For so long it seemed that Tony Hawk had the extreme sports genre sewn up tighter than a ducks backside. Too many titles to mention have tried to emulate the success of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series and all have fallen short. One developer who looked like they were capable of pulling something out of the hat was Z-Axis. Dave Mirra's BMX was a good game but was missing that certain something that made THPS so appealing. Well whatever the special ingredient was, Z-Axis have definitely found it and thrown it into the mix for Aggressive Inline.
The game puts you in the boots of one of a collection of Inline skaters: Franky Morales and Eito Yasutoko to name but two (if like me you hadn't heard of it, it's roller-skates where the wheels are all in a straight line). Despite the lack of popularity of the sport here in the UK the game is going to be very big. The Tony Hawks series has proved that if the game's got what it takes then the theme of it doesn't matter. I mean how many people actually skateboard in the UK? Not many and yet the game has sold bucket loads. The same is true of Aggressive Inline. The game has such a fluidity about it and ease of use that it is both easy to get into and difficult to put down.
Aggressive Inline does do things a little differently though. There are only seven levels. Before that sounds like a negative comment though just let me say that the levels are absolutely massive. On each of the levels there are 30-60 objectives. You're going to be spending a long time on each of these levels. Unlike other extreme sports games, your time on a level is not limited. Z-Axis have decided to introduce the Juice Meter. When you perform successful tricks the meter fills. However when you are not performing tricks the meter empties. Should the meter fully empty then the time is up. One comment I should make here is that when the meter is perilously close to emptying it beeps to notify you of this. There is no visual clue to highlight this though. You can continue but it will cost you 100,000 points and that is too a high a price to pay, for me anyway. Of course what this means is that once you are competently performing tricks then you'll be in for a lengthy session as this method rewards competence.
Aggressive Inline has a huge library of tricks that can be performed. There are six types of manual, pole grabs, skitching and cess slides (which act as a manual in that they can be used to link other tricks together). To the games credit the tutorial does a top notch job in introducing you to most of the tricks. The tutorial is solely in text and you can access any part of it that you want at any time. On exiting the tutorial your progress is automatically saved.
With the hallmark of excellence firmly stamped all over the game it is a shame that you can't create your own Inline skater. To participate in either of the Career, Freeskate, Timed Run or Multiplayer modes you must simply choose a skater to control. For me there is a tinge of disappointment by the inability to create you own skater and watch them develop. Of course you can choose a professional to participate in the career mode with and their stats will be at rock bottom (and you have to develop them) but it isn't the same is it?
Graphically the game is as good as anything seen in the extreme sports genre. The frame rate is high and constant and as yet I have not seen one instance of slowdown. This is quite an achievement when you consider how huge the levels are. One glitch I have noticed is that the blood, that comes from your skater when you crash land, occasionally seems to float in mid-air. Not to be out done by Dead or Alive 3, Z-Axis have implemented boob bobble for the lady skaters. While it isn't quite as realistic as the one (or should that be ones) seen in DOA3 it certainly is the finest display of female physics seen in a Playstation 2 game.
Aggressive Inline is definitely as good as any title in the extreme sports genre at the moment. The game is huge in scale (and there is a Park Editor to create your own levels if you eventually get bored), entertaining to play, a delight to control and difficult to put down. With the fourth instalment of the THPS series in the works Z-Axis have thrown down the gauntlet to Neversoft with Aggressive Inline and that can only be good news for fans of the genre.
Overall Game Rating: 9.4/10 The THPS series has a true rival and equal in the shape of Aggressive Inline.
Deaf Gamers comment: All information is given completely in text. Very deaf gamer friendly.