There are the usual suspects like grind from point A to point X, or score X amount of points in X amount of time but because the levels you skate in are so incredibly massive things never get repetitive, there are always new areas to unlock, usually with their own set of specific goals as well. AI doesn't skimp on the difficulty either, there are some goals which are brutally hard, requiring you to pick up multiple items and delivering them to very hard to reach places for instance. The difficulty is a lot more extreme than THPS3, I have completed THPS3 100% but am no where near that on AI.
The single most impressive aspect of AI's gameplay has to be the way you increase your skill levels. Instead of having to collect points and allocate them to different abilities, all you do is do grind, grabs, manuals etc, and the more you do them and score big points off them, your ability will go up incrementally. Its absolute genius and adds so much to the game structure its incredible.
Can't wall ride for the amount of seconds you need to complete a goal? Then you better keep practising wallrides until your ability level goes up. Its so simple, it seems crazy it isn't the standard way of building your abilities in this genre, maybe after this game it will be the standard.
Also of note is that there are no time limits for stages as such, instead you have a trick meter, that slowly depletes if you aren't doing tricks or combos, technically you can skate around one area for hours, as long as the trick meter is kept ticking over, this allows you to really explore the massive levels and discover new trick lines, bonuses, goals, etc.
The levels are amazing, its impossible to coney just how big they are, the geography and simply the amount of square kilometres per stage is mind blowing, and considering the amount of textures and effects going on, its a real achievement that the game runs at 60fps locked, with the tiniest amount of pop up, and I am really being pedantic just mentioning the pop up. The Gamecube incarnation performs noticeably better than the PS2 original, as well as having a cleaner look about it.
Its hard to stay objective bout the soundtrack to AI, I don't like the new punk/hardcore style of music too much and it almost totally dominates the soundtrack, with a couple of hip hop songs traditionally thrown into the mix. If you like bands like The Vandals and Lagwagon then add another half a point to my score. If you don't then its just as easy to turn the music off, which I did, and thankfully the sound effects and ambient street noises more than make up for a lack of music and stops the game from sounding empty.
Overall AI is an excellent game. Its hard to fault it except for a lack of originality, but when a game plays this well and adds such awesome features to a genre full of pedestrian clones, then it should get all the credit it deserves. And yes, I think it IS better than THPS3, as an overall package Aggressive Inline JUST nudges out the originator,... THPS4 will definitely have to take a leaf out of AI's book, and then some, to prove its leadership in this genre
- Rick T