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Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (PlayStation 2) artwork

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (PlayStation 2) review

"I’ve learned a lot of things about games strictly from reading reviews. I’ll share. Chrono Cross is doomed to be argued until the end of time, someone will always try to put a new spin on Metal Slug no matter how many times it’s been reviewed and everyone loves Zelda games. I’ve also learned Tony Hawk “fans” are whiners. So many have spouted things as “This series is in a downward spiral” and “The Sky fell for me” and “What Happened to the lava?” Hmm. That’s a cute s..."

I’ve learned a lot of things about games strictly from reading reviews. I’ll share. Chrono Cross is doomed to be argued until the end of time, someone will always try to put a new spin on Metal Slug no matter how many times it’s been reviewed and everyone loves Zelda games. I’ve also learned Tony Hawk “fans” are whiners. So many have spouted things as “This series is in a downward spiral” and “The Sky fell for me” and “What Happened to the lava?” Hmm. That’s a cute story. I don’t buy it, but it’s cute. I agree that American Wasteland may not be the pinnacle of the Tony Hawk franchise, but all this talk about a “dead series” is something I just don’t get.

A lot of people say American Wasteland is part of the slow decay. That it's void of crazy lines, awesome flatlands or decent half-pipes to trick off. People complained of dull tunnels replacing the loading screens. They scoffed at the fact you can ride a bike, cursed the franchise because you can get off your board and labeled the story a “thorn”.

Maybe I’m stupid, but I either don’t see those things or don’t care.

Sick lines? They’re everywhere. I never had a problem finding a fountain to spin around, velvet ropes to grind across or huge staircases to jump. I could scrape across bleachers, leap onto guardrails then launch myself onto a planter only to jump off, manual and continue my skating onslaught elsewhere in the massive environment Wasteland has to offer. There are two huge skate parks as well as four cities. You can grind on nearly everything; find empty pools on rooftops and bankdrop off twenty-foot high skyscrapers. If you can find it, you can do it.

So what about the tunnels? They’re not as dull as everyone says they are. Subway tunnels are boring. American Wasteland tunnels, while not intriguing parts of the environment, could be a lot worse. Each tunnel’s design corresponds with the area you came from. Sometimes it’s a gritty sewer; other times it’s walkway in a mall. And they’re loaded with pipes, fences, rails and planters so you can still trick while your traveling from one area to another. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that over a loading screen any day.

I agree that story mode can be kind of irritating—kind of—for two reasons. One: I can’t use my purple-haired, spike-wearing Goth chick I spent hours making because you can’t use chicks at all. You start out with one of five pre-rendered guys fresh off the farm and it’s only in story mode that you can customize him and change his dorky, Genj-like appearance. Your skater’s a newbie and kind of a poser.

Which leads me to my second complaint about Wasteland. Story mode forces you to relearn almost everything. When you start out you can’t do manuals, reverts, wall grinds or anything else, even if you know how, because your skater doesn’t know how. Again, he’s a newbie. So you’re forced to travel all around L.A. learning how to do tricks that should have been second nature by the third installment. Again, I think this is because people were whining. Tony Hawk was a series that got progressively harder through the years. Original players evolved and they adapted to the changes, but then the popularity of the series started attracting new people—people who didn’t know what they were doing and long became the list of those who complained “Tony Hawk’s too hard”. Story mode is a recap of the past seven years, nothing else.

There’s Classic mode, though. Old School levels with brand new goals. No dialogue, no cut-scenes and no story. Just skating. With so many levels it's almost a game in itself, but you can blaze through it insanely fast because each of the goals are almost too easy. No more launching yourself over a rocky cliff, gambling with death just to snag a hidden tape; no more leaping from the top of a thirty foot hotel to McTwist over a running helicopter. You can still do cool stuff, mind you, it just loses its luster when it's pulled off with such ease.

American Wasteland also continues its trend of consistent mechanics. It looks great and is boasting a bigger sound track than maybe even GTA. There are a few new tricks to be had, even for vets like me. The Natas spin, the wall run up and the sticker slap. There’s even a cool new mode called “Focus” that I’ve become quite attached to (yeah, yeah I know. They had it in T.H.U.G. 2, but I passed on that game altogether. I don't think I'm the only one so focus is new to me.) It’s slow motion, bullet time or whatever else you want to call it. The point is time slows and the camera gives you a tight shot of your skater, letting you pull off tricks you wouldn’t even attempt otherwise. I think it kicks ass. Grind to triple kickflip back to grind without smacking my board or my head on the concrete. Genius.

All those other ugly downsides mentioned above? Sorry, they’re real. It’s true that you can switch to a bike. You can get off your board and run around. You can even do graffiti. I agree that these are a huge distraction from skating, but you don’t have to do them. The bike is optional. Running around is optional. The graffiti… well, not optional but it’s not that big of a deal either. Yeah, it’s fluff but it isn't mandatory fluff.

I can’t hate Tony Hawk American Wasteland. Yes, I will be the first person to admit that it’s got a lot of things—riding bikes, spray painting walls, and shopping for clothes—that shouldn’t even be in a skating game. In the end, though, all these things are up to the person playing it. I can’t hate American Wasteland because I can still skate. I can grind cop cars, pull off a six-million point trick or slosh around in a half-pipe until I throw up. I’m simple. That’s all that matters to me. I can still skate so I can look past the other stuff. Put simply, American Wasteland is like the woman of my dreams in four layers of clothing; what I love is still there, I just have to look a little deeper for it.

True's avatar
Community review by True (March 02, 2006)

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