The Tony Hawk's franchise is perhaps one of the most popular and recognizable cross platform series of all time. It has a lot to live up to, since it's one of those series that's expected to be good. This is a pretty big testament to the quality these games deliver
The Tony Hawk's franchise is perhaps one of the most popular and recognizable cross platform series of all time. It has a lot to live up to, since it's one of those series that's expected to be good. This is a pretty big testament to the quality these games deliver— every new release typically receives its share of good to excellent reviews. I have to be honest however. I'm not much of a skate genre fan, although I have played a few of the Tony Hawk's tiles in the past. This makes a review such as this a little challenging. Yet, I was able to spend some quality time with this latest offering, and my overall assessment is that it will not disappoint those who admire the series, or those with a hankering for a good action packed alternative sports game.
The environments in American Wasteland are littered with detail. The city is vastly large with plenty of objects on the screen at one time, and there are many locations to explore and perform tricks at, including a ton of off shoot corridors. This is all set to a frame rate that scampers along at a rapid pulse without a hiccup. But overall, I felt the visuals in American Wasteland were standard fair. There's nothing here that really stands out to dazzle or wow. In fact, this late in the Gamecube's life I was expecting the graphics to be a little sweeter. Instead, I found the visuals to be somewhat flat, with very little texture and a fairly low polygon count, especially on the character models. Animations are fine, and do a good job of conveying somewhat realistic movement and action; but overall I wasn't overly impressed with American Wasteland's visual representation. Perhaps this has more to do with the game being built across platforms instead of from the ground up for the GC.
The sound shines where the graphics fail. The skating sounds are perfect, with a noticeable realistic quality as you maneuver your deck onto various textures—wheels on cement, wood, etc, are all reproduced with realistic tones.
And, what skate game would be complete without a pumped up set of thrash tracks? American Wasteland is filled with a bundle of suitable tunes to grind to, including: The God Awfuls, Rob Sonic, Pig Destroyer, My Chemical Romance, Thrice… the list goes on and on. There's a bucket load of music by a host of bands to keep you entertained and then some.
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland offers up more of the same action from past years, with a little more depth thrown into the mix. The great thing about this game is that it's not limited by a small basket of options. The game is banked by a number of different gameplay modes. A brief description of these options include:
Classic Mode—brings back old style Tony Hawk, where you earn points and ranks via basic arcade action skating objectives. Some famous levels from previous years have been brought back.
Coop Classic Mode—the same as above but allows two players.
High Score Free Skate—allows you to go back to previous unlocked levels to practice or earn points.
Multiplayer Mode— two player mode, with games such as Trick Attack, Graffiti, Score Challenge, Combo Mambo, Slap!, Pot ‘O Gold, King of the Hill, Scavanger Hunt, and Fire Fight.
Create-A-Mode— if the various game modes aren't enough to keep you busy, the Create-A-Park and Create-A-Trick modes are sure to please. Here you can spend lost hours customizing your own skater and skate parks.
There's even a BMX mode that lets you hop on a bike and take it for a spin.
The Story Mode is the fish and chips of American Wasteland. Here you get to build and develop your character by completing a series of quests in order to advance the story line. At the beginning, you have the option of selecting from a line-up of characters, each with his own look and identity. Once you make your selection, the story begins with a few cut-scenes.
After taking a ride on the bus to your new location (Los Angeles), you're treated to a welcoming beat down by the locals, who zero in on the fact that you stick out like a sore thumb. They steal your bag and scramble, while you're left in an angry pissed off mood at being victimized. You then meet a sassy street vixen named Mindy, who becomes your story mode guide, assisting you with the tasks you need to perform to progress through the game. The first of these tasks involves picking out a new hair style and clothing to fit in with your new environment. After you've done so, she compliments your appearance, but then mocks your skating abilities in order to get you motivated to practice. Mindy then sends you off into the streets so you can learn how to compete with the big boys.
After hitting the streets with your new look, you soon hook up with a group of locals that operate a skate park called Skate Ranch. The place is pathetic, and it's your job to help your new found associates gather objects throughout the game's levels in order to upgrade the Ranch. This is the bulk of Story Mode, which is driven by an interesting narrative coupled with typical Tony Hawk's action. You start from the ground up, building your character's skill level and tricks repertoire as you advance from one stage to the next.
The controls in American Wasteland are fairly deep. There's nothing complicated about getting into the action with basic tricks and maneuvers to snab points. But the game allows you to build upon an impressive list of tricks as you develop your skills. It's not just a simple system—you can perform so many different actions on the board that there's no way you'll be able to memorize them all.
For fans of the genre, American Wasteland will deliver more of the same, with an added beefy story mode option that flushes out a fairly interesting narrative, moving the game up a notch from pervious titles. The visuals are a bit of a disappointment on the Gamecube, especially this late in the console's life, but I suppose there's more to the quality of a game than looks alone. With a ton of gameplay modes, multiplayer options, and a pretty involved Create-A-Mode, American Wasteland should be enough to satisfy skate genre fans and action seekers alike.