Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
I'M ONE OF those people who associates the name Tony Hawk with the googly-eyed Britisli comedian who played the vending machine in Red Dwarf, rather than the kneecap-shattering maniac who crops up occasionally on youth television saying things like, "Switch pop shove it," and explaining how he, "Boned ollie." However, I did grow up in the '80s with a skateboard decked out in neon green sandpaper (for extra grip), so such things aren't beyond me.
In this latest offering from the skateboarding legend, you run, skateboard (obviously) and BMX your way around some fairly uninspiring locations, performing tricks for cash and spending it on a new hat or two. While jumping and grinding your own way about town can be great fun, the forced GTA-style missions that drive the story are far from pleasant, revolving largely around pulling off endless tricks and combos. Failure is a 'back to square one' process that culminates all too easily in utter frustration and a fist through your monitor.
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland is a console port, so you know the drill. Infuriating controls, so-so graphics and a nonsensical camera are all present and correct. The 'no levels, no load times' selling point is a bit of a lie, as your PC chugs and stops to think in the corridors that link the bland districts together: San Andreas on a board, this most certainly isn't.
Fingers And Thumbs
Your enjoyment of Wasteland also depends on how many fingers and thumbs you've got. If it's more than the regulation ten issued to the majority of us by those in the know, you might be alright. Without wacky mutated hands though, you'll find yourself stabbing wildly at any buttons you can to pull off moves.
Admittedly, performing the mid-air aerobatics we were so cruelly unable to pull off as clown-footed pre-teens was undeniably enjoyable, while the ability to customise your character and skate about with reckless abandon like Marty McFly were definite plus-points. However, the fun factor is most definitely missing in Wasteland, and it's difficult to recommend spending any money on a port of a sub-par console game when your PC is capable of something exponentially more delightful.
Download Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
Since I last reviewed this title on the PS2, I must say, I think I may have given this game more credit than it deserved. In hindsight, while it still remains a decent title, because of its replay value, it doesn't seem as comfortable on the 360, and in the end, can be very frustrating to play. Still, it can be fun, but unfortunately, you aren't going to get much more out of the 360 version as compared to any other.
Grinding, tricking, and a wide open environment is still very much the name of the game. Although it is an understandable design decision, I wish that some of the levels had been torn apart to open up the levels for the Xbox 360's powerful hardware. The bad news is that you've still got to ride through giant corridors to get from area to area. This game also still has a very trickable environment, and an extremely wide amount of missions and different features you can try. This isn't quite what I'm used to from Tony Hawk games, as I still think the game is much more frustrating than it needs to be, but if you get used to it, it's easily workable. Mostly what I mean is the lack of ease of low speed control. It's difficult to make quick, sharp turns, so botching some moves means really botching the move.
The graphics get a little boost on the 360, with much cleaner lines and a generally nicer looking game, but it's still nothing compared to what you'll see with the Xbox 360 native titles. Still, fewer artifacts and a nicer looking game is good, so I've nothing to complain about here.
In the end, if you're a skatefreak, this isn't a bad game, but otherwise, I'd stick to a rental. There isn't so much gameplay here that you can't beat it in a couple of days, and the fact that the levels aren't completely free open really reduces the game's sense of scale. Beyond that however, it holds up well for a game of it's type.
By now, even those who haven't played a Tony Hawk game are probably familiar with the genre it created. Many other titles have copied this gameplay and had success doing it. However, there are few that get close to the balance and control system that the Tony Hawk games have achieved. I'd like to say that this new Tony Hawk series revolutionizes the genre, but frankly it doesn't. Although Tony Hawk's American Wasteland brings more of the same style of gameplay, it's hard to say that it isn't still fun but maybe it's time for something new.
This time around, in the story mode you'll find yourself starting at a rundown skate park in LA that is hardly recognizable. The point this time is to gather items around the city, slowly building up the park into something spectacular. Although it sounds a little dry, it actually works well and will keep you occupied for some time. Other elements also help such as skating though LA. It's not a pure open city architecture but you do have freedom in each of the level areas.
The gameplay and control system that makes it work so well are still represented with the same quality we have come to expect. Next time however, that alone may not be enough to carry the game as this style of gameplay is starting to show its age. There are new features that bridge the gap this time however. With the multitude of multiplayer options and online capability, new skate park and trick creator, BMX bike addition, and other classic options, it still makes a strong showing.
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland also brings the great sound tracks we've come to expect and high quality and detailed graphics that bring the various skating environments alive. So it comes down to deciding if you're ready for the next Tony Hawk game or if maybe you should wait until the genre progresses more. Tough call, but I do know that there's more then enough here for pure fans of Tony Hawk games.
Put the latest Tony in the 360 disc tray and one thing immediately stands out: The cut-scenes suddenly seem hideous, even though they're pretty much exactly the same as the PS2/XB versions'. Otherwise, the L.A. landscape and skaters look a little nicer, but aside from the unlockable gamer profile achievements, the 360 version's biggest change is its S60 price tag.
This is the best--and most expensive--American Wasteland, but if you already own another version, there's nothing to see here.