Most of the time we see game franchises being ported to their logical next stage, for example from the GameCube to the Wii, or the PS2 to the PS3. It’s not often that we’re seeing the porting going to the opposite direction, with Tony Hawks Downhill Jam, originally released on the Nintendo Wii, being ported to the PlayStation 2. But I can certainly understand the underlying logic behind this, as Activision tries to tap into the console’s huge installed user base. How does the final product end up turning out now onto the Playstation 2? Read our full review to find out!
For so long we have played the Tony Hawk games and we have just come familiar with the fact that the object of the game was to score big tricks as quickly as possible. Well things aren’t as they once were in Downhill Jam, and although tricks are still part of the action, speed takes center stage. Downhill Jam is a lot like what we saw in EA’s SSX franchise, where the goal is to make it down the course as fast as can, while pulling off tricks along with the way. Now going back to the standard controls (moving away from the Wii), can Tony Hawks Downhill Jam compete?
The main mode of choice in Downhill Jam would have to be the Downhill Challenge Mode. You start by either choosing a pre-made character (all are fake except for Tony Hawk) or creating your own, and then are sent into a series of races. Once you win a race, you will unlock more content and more courses, which then progresses you through the game. The game does definitely become more difficult in the later rounds, however the game itself holds up very nicely.
Downhill Jam does try and bring in some old "Road Rash" feel to it, with the ability to knock off your opponents from their skateboard. But because of the high speeds and the controls not being as fluid as they should, this feature seems more like an afterthought. The rest of the controls in Downhill Jam actually are a bit unresponsive, which is very surprising for a Tony Hawk title that always has solid controls.
The whole appeal to Downhill Jam when it was initially released was that it was coming out for the Nintendo Wii and that it was going to be using its new control scheme. On the Playstation 2 you don’t have that novelty, and thus a lot of the initial appeal to the game is not there. Another huge problem with the game is that it is using a lot of old ideas that have already been improved upon and done much better than what you have in this game. In fact, the game itself is a pretty bare bones racing game that has little to no enjoyment outside of being a Tony Hawk title.
The game itself is a pretty simple experience, pick a character, enter a race, win race, go to next race, rinse and repeat. The game definitely has a more "old school" style approach, which unfortunately comes across as being more lazy than it is retro. The experience itself is just uninspired and unexciting. It was only after a few races that I scratched my head and was ready to move on.
Right when you take this game out of the box you begin to see all of its the graphical shortcomings. At the beginning of each race there is some major frame rate issues that cause some serious slowdown. Following that whenever there are more than two characters on screen at one time, the game bogs down quite a bit as well. The character models are extremely bland and manage to really leave no room for imagination whatsoever. Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam just doesn’t have any desire to be more than just a bland looking game.
The purpose for any game that has a "arcade" label around, it would be just to make an enjoyable experience and nothing necessarily beyond that. In the case of Downhill Jam you have a game that just feels like it was from five years ago and is trying in a few ways to make a case for being a good new game. However the final results of this game are mostly disappointing. Downhill Jam has the potential to compete with games like SSX, but the lackluster execution and the sheer playability that the franchise is famous for is just not there.
When a game carries the Tony Hawk label, that usually infers that it’s going to be a good game - the series has just been that good. Downhill Jam is the first in the franchise to have failed miserably. This could have an impact on other titles in the franchise, if not addressed in the next release. Even for the biggest fans of the Tony Hawk franchise, I would recommend to part ways from this title it is just too full of problems and to much lacking any substance.
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