Neversoft, what were you thinking? Why would you take the seventh game in a series supported by exponentially shrinking fanbase, and turn it into one big tutorial geared towards THPS noobs? Yeah, I know it's hard to think of justifications for these goals after going through this so many times. I can let that one slide...but what I can't let slide is that you actually disable abilities before I'm "taught" how to use them. I don't even start with the manual, a staple of the series since THPS2, and I have to make it through more than half the game before sweet, sweet flatland is returned to me. What's the point of an expanded world if I have to finish the game to gather up all the tricks I should have had from the start? And that soundtrack...seriously, what were you thinking?
At least it's better than THUG2.
THAW is the story of an arrogant little prick that gets his gear stolen the moment he falls off the turnip truck to land in LA (just like Shenmue 2), told with flashes of 80s inspired thrasher art which blends as well as anything else does...that is, not at all. Your first goals are to get a new haircut and a set of clothes, I suppose to introduce you to how limited character customization is now. I never visited these shops again because every option was uniformly ugly. Where's the option to stick a bag over my character's head? Somebody send Neversoft a copy of Beat Down with all the store options unlocked. Then maybe we'd finally get a decent create-a-skater mode in this series.
The story as it evolves centers around the construction of the ultimate impossible skate park, frankensteined together from whatever you can beg, borrow, or steal from the other areas of LA. All and all, a pretty good justification for all the mayhem that follows, just as long as your character doesn't speak. Another thing that's excellent (and sorely lacking in THUG 2) is a killer level layout that's just teeming with lines waiting to be ground into million point combos...not like the game requires you to do anything near that. THAW contains perhaps some of the best designed areas to grace the series, interconnected with thrash-ready tunnels that are a bit like the downhill levels from THPS1 and 2. These are sprinkled with not just story-based missions and pro shops, but BMX challenges, optional challenges, and lame graffiti tasks.
Hey, Holmes -- can you tag the spot... RIGHT FRIGGIN' NEXT TO ME?!
No sir, I can't seem to manage that. I'll crack your skull with my board instead.
Instead of capitalizing on these incredible grind spots, the skate park in particular is an awe inspiring sight when it's finished, Neversoft just dumped a jumble of different elements into them that never gel into a focused experience. Graffiti was lame in THUG2, and if anything it's even worse this time around with pathetic challenges that wouldn't even stump my arthritic grandmother. Making tags is still just as limited and cumbersome as before, unlike Jet Grind Radio where they lifted the idea from in the first place. New is the ability to toss your board or bash someone in the head with it, which manage to be both lame and dysfunctional at the same time. There's always a small pile of discarded boards near shop challenge boards from misfiring.