Review: Of all the Tony Hawk games this is uhhh? definitely the most recent.
The Tony Hawk line of video games needed a new kick, and while Downhill Jam gives the series something new in the way of downhill skateboarding, the game is more like an uphill race that's fun at first, but gets tiring after a while. It introduces an excellent sense of speed and has solid controls, making the game a strong rental. Curious skateboarders and SSX-loving players of a younger age group should get the most thrills from this one. However, because of its barebones gameplay and graphics, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam may not last in anyone else's PS2 for more than an entertaining weekend.
Downhill Jam's concept is actually an amusing new direction for the Tony Hawk series because it delivers fast-paced gameplay as well as an instant action presentation. There's no concrete storyline to stall your precious game time anymore; it's just one downhill level after another. Casual gamers who couldn't get into the increasingly complicated Tony Hawk sequels should find this stripped-down method to be ideal. They'll also dig the debut of a turbo mechanic and Road Rash-style attack moves.
Although level load times are bare, the list of level modes is not. Self-explanatory modes take the form of competition race, trick challenge, slalom event, cash grab and the frenzied elimination. Even more unique game types include attack, hot lava and boost jam. Attack requires you to hit a set number of pedestrians using L1 and R1 to punch and kick, hot lava fills levels with overflowing lava surfaces that you must cautiously avoid while making your way downhill and boost jam is the fastest and most out of control game type due to the fact that everyone has a broken (and therefore unlimited) boost meter.
The variety of game modes successfully mix up the non-stop gameplay and progression, but it all happens a little too fast because the goals aren't challenging enough. From start to finish, you'll rarely have to restart a level and almost always score gold without effort. Likewise, the trick system lacks depth. You can perform insane combinations with a little air time and successfully land them without even trying. As much as you may appreciate the speed of the gameplay and speeding past the in-between nonsense, the game's learning curve should've been steeper like the overall slope concept suggests.
Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam boasts cartoon graphics and not as much detail compared to last year's Project 8. You'll feel the rush and notice the sharp character models, but don't expect the levels to share those impressive characteristics. Like the gameplay types and their lack of depth within, the levels are full of variety and not enough substance. All of the downhill environments are full of unique twists and turns and worthwhile passageways. But, besides scattering pigeons and breakable street vendor setups, these visuals are no richer than what we've seen in Crazy Taxi.
Light-hearted humor fills this surface-deep game. The mock interviews with Tony Hawk and the game's stereotypical players before each race are usually a hit or very much a miss. Thankfully, if the lame joke question-and-answer bits are too much for you, they're easily skippable. One presentation element that you don't have control over is the music. While White Zombie's ?More Human Than Human? and Iron Maiden's ?Different World? are among the thirty-some songs, none of the custom in-game music controls are available as in past titles. It just goes with the game's whole presentation scheme of Tony Hawk-lite.