ActiVision’s “Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2.” Another potential problem I considered before even undoing the shrink wrap: Not owning a game pad, I was especially skeptical about the PC-based version of the game (which is also made for PlayStation, Dreamcast, and GameBoy). The idea of executing complex grinds and ollies with a plain old keyboard seemed almost self-defeating.

But I’m happy to report that “Tony Hawk” was great fun even without a game pad–the more nimble your fingers become, the more nimble your onscreen skater dude becomes, though some moves require the help of three or more digits. Before long, elementary half-pipe moves were looking simpler, and the game’s addictive side began to assert itself–as I learned the basics, I wanted to know more. The game presents challenges in the form of eight skate parks, which are accessible at graduated levels as you become more proficient. You start out in Mullet Falls, Mont., get your training in Southern California, then move up to two skate competitions in such locales as Marseille, New York, Mexico, and Philadelphia.

You also can adopt the persona of any of 13 professional skateboarders, including Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Steve Cabalerro, and others. But before long, you’ll want to take advantage of the Create Skater feature, which allows you to tailor a skater to your specifications and skill level. Using this feature, you can decide on everything from the pro’s primary skills to the design of his tattoos.

You can also customize your own 3D skate park, using a variety of ramps, funboxes, rails, and other objects out of a toolbox containing nearly a hundred functions and objects. All creations can be saved to use and share, and can be used in any game mode.

A typical round of skating will look familiar to seasoned skateboarders, but novices will find it tough getting used to. At first, there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the skate parks, your moves, and their attendant point values. You’ll soon find, though, that mastering certain moves can mean big points at crucial times.

Fans of this game’s predecessor, “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,” will enjoy the hundreds of new tricks that can be performed on the new version, including nose/tailslides, nose/bluntslides, varial flip, several new grabs, expanded inverts, lip tricks, nollies, manuals, and more realistic switch skating. And while you’re still learning (and falling), you’ll see and hear the enhanced bails, nutters, knee slides, pole wraps, board breaks, and wall splats. “Tony Hawk 2” can be played in single-player and network-based, multi-player modes. Single-player is obviously best for trying out and refining moves and stunts, while the latter mode is ideal for competition. You can compete against others in the original modes of Trick Attack, Graffiti, and Horse, plus the new Tag Mode. The new multiplayer contest disciplines of Regular and Best Trick allow between one and eight players to take turns skating heats in the competition levels of the game.

One final note: The “Tony Hawk 2” Web site contains links to message boards containing tips and tricks that might prove helpful as you’re learning the game.

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