Tony Hawks American Wasteland ReviewCain Dornan
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk has certainly created quite an empire for himself. Not only has he captured the attention of skaters around the world, Tony has also managed to grab numerous big-time sponsorships, hang out with countless big-wig celebrities and have numerous random objects named after and endorsed by the highly-respected and revolutionary skateboarder. This is not to forget the skateboarding games that are, appropriately, named after the flying Hawk, of which has experienced impressive success throughout the series history. The latest in the series, which has now reached its seventh installment that has spanned two generation of systems, introduces players to a slightly enhanced storyline that offers reasons, although often somewhat ridiculous, for your actions, which are complimented with the time-proven controls and gameplay that has gradually evolved throughout the series. Despite the fact that Tony Hawks: American Wasteland does offer possibly the best gameplay experience to be had in any of the Tony Hawk titles to date, the game is still plagued by a small collection of problems, namely of which being that the series is gradually decaying in freshness as limited alterations prevent gamers from experiencing a completely new game with each new edition, rather than playing a slightly enhanced game from 2004.
While American Wasteland offers almost identical controls and gameplay aspects to the previous Tony Hawk game, it does offer a small collection of new aspects that do aid in breathing some freshness into the somewhat decaying series. Possibly one of the major new additions is the inclusion of a reasonably sized free-roam city, which has been divided into several different areas that offer different settings and tasks to perform. Traveling into each area incurs no noticeable loading periods, allowing for the free roaming of different areas without being hit with extensive and annoying loading sequences that subtract from the games experience.
Of course, this free-roaming city aspect of American Wasteland is only limited to the games Story Mode, which is a meatier experience than what the two previous THUG titles offered. The Story Mode, in classic Tony Hawks fashion, pits you into the role of an unknown skater, attempting to make a name for himself and skate your way into richness on the streets of LA. Unfortunately, your plans dont get off to a good start, as you are bashed and robbed the moment that you step off the bus that has brought you from a small western town to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. Thankfully, a local takes pity on you, and decides to aid you in your ambitious skateboarding quest. She points you in the direction of getting a new haircut and wardrobe, allowing you to essentially alter your characters appearance to your own liking. You are then instructed to begin talking to local skateboarders to learn new tricks and to earn respect, which eventually allows you to move onto the next city area that introduces you to the members of the local Skate Ranch; a small community of skate rats who have constructed a rather shabby skate park amongst the drainage pits of the city. After earning the respect of these skaters, you begin your new quest of building the ultimate skate park, constructed using various materials that are stolen from the nearby city by performing specific tricks and tasks as instructed by the skateboarders.
Of course, the entire Story Mode does not revolve around retrieving different objects to build a large skate park. Youll be involved in various activities that take in the classic Tony Hawk-styled missions, which simply involve performing a collection of random activities to build your skill and earn respect from the local skating citizens. This is one of the first problems with American Wasteland, as it continues to heavily focus on this original game basing that first began inTony Hawks Pro Skater and has been continued through to the latest title. Quite simply, its an expected yet disappointing aspect as it prevents the game from being truly unique and fresh from the previous titles in the series, ultimately resulting in many gamers quickly growing tired with this latest title as it still feels remarkably like previous outings.
This is not to say that Tony Hawks American Wasteland is a terrible game. The game in its own right is definitely an impressive title, offering smooth controls that allow for the easy and satisfying execution of a large range of different skateboarding tricks that easily satisfies any skateboarding fanatic. The only major problem that plagues American Wasteland is the simple fact that it fails to considerably differentiate itself from the previous titles in the franchise, which ultimately results in the game becoming a tiring experience surprisingly quickly for most veteran Tony Hawk gamers.
American Wasteland also offers a solid multiplayer mode that includes several different modes to allow for solid multiplayer gaming. The Classic Mode also makes a triumphant return, allowing fans of the Tony Hawks Pro Skater series to play the game in the classic pre-defined tasks that are presented at the beginning of a time-limited level. Once a majority of these tasks have been completed, which usually occurs after several attempts of the level due to the time restrictions, you are able to move onto the next level which features another set of different tasks to complete. The Create-A-Modes also return, allowing you to create your own custom skater, park, graphic or trick using Neversofts surprisingly powerful and easy-to-use creation systems. Finally, there is also Online support in the Xbox and Playstation 2 versions for those who wish to take their skateboarding skills into the online world.
While American Wasteland looked solid on the Xbox and PS2, presenting the game in full high-definition on the Xbox 360 has resulted in every graphical flaw going on stage, allowing you to watch on in disgust at the poorly detailed textures and character models that look shockingly bad on the Xbox 360. Its clear that the developers have spent little time in further strengthening the graphics for the next-gen port of the game, and have decided to simply bump up the resolutions with very little graphical tweaking. Character models are particularly bad, with the HD resolution putting a spotlight on the jagged textures and bad animation. Its simply a poor attempt that is due down to little more than pure laziness.
On the sound side, developer Neversoft has done a fine job at grouping a collection of solid tracks that perfectly suit the game. A number of well-known bands, including Green Day, My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday, who have each contributed tracks to the games soundtrack. The music is accompanied with solid voice acting with each character offering voice overs that perfectly suit their appearance and personality.
While the Xbox 360 version continues to offer the same solid gameplay mechanics that could be found in the PS2 and Xbox versions, the shockingly bad graphics manage to detract from the entire experience considerably. The game looks nothing more than a PS2 game running on high definition, complete with a horde of graphical flaws and ugliness that are simply inexcusable on a next-gen system. Considering that the PS2 and Xbox versions of the same game are currently cheaper, you are better off purchasing American Wasteland for either of the two systems, and not the Xbox 360.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.