After all these years of top quality skating simulators you
knew Activision would stumble eventually.
Although games like Tony Hawk’s Underground 1 and 2 were a departure
from the normal Pro Skater series, they still managed to feel fresh and
connected to the franchise. But after
seven years of teaching couch potatoes how to skate the good folks at Neversoft
have finally released a game that you might as well skate past.
When Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland was announced earlier
this year it sounded like the developers were finally going to take the series
in a new direction, we were finally going to experience a sequel that was less
of an expansion pack and really improved the overall experience. Neversoft talked about a fully streaming Los Angeles, one that
offered a huge world to trick off of.
They bragged about the inclusion of the BMX bike, finally allowing you
have some variety in your Tony Hawk experience.
On paper it really looked like this Tony Hawk was going to be the major
step forward we’ve all been waiting for.
Unfortunately these elements didn’t gel together quite like
a lot of people expected. Instead of
feeling like the next step in the Tony Hawk universe I came away feeling it was
a major step backwards. American
Wasteland still offers a lot of the elements that made the older titles so much
fun, but what is added to the mix ends up making this feel like an experiment
gone horribly wrong.
As I mentioned above, the big new improvement to American
Wasteland is the “streaming” Los
Angeles you’re stuck in. When I use a word like “streaming” a lot of
people immediately think of the Grand Theft Auto series, what with their giant
cities that you can go anywhere in. The
idea of being able to trick off of a large, streaming L.A. is pretty exciting. It’s an idea that should be the center piece
of this game. But this aspect of the
game does not quite come as advertised, since you aren’t really allowed to go
anywhere you want at any time.
Instead of being a large, wide-open space, the L.A. in American
Wasteland is really just a bunch of closed in locations that are connected by a
street, alleyway, sewer, etc. In essence
you will be playing regular Tony Hawk levels, the kind we’re used to from
earlier entries … only this time you will be able to skate through the loading
screens (instead of waiting). You still
get to hit the major L.A. hotspots – Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica –
but it all feels so similar to the older games that it’s hard not to be both
disappointed and a little angry that they weren’t able to fulfill the promise
of a fully streaming world.
This year’s Tony Hawk is much more story driven than
previous incarnations, to the point where you won’t even be able to make your
own character in the single-player story mode.
You simply get a choice of one of five characters (all men); whomever
you choose will get on the bus headed to L.A.
and the grand adventure has begun. You
start out with almost no moves/tricks, they are earned as you progress through
the game. This means that you won’t be
able to do a lot of the special tricks you learned from the six previous Tony
Hawk titles until much later in the game.
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