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Tony Hawk's American Wasteland

Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 (Co-Op 2 / Xbox Live 2 - 8)
Genre: Sports (Extreme)/ Arcade/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

The Xbox 360 is capable of amazing in-game graphics. Unfortunately, as a launch title, Neversoftís Tony Hawkís American Wasteland isnít all that spectacular graphically. Donít get me wrong, player models and environments look great, but they certainly arenít on par with some of the other sports games that hit store shelves. The biggest draw graphically, however, is that there are no load times while in-game, which does show the power of the 360.

As far as audio goes, American Wasteland has all of the same grunts and groans that every Tony Hawk game has had when you smack your face on the pavement from a two-story drop, but thereís really nothing new there. The voice acting in the Story Mode, however, is pretty good. Itís not great, but it does help move the story of you developing your skills along. The music is, as always, great and fits the extreme sports genre well, with its upbeat and driving personality.


Gameplay:

Like always, the Tony Hawk games have been driven by button combinations that allow you to perform sick tricks and score major points, reaching goals that seem unattainable at times. Youíll be grinding, manualing, jumping, flipping, and transferring your way to great feats. While the gameplay is thoroughly unrealistic with death-defying drops and truly impossible moves, the fun-factor of American Wasteland is amazing and addictive, as always.

While you can play the classic mode of Tony Hawk, the heart of American Wasteland lies in its Story Mode. Here, youíll start out as a young rookie skater, eventually budding into a professional. For veterans of the series, the monotony of learning tricks in your career could be considered boring, but for Hawk newcomers, these early training "missions" can serve a great purpose. American Wasteland is a completely free-roaming style game, and each mission is initiated by the user. When you talk with the residents of the city, you can earn many things, including money and respect, and develop yourself into a stellar skater.

Along with the skateboard tricks you can perform, youíll also be able to cruise around town on a BMX-style bike. These bicycles are laying around town for the taking, and certain missions are available only to players on bikes. The tricks, while similar in nature to the skateboard, do vary enough to almost make this two games in one. Personally, I find controlling the bike much more difficult (I always have since the days of Dave Mirraís BMX) than the board, but both are fun in their own right. At any time, you can switch back to your skateboard with the touch of a button, so you donít have to worry about running back to find your board. And speaking of running, you can also easily hop off your transportation and hoof it through the city, which makes reaching higher places much easier than in old Tony Hawk games by allowing you to walk up stairs.

Xbox Live is full of game modes to keep you active skaters rolling too. Youíll be able to play up to 8 players in ranked or unranked competitions in everything from Trick Attack to King of the Hill. There are a decent 12 game types to choose from, so thereís sure to be something for everyone. I do wish there were more levels to enter, but hopefully that will increase in time.


Difficulty:

Tony Hawkís American Wasteland varies a lot in difficulty. Veterans of the series will probably find some of the events too easy and other events at a perfect level because of the difficulty of getting a certain score or performing various combos. Rookies of Tony Hawk may find that some of these challenges are downright impossible, yet many of the events are very much attainable. In a sense, most gamers should be able to at least have fun with American Wasteland, even if some frustration will set in. As with anything, a lot of practice can make for an entertaining experience.

Game Mechanics:

Game controls canít be any better in American Wasteland. Using a tried and true method of spins, grabs, and flip tricks, the controller is a perfect instrument of execution. Now that the Xbox 360 controller has 4 shoulder buttons (instead of the black and white buttons of its predecessor), controlling your skater is much, much more intuitive and exactly as you would on the PS2. In fact, Iím extremely happy that the developers at Neversoft still allow the user a choice when controlling your character. While some of the steering can be more intuitive with the analog stick, performing specific tricks (a combination of direction on the controller, plus a button press) seem much easier by tapping the D-pad. Either control works the same way.

There are a couple of sayings that come to mind when I think about the aging, and relatively unchanged gameplay of the Tony Hawk series: "If it ainít broke, donít fix it," and "Never get off a winning horse." In short, the gameplay of Tony Hawkís American Wasteland is more or less the same as the first game in this great franchise... but thatís a great thing. While the series may show its age, the new tricks and combos that are possible keep the game fresh. If youíve already picked up this game on another console, you probably donít want to fork out another 60 dollars for the 360 version for the slightly-better visuals. But if you havenít yet tried it out and are a fan of the series, you certain wonít go wrong with American Wasteland.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Nintendo GameBoy Advance Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Kaznapped! Sony PlayStation 2 Aeon Flux

 
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