So I’ve really been wanting to play this game for a while, and I thought maybe being close to April Fools would be a good enough excuse to play a rollerblading game. The thing is – this game is actually really really good.
Aggressive Inline was developed by Z-Axis Games, the guys who made Skate and Destroy for the Playstation, as well as the Dave Mirra BMX series. So they actually know what they’re doing.
It came out in 2002, after Pro Skater 3, but before Pro Skater 4. Which is interesting because it does a lot of stuff better than Tony Hawk 4 did. And the Official Xbox Magazine gave this game the best extreme sports game of the year award in 2002, over Tony 4. IGN also rated over Tony 4.
I don’t remember hearing about this game back then, and it never got a sequel. And that’s probably only because it’s about inline, and nobody cares about inline. It was already starting to die out at this point. But it’s really worth checking out. So let’s take a look.
So the gameplay and the controls of this game will be immediately recognizable to any Tony Hawk fan. But since it’s inline, obviously there are less tricks. You’ve got a lot of grabs, and a handful of body flips and other kinds of aerial stuff like that. But they added in a few other things to fill it out, like grabbing on to poles and vaulting and spinning around, which is cool. There are also spine transfers, which are a couple years before Hawk. It’s only on ramps that have these arrows on them, but still, it’s there.
One problem you might have though is reverting into manuals. Or… cess slides, in the this case. In the Tony Hawk games, you can just kind of rock the D-Pad up and down a few times, and you’ll land in a manual no problem. In this game, you have to specifically hit up and then down with perfect timing to get it to work. Some of the high score challenges were pretty hard because of that. And some challenges where you have to link things together get pretty tough too. It’s annoying but it’s not a dealbreaker.
Something else you’ll notice in this game is that it has features you wouldn’t see in Tony Hawk for YEARS. For example, the way the stats work. Instead of collecting stat points or money to buy stat points, you just naturally get better the more you do stuff. As you do more and more wall rides, for one, that stat will grow and you’ll get better and better at it as you play. Tony Hawk did something like that in Underground, 2 years later. But even then, those were more like challenges you could complete rather than just a natural progression.
But the biggest innovation is the way that the challenges are handled. So remember, this is after Tony Hawk 3, which is old school – 2 minute timer, do as many things as you can in that time. But this game does it so much better. You are set loose in a level, and you’re given some challenges. These aren’t timed, and you just have to go do them whenever. Like in this level. You have to grind the chains holding this boulder. If this was Tony Hawk 4, you’d have 2 minutes to go find it, grind up this tree and around the ledge, then get to it before time runs out.
But in this game, it’s actually smart. You can pause it and check out the different challenges, even watching a video that shows you where it is. The difficulty comes from actually DOING the thing, not from having to wander around and find it. Then you take as many attempts as you need to without worrying about a timer. When you beat the challenge, often something will happen, like in this case where the boulder falls and changes the level. Tony Hawk didn’t catch up with this until Underground 2.
Another cool example is when you have to grind this rope to help a plane take off. I mean, planes don’t work that way. It needs air to move above the wing to cause a pressure differen- you know, that’s not important. It looked cool and it was fun.
On top of that kind of stuff, there are gaps and other things you have to find while you’re playing. Skitching buses [first vid 30 min], beating photo challenges and things like that. There are still high scores, but they just build over time. So you can reach a million points or so just from playing the game. It just helps keep you focused on doing good tricks and combos as you travel around. There are some timed score challenges in there too though.
[third vid start] One thing I wasn’t used to was the trick challenges. Like having to do a ‘fastslide’ down this dinosaur in the museum. I don’t know anything about inline and inline tricks. So in addition to actually finding and hitting the gap, I’d have to pause and go through the menus to figure out how to do that specific move. In Tony Hawk, the controls are kind of intuitive if you know anything about skateboarding. The angle the board is at corresponds to the control layout pretty well. But it doesn’t really work here. Also, I had trouble with some of the grabs that have angles – like up-right grab and stuff like that. But I think that’s more of an Xbox issue than a problem with the game.
