Tony Hawk's American Wasteland

Review

posted 1/4/2006 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360

When the Xbox 360 launched in November one of the biggest gripes about the system was the number of ports of current generation games being released along side it.  While there were incredible games that took advantage of the system's power, it seemed like there were just as many that just rehashed what we already had on the original Xbox, only with higher resolution and better Xbox Live support.  Tony Hawk's American Wasteland must have been the type of game these people were complaining about.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of American Wasteland, it's worth noting that this is actually my second time through the game.  When Gaming Nexus needed a review of the PlayStation 2 version I stepped up, ready to see what Neversoft had in store for us in their seventh (yes, seventh) installment of the popular skateboarding franchise.  This Xbox 360 version is exactly the same as what I played on the PS2; it's a lazy port of a game that ultimately disappointed me.

But just because this game is exactly the same (with exactly the same levels, music, story, and tricks) doesn't mean it's going to run you the same price.  For whatever reason Activision has decided to charge a full $60 for this port, a game that is not only short but also incredibly easy.  If you think I had reservations about recommending the game at $50 you can only imagine the pain I have trying to justify this more expensive Xbox 360 version.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves, American Wasteland is an interesting experience with a lot of good and bad to talk about, including some lofty promises that fell flat.

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.

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