Thirteen years ago on August 23, 2002 a game that was very near and dear to my heart as a teenager, Aggressive Inline made its debut. Well technically, that’s when the Xbox version was released. In the United Kingdom and Germany. I had the American PlayStation 2 version which was released on May 29 of that year, so this isn’t really the anniversary of the game I played, but it doesn’t matter. I loved this game and I’ll take any opportunity I can to talk about it.
Aggressive inline skating, rollerblading, whatever you want to call it is the unloved bastard child of the action sports community. It was one of the three founding pillars of the X-Games along with skateboarding and BMX in 1995 but was dropped from the program in 2005, although it’s still included in the Asian X-Games, the LG series and other competitions. Due to never achieving the mainstream acceptance of skateboarding, BMX and freestyle motocross, only a handful of inline skating games were produced (the most notable being Sega’s Jet Set Radio in 2000) and only one featured real-life top professional skaters, Acclaim’s Aggressive Inline.
Like the Tony Hawk and Dave Mirra franchises, Aggressive Inline featured a lineup of top pros include the very best of the very best, including 2001 X-Games and Gravity Games Vert Gold Medalist Taig Khris, 2001 X-Games Street Gold Medalist Jaren Grob, Shane Yost, Matt Lindenmuth, Eito Yasutoko, Sven Boekhorst, Matt Salerno, Sam Fogerty, Franky Morales and one of the founding fathers of inline skating, Chris Edwards. But I always found it interesting that none of these guys took the title of the game away from the others. Could it be that the company felt that no one particular skater could be face the of the franchise, a la Hawk, Mirra, Mat Hoffman, Kelly Slater, Shaun Murray, Shawn Palmer or Travis Pastrana? Or was it a more conscious statement to say that the sport itself takes center stage? Realistically it’s probably the former, but in my heart I’d like to think otherwise.
Featuring a much more fluid trick combo system, a progression system based on experience points gained by performing tasks such as spins and grinds rather than purchasing stat points, and timer-free levels that gives players the freedom to choose when to challenge missions (a structure later adopted by THPS4), Aggressive Inline was a much more carefree, skate as you wish experience that embodied the spirit of action sports. The soundtrack certainly lends itself to that vibe as well featuring such well known tracks as P.O.D.’s “Youth of the Nation,” Saliva’s “Your Disease,” Hoobastank’s “Crawling in the Dark,” Sublime’s “Wrong Way” and my personal favorite “An Idea for a Movie” by the Vandals.
Like all games of that genre in that period, Aggressive Inline was not a purely realistic simulator experience. It carried its fair share of absurd yet fun moments including trashing a museum by grinding down the spine of a t-rex skeleton, grinding down a roller coaster track and hoping to God the coaster doesn’t catch up with you, and using a giant boulder to Temple of Doom a movie set.
While the franchise didn’t extend to a second game, much to my disappointment at the time, and has largely been forgotten in the sports genre, there is no denying that Aggressive Inline was an important step in the progression of the action sports sub-genre and serves as a monument to the one-time popularity to something that was at one point a key component to a pop culture phenomenon.