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Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland Review

Developer: Neversoft Publisher: Activision
Release Date: October 18, 2005 Also On: GCN, PS2, and Xbox

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland is the seventh addition to Neversoft’s skateboarding franchise. As an avid fan of the series, it’s cool to think back to the Pro Skater days of manuals, reverts, and two-minute runs. Then came the Underground series, with a Story Mode and off-the-board moves. Now, with American Wasteland, there are so many new additions to the series and so much washed-up stuff that it seems Neversoft has run out of fresh, meaningful ideas and needs to go back to the drawing board to pull off another great title. The game is good and still presents a damn fun time skating around, but it’s a disappointment on several key areas.

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First of all, I absolutely hated the story found in the Story Mode. You jump on the board as a Midwestern skateboard punk looking to make a name for himself in the heartland of skateboarding, Los Angeles. Upon arrival, you’re put in your place by the local skate rats. Luckily, some of the local skate legends offer their help asking one thing in return: that you help them find suitable pieces of junk around L.A. for a huge skate ranch. By the end of the game, I was forced to do so many easy goals and find so many pieces for the ranch that I ignored most of the story, which ended with a dull note anyway. It seems to me that Neversoft lost the storyteller’s touch with Underground 2, and American Wasteland doesn’t do much to change my mind. I clocked in the Story Mode in about seven or eight hours, which is dismally short. I blame the easy goals for this.

Next, the gameplay has been overhauled. The skateboarding stuff is spot-on and flawless as ever, even with the old-school bert slides and board stalls added to the mix. Walking around off of the board is made even easier with the implementation of parkour, which allows players to run up walls, flip, and vault over low obstacles. However, this smoothness hits a brick wall when the BMX biking is factored in. Neversoft did an outright terrible job with the controls and utility of the BMX bikes. They were supposed to be seen as an alternative way to play the game, but they actually take a back seat to the skating because they’re so clunky, frustrating, and annoying to control.

I’m happy to say that the actual environment of American Wasteland is one of the best in the entire series. The different sections of L.A. (Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and East L.A., to name a few) are perfect for huge lines. Sadly, the world isn’t as big as Neversoft said it would be, but it definitely isn’t small. There’s a lot to do in each location to take up time; you can make graffiti tags and paint up the town, earn money by impressing locals, and shop around for clothes, tattoos, and hairstyles. Outside of the normal world, the Skate Ranch that you work to build in the Story Mode is pretty cool, but there’s a little too much vert for my tastes; the long grind lines aren’t as common as they are in the rest of the areas.

Neversoft improved the graphics a bit and smoothed out the animation even more, making the game look much more realistic. During cutscenes, the NPCs still look pretty awful, but overall the presentation is much better than in the last few games. The music falls short to impress me, and I think it’s safe to say that American Wasteland has the worst soundtrack of any of the games in the franchise. Fortunately for me and anyone who buys the Xbox version of this game, customized soundtracks can be used instead of the default music. Also, the voice acting isn’t very good. Mindy, one of the characters who follows you around L.A., has one of the most annoying raspy voices I’ve ever heard. Wasn’t she Susie from the Nickelodeon show Rugrats? She was annoying as a deformed baby, and she’s even more annoying as a large-chested skater chick.

American Wasteland drops the ball with the story mode. It’s too easy and it’s too short. Some of the new additions, like the terrible BMX biking and even the cooler stuff like bert slides, are pretty worthless. The music is awful, and the world isn’t as big as it was promised to be. Those complaints are my biggest ones, and even though I’m disappointed in so many ways, I still enjoyed the game. After I unlocked all of L.A. and I could skate around freely without worrying about goals, I had a lot more fun.

I hope that Neversoft does a lot with the formula before they produce another Tony Hawk game. Make the game longer and the goals harder. Sift through the garbage in the gameplay and keep all of the good, helpful stuff while getting rid of the trash. Overall, fans of the series should probably check this out, but I’d say that Underground is still the best in the series.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7.4
Written by Cliff Review Guide