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Aggressive Inline (GameCube) artwork

Aggressive Inline (GameCube) review

"You can take to the streets, grind railings, hop along lights, or find the studio and even a giant tree and haunted house. The expansiveness is astounding. It holds true for most stages, too. Also, there's the interactivity. If one objective asks you to do something, there's a good chance it will affect how you skate through the stage for future tasks."

In the area of extreme sports, Tony Hawk reigns supreme. The Activision-published titles bearing his name took the world by storm several years ago and have spawned a wide variety of imitators. With imitation so common, it's inevitible that gamers will find themselves wading through a shallow pool of lackluster titles all aspiring to be the next king but failing miserabely. The frustration is that we all want that next great experience. Few games can deliver lasting enjoyment like a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game. Few even come close to matching it for so much as a second. At last, however, a company other than Neversoft has proven that skating is endless fodder for good games if the people behind it are the right ones. Z-Axis is that developer, and Aggressive Inline is the game in question.

When you begin playing, even before you sense the full extent to which Z-Axis let Neversoft's work inspire them, you'll see that Aggressive Inline is imbdued with a style at least partially it's own. There's an amusing clip of a man's trials with a computer. You watch it, wondering when the logo or something similar will kick in and make the scene valid. Nothing like that ever happens. It was thrown in just for the hell of it. That sense of artistic adventure isn't just a flash in the pan, either. Throughout the entire game, little touches set this one apart.

I'll get to that in a minute, but first it's probably a good idea to go over just what Aggressive Inline copies. The answer to that question is an amused 'everything it can'. It also innovates, to a certain extent. You begin the game and first are introduced to the stupid tutorial mode. This is a rather annoying but mostly necessary experience. A half-hour later, you're done and ready to begin the game. When you do, you see that the tutorial was your first (and likely last) bad experience. From there on, it's smooth.

As was the case with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, the design for Aggressive Inline presents you with a variety of places in which you can skate. Only one is immediately available, so of course you choose it and get going. There, you will see a list of goals you must accomplish. Not all of them are necessary. Also, not all of them are immediately available. Instead, new tasks are listed once you complete the old. Also, you can find people throughout a given area who will provide you with new ideas. Satisfy them and you get points.

Points play a huge role in the game. There are the points you get by completing objectives. These unlock new areas, as well as new portions of old areas. Then there are the really cool points, the experience points. These are dependent on the tricks you're performing. Are you a player that gets through by using a lot of manuals? Do so enough and your manual level will improve over time. Or do you grind a lot, like I do? If so, you'll watch your grinds improve. This makes sense, really. The experience point system doesn't seem like a rip off from the role-playing genre. It seems a perfectly sensible and enjoyable fit, one Neversoft should have pioneered.

Another innovation is the ability to correct yourself as you're about to bail. A tap of the button and you can right yourself, increasing the chances that you won't leave half your face on the pavement. You can also swing around both vertical and horizontal poles and keep your moves going. This is a nice feature, but on the GameCube its effectiveness is dulled by an inexplicable control decision. Instead of letting you revert with the 'R' button, the developers chose to apply that combo-essential move to--are you ready for this?--the 'z' button. This makes no sense whatsoever. As you can imagine, it's hell on your fingers and makes things far more difficult. You're unlikely to ever quite get used to it.

That's a shame, because otherwise nearly everything fits together beautifully. Levels are designed blissfully well. They're huge and open, for one thing. The first stage leaves the opening level of Aggressive Inline's most obvious competitor (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3) in the dust. You can take to the streets, grind railings, hop along lights, or find the studio and even a giant tree and haunted house. The expansiveness is astounding. It holds true for most stages, too. Also, there's the interactivity. If one objective asks you to do something, there's a good chance it will affect how you skate through the stage for future tasks.

With such impressive environments, you might expect visuals to take a hit. That's simply not the case. The draw distance is amazing. Everything's open but you don't see draw-in or drops in framerate, not so they're noticeable. Buildings and decorations are highly-detailed, too. Palm trees look like they should, cars and busses like they should, statues like you would imagine. None of it pounds Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 into the ground, but none of it falls short, either. And the art style is different. The feel here is a lot grittier, for the most part. Also impressive are the character models. They look really good, especially Chrissy. If you follow inline skating, you'll probably recognize some faces just by the gameplay, without anyone having to say ''Yeah, that's Eito Yasutoko'' or whoever.

Besides visuals, the title features a nice soundtrack. If you like this kind of music, there's a good chance you'll either own most of the music on it, or wish you did. It had me looking for a list of songs, but one doesn't seem to exist. From Sublime to P.O.D. to Hoobastank, there's a good, punky diversity. Too bad the songs end up repeating far too often. And since the game also doesn't set a time limit to how long you can skate through a level (in a welcome switch, you can skate so long as you maintain a certain level of 'juice' by pulling the occasional combo), you'll hear a lot of music far more than you might like. Ah, well. It's always possible to turn down the volume. For canned music, what you get here is semi-classy. Not up to the level of the competition, again, but not short by so much as to hurt anyone.

In fact, the biggest gripe I have with the package isn't one that would be immediately apparent. It has to do with saving. Unless you have an empty memory card, you might well be out of luck. The game takes an astounding 57 blocks to save. This makes no sense to me. So far as I can tell, it doesn't keep track of much more than Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, but there you have it. Definitely a frustration.

And as long as we're talking about what's definite, let's get right down to the concluding fact: this game belongs in your collection if you're looking for another good extreme skater and the release of Tony's next game seems too distant. Aggressive Inline is a stellar package worth the $50 you'll likely have to spend to make it yours. It's highly recommended at that price, and the recommendation only grows stronger the lower the price goes. Hopefully, we'll get to see a sequel.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 05, 2002)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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