Tony Hawk's American Wasteland

Review

posted 11/9/2005 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PS2

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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