Aggressive Inline is an alternative sports game developed by Z-Axis and published by Acclaim. It is basically a refined and enhanced version of everything before it. Imagine Tony Hawk 3 without all the bails and movement restrictions, and you’ll be halfway to understanding what Aggressive Inline has to offer. But this isn’t merely a rehash with a few added bells and whistles. In fact, Z-Axis innovates so much on the tried-and-true THPS dynamics that it creates a fresh and new experience all it’s own.
The play control in Aggressive Inline should be immediately familiar to any who has sharpened their teeth on games like Dave Mirra Freestyle or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. But where those games monopolized on intricate and multifaceted trick systems, Inline is all about speed, style, and insane grind maneuvers. Only one button is used for executing vert-tricks with the R and L-triggers assigned to rotation; the D-pad is the trick-modifier. Tricks, while not as diverse as that of Tony Hawk’s, are widely diversified and range from an assortment of grabs, flips, and other cool maneuvers. The circle button is assigned as the all-purpose action button, allowing you to grab onto horizontal and vertical poles to swing on, as well as landing big-air vert-tricks on flat ground! Triangle is for grinding and as you’ll be doing plenty of grinding in the game’s vast environments, there is an extensive variety of grind tricks. Borrowing from Tony Hawk’s newly implemented revert, Inline sports what they call a cess slide, which is, for all intents and purposes, the same maneuver.
Objectives in Inline are numerous and you can hit start to view a list of them, all on the fly, and get a quick demonstration of the objective to boot. You’ll need to talk to various characters strewn throughout the stages in order to become privy to some objectives, like a photographer who wants you to transfer between two far-flung quarter-pipes. Upon doing so, the action will switch to a matrix-type mode and slow down while the photographer snaps a few money-shots of you in mid-air. Each goal that you complete will net you a certain amount of points based on the difficulty of the stunt. After acquiring enough points you’ll open up the next level. Simple. The more you skate around and attempt stunts, the better you’ll get. Inline uses an RPG-based experience system that rewards you by bumping up your overall skill capability, level by level. Every time you grind, you’ll be given experience points until you level up in that category. There are a handful of categories in which the game monitors. Isn’t that awesome? I think it is. It beats down Tony’s method of having to seek out points within a level anyway. You can just kick back and skate around for fun and be duly rewarded thanks to the RPG-esque system Inline makes use of.
Perhaps the coolest gameplay addition to Aggressive Inline is the fact that you are no longer constricted by a 2-minute countdown clock in which to do objectives and rack up points. Rather, Inline relies on the ‘juice-meter” to determine how long you get to skate. It works like this; the more tricks you do, the more juicy your meter gets, and if you continually keep your meter plumped and juiced you can continue skating. Bailing from a trick, however, will dramatically decrease your juice-meter. I love the fact that Z-Axis implemented these new dynamics into the conventional objective mechanics of this sub-genre but it’s a little too lax on it’s difficulty. I mean, I never had to restart a stage during the entire time I played the game, and I played it for a good 20 hours total. But if I had to choose between the traditional 2-minute time limit and Inline’s juice meter, it’d be juice-meter all the way.
Visually, I’d have to say that Inline is slightly worse-off than Tony Hawk 3, but not by much. The inclusion of the enormous environments is a fair tradeoff. Even so, Inline will impress on a few accounts in the graphical department. Cool reflection techniques, water effects, and character models are some of the things that make this game look so good. I especially appreciated Chrissy’s dynamic body-model renderings. Z-Axis nailed the aural aspect of the game perfectly; grinding sounds cool and satisfying, and every other on-screen action triggers an audible reaction. The soundtrack consists of a few cool songs but in total there are only around a half-dozen tunes, and they quickly wear thin.
Aggressive Inline innovates on the established dynamics that Tony Hawk created and manages to dethrone THPS3 in more than a few areas. The RPG-based experience system, for example, and the ability to land vert-tricks on flat ground straight-up rocks. What else? Let’s see, the crazy grind-maneuvers feel like a mix between Jet Set Radio Future and the best of Tony Hawk 3, the ability to swing on poles has to be seen to be believed, and the juice-meter is a stroke of genius. In short, Aggressive Inline will more than tide-over gamers until Tony Hawk 4 is released.