Let’s talk about the levels. There are 7. They all contain a power-up that will give you a boost, and a key… which we’ll talk about later. They each have a different look and feel, and they all feel alive. The Civic Center has a lot of statues and sculptures that are the focus of the level. Grind it to make it move, then grind from wing to sword. While you might do similar stuff in other levels, they do a good job of having each one stick to a theme.
One of the cool things is that these are mostly related to skating in one way or another. Yeah, you’re doing some other weird stuff, but for the most part, there isn’t a lot of pointless story stuff that gets in the way. It’s about tricks and scores and finding out how to hit certain gaps. In the first level, you have to grind a traffic light pole. It doesn’t tell you how to do it, and it isn’t obvious. There are actually a few ways you can figure out how to get up onto it. I think that’s cool because it feels like something you might actually do. You see a cool spot, and you have to figure out the best way to do something on it. Maybe I can gap from over here… hm let me try that again. Maybe my stats aren’t good enough. Is it possible to hit it from this angle?
I mentioned this game in my Tony Hawk 4 review and said that it made me enjoy that game less. Seeing how this game set everything up was really great. I just really wish this dude was riding a skateboard. I miss having flip tricks and a lot of different manuals and all that kind of stuff. But it’s important to remember that this is the very first game in this series. It’s not like we’re already 4 games deep and there has been a lot of time to build and expand on the trick set yet. If there was an Aggressive Inline 2, it probably would have been amazing.
So you work your way through the levels, grinding stuff and beating challenges. You end up in a car plant grinding on robot arms and stuff like that. Then you go to a carnival and do stalls on some of the rides. There’s a pretty good amount of challenge here. Some of the long grinds and the combos you’ll have to do will really push your reflexes. Some of them can get annoying though, like this one where you have to air over the swinging ride in the carnival. The only way you can tell where it is is by looking at the shadow, and trying to time it out is almost impossible. It’ll just hit you most of the time. I don’t think I even cleared it this last time when it finally counted. Another thing that kind of sucks is your juice meter. It fills as you do tricks, but if it ever completely runs out, you get a game over and you have to buy your way back in with your points. That means that whatever progress you’ve made to the high level score is gone. So sometimes when you’re working on a gap or something, you won’t be keeping your juice flowing, and you’ll get kicked out of the game. I don’t really get why this is a part of the game. There’s no positive, fun aspect of getting a game over. It takes you some time to get back to where you left off, and you just have to sit through load screens. Lame.
Another thing you can do is make your own park, in designated areas in the main levels. In this one, you make stuff out of ice in a giant freezer, and you have to get the score before everything melts. It’s kind of cool, but I never really get into the park building stuff in any of these games. I made one ramp, which shattered, and then I just did tricks on flat the whole time.
At the end of the game, there’s a museum. There’s a key there, and if you get that, it will unlock an area in the first level, which will have another key to the second level and so on. There are more challenges and stuff in those new areas as well. I didn’t really bother to go too much further with it at this point. I really like playing the game and riding around and doing stuff, but I was getting pretty tired of the challenges at this point. It’s a big game, which is great if you paid 50 bucks for it in 2002, but I’ve got 80 more games to review, so I gave it a rest for now.
Ok, so what’s the final verdict on this game? I thought it was genuinely really good. I just finished playing Underground 2 as well, which I’m going to try to get on the schedule for a review soon. But they have a lot of similarities. I think THUG2 is one of the best games in the series from a career mode structure standpoint, and this game has a lot in common with it. There’s a bit less refinement here though, like fewer tricks, but it’s also more focused on actually skating instead of getting Benjamin Franklin to fire a cannon and all that kind of crazy stuff in THUG.
By the way, I’ve talked a lot of crap about this game in the past, and I’ve been blown away at how good it actually is. So stay tuned for that review soon.
But as for this game, it’s your call if you want to check it out. I think it’s really good, especially for 3-5 bucks, which is about what I paid for it. The only major downfall is the fact that it’s inline. But if you ever like playing BMX or snowboarding games, I think you’ll like it.
Let me know in the comments – are there any other games like this that I should check out? Kind of hidden gem games that are similar to skateboarding? Let me know below.