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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Extreme Sports

 

Publisher

Activsion

 

Developer

Neversoft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

November 2005

 

 

- Fans of the franchise will be right at home

- Story mode introduces the various moves gradually

- Create your own skater and skate park

- 2-Minute objectives are a cool throwback

 

 

- Better graphics than the other versions but that's about it

- More inept gamers will be frustrated by the shear number of moves and possible combos

 

Review: Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (XB)

Review: Tony Hawk's Underground (XB)

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (XB)

 

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Tony Hawk's American Wasteland

Score: 7.8 / 10

 

Since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 I've pretty much been out of the loop of the development of the franchise.  THPS4 was still all about the goals, gaps, and ridiculous and physically impossible tricks.  The sequel, Tony Hawk's Underground, introduced an actual story and its sequel also featured a full story mode.  Each iteration of the franchise introduces more complex moves and possible combos so between THPS4 and the new Tony Hawk's American Wasteland I've missed out on two games that would have exposed me to the myriad of additional tricks that have been mixed into the Tony Hawk batter.

 

tony hawk's american wasteland          tony hawk's american wasteland

 

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland not only features a storyline -- you're a fresh-faced skater new to LA and work to build your skills and credibility, pick out new clothes, hairstyles, etc. -- but also a throwback to the "classic" Tony Hawk games where you're pitted against a two-minute time limit and a variety of level objectives.  After a quick laboring through the story mode (thankfully, it doesn't last too long even if I did like the authentic "skater art" accompanying the main plot points) I spent much more time tricking through the "closed" two-minute classic challenges.

 

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I write "closed" because during the story mode the environments load seamlessly.  Each area is connected via some kind of bending hallway that masks the loading times.  It's akin to the way NBA Live 06 lets you shoot hoops while the game is prepared.  For the classic mode there's the traditional loading time, although it is pretty darn quick compared to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 to 3.

 

But the trick options available in Tony Hawk's American Wasteland is both a 

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blessing and a curse.  It's a blessing for those that just love to string combos ad infinitum and racking up a massive score along the way.  Then there's people like me.  I'm happy if I can complete six or seven tricks together -- in fact, this might even be a rare event.  Tony Hawk's American Wasteland packs in the tricks, layer upon layer.  And because the game moves at a good clip stringing more complicated aerial moves and grinds can become extremely difficult as you "unlock" more tricks. (Honestly, some of tricks are reminiscent of the kind of acrobatics available in the SSX franchise, only there you have quite a vertical advantage.)  You no longer have time to think, you have to think about the combo you want to try beforehand so that you'll have a hope in hell of actually pulling it off.  Unless you're faster than a mongoose or have developed your precognition abilities, mixing it up is a recipe for disaster.  Not helping the less expert player (i.e. inept people like me) is the fact you can also run around on foot or leap on a BMX to perform even more tricks, and practically anything and everything can be used to perform a trick.

 

(If you're trying to figure out whether you're inept or a rad trickster is to jump online against some human opponents in trick competitions.)

 

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland moves at a great clip, with some very far draw distances but on a hi-def TV watching the in-game cutscenes is akin to watching a cardboard version of Thunderbirds, with a lot of boxy features and easy-to-see seams.  The game is the best-looking version, but it hardly lives up to the kind of graphical splendour that "next-gen" has been promising.

 

tony hawk's american wasteland          tony hawk's american wasteland

 

The Tony Hawk games have always featured above-average soundtracks and Tony Hawk's American Wasteland is no different.  Though the music tends to the "extreme" punk side, it's a perfect fit.  Surprisingly enough the pro skaters that pop-up here and there in the story mode actually sound... what's not quite the opposite of "wooden"?  Not-so-wooden, I suppose, but the upshot is that the voice acting is more believable than my past experiences with the Tony Hawk games.  The various "oof!" and "crunch!" sound effects are terrific and a few times I actually winced.

 

At the end of the day the question is, is Tony Hawk's American Wasteland worth the money?  It's kind a qualified answer.  If you own an Xbox or PS2, there's no reason to shell out $10 more for the Xbox 360 version -- it's the exact same game with less noticeable graphical flaws.  However, if you've been away from the Tony Hawk franchise for a few games and just dropped a bunch of cash for a 360, it's time to get re-acquainted with the King of Extreme Sports Games, even if some of the tricks may be well above your skill level and the story mode might be less than engrossing, you'll probably still have fun.  However, even if Tony Hawk's American Wasteland is a good game, the action is feeling a little "samey" -- even compared to THPS4.  Maybe it's time for Neversoft to completely retool the experience.

 

- Omni

(January 11, 2006)

 

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