Darkblack / THQ
Throughout the mid-nineties and into the early 2000’s, extreme sports had a vice-like grip on popular culture, taking the world by storm with fresh and fun attitudes while championing a variety of outdoor activities that differed from the traditional football game. Whether it was BMX riders hitting Double Peg Grinds, or snowboarders flying through the air while pulling off Backside 360 Double Hand Drags, it seemed like everyone and their cousin had either a scooter or skateboard stashed away in their garage, just waiting to hit the pavement for another afternoon of righteous road play. With dreams of becoming professional athletes in competitive activities other than hockey or soccer, the youth of the xtreme decade looked to the rock stars of their favourite pastimes for undying inspiration and enthusiasm. Prodigious athletes like Dave Mirra, Chad Muska, Shaun Palmer, and of course, Andy Macdonald, had become household names, covering the walls and ceilings of aspiring young shredders all over North America and beyond. So it was no large surprise when the sports themselves started to touch base with the video game industry. In the year 1999, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk rode a steep ramp to success with the release of the immensely popular Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, a title that would go on to be heralded as one of the greatest games of all time. But this isn’t a review about the now legendary THPS. No, this is a review of a painfully missed opportunity – one of a game that presented all of the right moves on paper, but just couldn’t land the tricks in the park. The back insert of the game asks the question: “How does a 540 Benihana into a One-Footed Smith Grind sound?” Well, in the case of MTV Sports: Skateboarding Featuring Andy Macdonald… it’s not sounding too good.
Where MTV Sports: Skateboarding excels is in its impressive forms of variety. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the sport of skateboarding here. Freeplay mode allows you to pick a pro skater of your choosing and take to the parks. There you can practice your moves while also getting to know the surroundings with an unlimited amount of time. High Score allows you to do everything just mentioned but with a time limit of two and half minutes to… achieve a high score within. Survival mode instructs the player to keep pulling off combinations of tricks against other skaters in order to stay in the game. Accumulate more time to keep yourself in the battle by performing even more impressive combinations of tricks. MTV Hunt pits the player against the clock while MTV icons and broken pieces of skateboards must be collected before time runs out. And Stunt mode thrusts the player into several different xtreme situations such as rocketing down a massive ramp that leads to a gap over several abandoned cars. Lifestyle mode is easily the standout among all of the other play options. Customize your own skater from scratch and work your way up from the peewees to the big leagues. This was a really cool idea that preceded the very similarly sounding and playing Tony Hawk’s Underground by four years. Compete in local, regional, and international competitions to unlock new gear for your skater and earn noteworthy sponsorships. If it weren’t for MTV Sports: Skateboarding’s one critical flaw, Lifestyle mode would’ve made for a refreshing new take on Activision’s arcade-only approach, as no such option existed in the THPS games at the time. There are also a handful of multiplayer modes to play along with friends, but honestly, once you realize what’s wrong with the game, you’ll already be reaching for the Tony Hawk disc.
MTV Sports: Skateboarding boasts over 35 levels to play within and comes packaged with 14 pro skaters to grind and kickflip with. Among them are legendary names from the skate scene like Danny Way, Colin McKay, Rob Dyrdek, and the game’s namesake, Andy Macdonald. I enjoyed seeing a different crop of athletes than the ones I’ve grown accustomed to expecting from the Tony Hawk games. As would be expected from a release associated with MTV, the game’s soundtrack is also pretty decent with offerings from Goldfinger, Cypress Hill, No Use for a Name and more. Even the sound effects while performing tricks or gliding down half pipes sound pretty authentic. Heck, the graphics aren’t even that bad. Nothing incredible, but the Tony Hawk games never set the bar exceedingly high in that department either.
So with all of these awesome sounding attributes, how was it that the game became such a dud? Universally panned upon release, MTV Sports: Skateboarding did little to give Tony Hawk and the Activision gang a run for their money because when all of the shiny new bells and whistles that the game served up had stopped ringing, the painfully obvious was made crystal clear: the game’s controls were really bad. Pulling off something as simple as an Ollie feels choppy and at times actually happens after a second or so delay following a tap of the A button. Suffering from obvious feedback issues in the control department, the entire experience gets marred in the process. At the end of the day, the single most important aspect of any game is that it should be fun to play, but when landing a relatively simple maneuver like a Pop Shuvit becomes a headache, how can one expect to string along a complex chain of trick combinations within a time limit? Even collecting items in MTV Hunt mode is arduous as it’s just too difficult to anticipate when your character will jump once you’ve pressed a button, making it near impossible to complete tasks without the patience of a monk.
What MTV Sports: Skateboarding Featuring Andy Macdonald offers is a shame. Everything about this release deserves merit besides its terrible controls, which unfortunately, are a giant roadblock of an issue. It’s almost as if all the pieces of the puzzle were set perfectly in place, only for one of them to be seriously bent (and consequently jammed into the final product to make it fit). MTV Sports: Skateboarding is a game that I would love to enjoy but it’s just not worth the effort of trudging through when smoother experiences exist. Great ideas wrecked by phoned in controls make this one a pebble on a freshly paved road – when skating, it’s best to avoid it and stick to the vert ramps with Tony Hawk.