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The Moonlight War novel by S.K.S. Perry

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (PlayStation 2) artwork

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (PlayStation 2) review

"Iíve learned a lot of things about games strictly from reading reviews. Iíll 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 itís been reviewed and everyone loves Zelda games. Iíve also learned Tony Hawk ďfansĒ are whiners. So many have spouted things as ďThis series is in a downward spiralĒ and ďThe Sky fell for meĒ and ďWhat Happened to the lava?Ē Hmm. Thatís a cute s..."

Iíve learned a lot of things about games strictly from reading reviews. Iíll 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 itís been reviewed and everyone loves Zelda games. Iíve also learned Tony Hawk ďfansĒ are whiners. So many have spouted things as ďThis series is in a downward spiralĒ and ďThe Sky fell for meĒ and ďWhat Happened to the lava?Ē Hmm. Thatís a cute story. I donít buy it, but itís cute. I agree that American Wasteland may not be the pinnacle of the Tony Hawk franchise, but all this talk about a ďdead seriesĒ is something I just donít 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 ďthornĒ.

Maybe Iím stupid, but I either donít see those things or donít care.

Sick lines? Theyíre 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? Theyíre 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 tunnelís design corresponds with the area you came from. Sometimes itís a gritty sewer; other times itís walkway in a mall. And theyíre loaded with pipes, fences, rails and planters so you can still trick while your traveling from one area to another. I donít know about you, but Iíll 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 canít use my purple-haired, spike-wearing Goth chick I spent hours making because you canít use chicks at all. You start out with one of five pre-rendered guys fresh off the farm and itís only in story mode that you can customize him and change his dorky, Genj-like appearance. Your skaterís 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 canít do manuals, reverts, wall grinds or anything else, even if you know how, because your skater doesnít know how. Again, heís a newbie. So youíre 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 didnít know what they were doing and long became the list of those who complained ďTony Hawkís too hardĒ. Story mode is a recap of the past seven years, nothing else.

Thereís 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. Thereís even a cool new mode called ďFocusĒ that Iíve 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.) Itís 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 wouldnít 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, theyíre real. Itís 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 donít have to do them. The bike is optional. Running around is optional. The graffitiÖ well, not optional but itís not that big of a deal either. Yeah, itís fluff but it isn't mandatory fluff.

I canít hate Tony Hawk American Wasteland. Yes, I will be the first person to admit that itís got a lot of things--riding bikes, spray painting walls, and shopping for clothes--that shouldnít even be in a skating game. In the end, though, all these things are up to the person playing it. I canít 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. Iím simple. Thatís 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.

Rating: 7/10

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Community review by True (March 03, 2006)

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