The Tony Hawk series has the reputation for creating top-of-the-line skating entertainment that pushes thIs extreme sport the max. The latest Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland tries to continue that tradition onto the Xbox 360 console. While it has an amazing story mode, it just doesn’t have that spark that it used to have. In all fairness, this is still your best pick when it comes to this skateboarding, but the overall experience is more like “been there, done that”. The game features the usual modes you would expect: story, classic, and multiplayer. In story mode, you’ll begin as a weak skater trying to make something for himself. You’ll learn the basics of skating pretty easy, but for the special tricks, these could take some time.
Some of the traditional moves (i.e. reverts, manuals, and wall climbing) aren’t available right away like it has in the past. These moves you will need to learn. Aside from the fancy tricks that you have come to know in this series, a new trick has been added called the Bert Slide. This is done in surfing-like maneuver. With this trick, you can use the board you’re riding on to hit or swing at innocent bystanders. It doesn’t really execute any damage to people passing by, but it’s fun to see what it can do besides skating it. In Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, skating is not the only action on hand but you’ll also be able to ride BMX bikes. When you get into the BMX mode, your challenges are relatively simple. They involve mostly of trying to earn money as much as you can, which you will need in various segments of the story mode.
But don’t expect the BMX aspect to be anything like the skating mechanics found in this game. The controls for riding a bike are totally different than riding a skateboard, but they are all amazingly good! The left joystick stirs your movement, the right stick executes the tricks, and holding one of the buttons allows you to pedal. There are many tricks you can achieve with the bike but our personal favorite is doing the backflip. Besides the story mode, you’ll also get to enjoy the original masterpiece of the game duly known as the classic mode. In this mode, your goals are pretty much the same as in the first three installments of the Tony Hawk series: Collect all the “skate” letters, find the secret tapes, and finish these tasks under two minutes. Most of the classic levels are here but the amazing part of these memorable stages is that your goals have been redesigned so that not only you have a different outlook of where to find the hidden items but also you have a fresh view of the place to run.
Completing the goals in classic mode will, of course, unlock new levels that can be used towards multiplayer. It may take some time but fortunately, the process of accomplishing each task is not as hard as it used to be. While the story mode and classic mode are amusing in its own right, we get the most fun playing out of the online multiplayer. The modes available online are impressive. You have an exciting line of competition that range from graffiti, to goal attack, to combo mambo, to the traditional capture-the-flag. There’s even a firefight mode, which let players shoot fireballs from their skateboard. Playing this mode can easily turn the situation into a shooting spree! The best part of American Wasteland’s online experience is showing off your mad skills in creating those killer combos that seem to go on forever.
The competition here is fierce but it’s satisfying to know you earn some respect from other virtual skaters. The one aspect that we are disappointed about the multiplayer experience is not having the ability to use our own custom-made characters online. Speaking of custom characters, the game features relatively the same create-a-player options that you’ve become accustomed to in the past. You can still design parks, create graffiti tags, change tricks in your repertoire, and more. The PS2 version allows to map your face to your created skater. If you want, you can even download other people’s work or upload your own creation. The new levels in this year’s Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland are generally large. You’ll be traveling through the great areas of Los Angeles including Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Downtown, and East LA. The developer has apparently tried to design each stage in a massive scale so players would have room to skate around. But there’s one problem, traveling very fast while the game is loading between parts of a city causes some frame rate issues.
The general gameplay of Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland has been the same throughout the series. Nothing really spectacular to write home about and we can’t complain either. The controls are responsive and the animation is very smooth. Graphically, the game looks better than ever! The texture on character models is outstanding, the virtual skyline of the LA area is incredible, and the comic-art cutscenes are nice and funky. In the audio department, it’s apparent that much of the sounds from American Wasteland are ported over from the last two previous titles. The sound effects are still quite good thanks to a few enhancements here and there. The music is still pumping and it consists of punk rock, hip hop, and a few other genres. The dialogues for the game are well-written for the most part, and the individuals behind voice acting do a good job of bringing much of the drama of the skating underworld to life.
Overall, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland is still a pretty good game. It offers you all the great things that made the series so popular but it’s dwindling down on that unique spark. Needless to say, American Wasteland has its addicting moments once when you get into the groove of racking up massive combos, especially when you’re competing online. What’s more is that the tricks are somewhat easier to perform, which makes you feel that you can almost do anything! For Tony Hawk fans, this is a no-brainer. Anyone who hasn’t played a Tony Hawk game should check this one out, too! It’s a fun game that will have you racking up points for hours, but don’t expect any dramatic changes to the gameplay. If you’re looking forward to some great online competition for this type of sport, the Xbox 360 is a great platform to start.