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SummaryThe old recipe with some new icing, nothing more
The GoodTony Hawk's American Wasteland marks the third reinvention of the series. The game is a lot like Underground, but different in some ways to make it a new title altogether.
To tell you the truth, I have never been a fan of the Tony Hawk series. I hadn't played any of the past two games, and the only one I actually own is the original Pro Skater. I also have had some time watching my brother playing some Underground 1 over my cousin's house. However this weekend I was lucky enough to have one of my brother's friends rent American Wasteland and bring over. I watched him play while I played a bit of SimCity 2000 as he did the entire game in one outing. After he was done, I gave the game a whirl in story mode.
The first thing I noticed is how it is all one big level. There were no loading times, which appealed to me because loading times on the past games were atrocious. It also added to the immersion of the game because you didn't have to go to a screen every time you wanted to change levels. Also, like the past games, all of the missions are acquired by going up and talking to random people and getting weird but interesting missions involving skate moves. This gives the game a great sandbox feeling. It makes you fell more immersed because you can choose what you want to do: progress the story, do some free-skating, do some side-missions, and other stuff. As a fan of the GTA series this gave me a great sense of freedom over what I wanted to do.
I was also glad to see the series get back to its roots. The two games in the underground series, while they included a lot of skating, generally lacked some skating objectives. A lot of it required you to go on foot. The series has retraced it steps to the older series where skating and skill on a board was the key to winning.
The skater selection has been changed dramatically. The same exact skaters from every single other game weren't in this one, which relieved me to find out that I didn't have the same 10 skaters to choose from that I did in the last game.
There is way more music included in this version than any other. The music list is way bigger than the ones I have played, which makes sure you aren't listening to the same music over and over like it seems you are doing in the past two series. This was a nice welcomed change.
There are plenty of moves at your disposal, and the game makes sure game play doesn't get repetitive or cheesy through stale moves. It was nice to have some new moves at your disposal with all of the old ones still there for me to use, and the fact that you can combine these over multiple ramps and obstacles leaves little to be desired in this department.
The two-player mode, while I didn't get to play it much, seemed pretty fun for the time being. Playing with a friend seems to make the game more fun because you can play with a good friend while showing off some of your moves or maybe screwing up there's. All in all it was a fun experience to be had, with added replay value with multiplayer mode like the classic "HORSE" mode and others which keep the game fresh.
The BadWhile I was playing, one thing became glaringly obvious: I was still great at the series despite the fact that I hadn't played it in a few years or so. Why was this? I soon realized that almost all of the tricks (except specials and new ones) were almost the same ones used in the older games. Right down to controls. It was all too obvious that this game wanted to go back to its roots-maybe too much. Game play felt just like it had when I was playing Pro Skater 4 almost 3 years ago. The fact that you had to go around asking people for missions hadn't changed at all. While the new tricks kept the game play going, the missions were absolutely repetitive and dull. Most of them were a boring repetition of collect items while doing tricks, doing tricks people call out, and getting to an area while....you guessed it, doing tricks. Most of the game was, well what's that word again? Oh yeah, PREDICTABLE. Almost every part of the game was a a total repetition of the same stuff over and over again which destroys the immersion that the one-level over world gives us.
The story is anything but interesting. The basic drive of the game is that you need to raise enough money to keep a skate park in Beverly Hills while getting stuff to put in it. Things like a hangar wall or slot machines or a control box. Your group of friends and their leader (who is a skating legend) leads the group into all sorts of stuff to get these items, like stealing from casino, stealing from...well actually...almost everything you do in that game is steal and run away from the cops. The dialogue is some of the worst I've heard in a video game. It seems mainly like they hired a bunch of teens off of the street to say some pieces of dialogue to read a script some 40 year-old wrote with some words they thought were still used like "rad" and "killer". Most of your friends are stoner stereo-type young-adults who sit around and d nothing but skate all day. Even with such a weak plot such as this, it still comes to ever predictable "guy wins ranch back, has major comeback and becomes famous, while getting the girl of his dreams."
Levels in the game are connected through underground pipes, and this destroys a lot of the immersion as well. Combos still can't be done over multiple levels unless you can grind from one end of a long tunnel to the other side and land on another pipe of rail without falling the entire way. This really ticked me off to see that combos through different levels were still impossible despite the fact that all of the levels were merged into one big world.
Graphics are something to laugh at. While graphics were never a strong suit of the Tony Hawk series, and this one is no exception. A lot of the graphics problems come within the game itself. There are a lot of collision problems and a lot of times arms or other objects will go through other solid objects. Character models are nothing new to the series. They look as plain and boring as any other Tony hawk game. To put it shortly, the graphics have changed none whatsoever since the Pro Skater series.
The music, while I'm glad that there is a lot, is very much the same thing throughout the entire game. The only genre included in the game is punk music and rock music. The music is plentiful, but it only appeals to a punk rock fan, which was a disappointment because past games in the series were a good mixture of rock, punk, country, and techno, and to me, the game being only punk music and some rock made me want to turn down the music volume so I din;t have to listen to a man screaming into a microphone the entire game.
A new feature included is to ride a BMX. But this feature just seems thrown in. The Tony Hawk series is normally dedicated to skating, and by throwing the option to ride a BMX just seems to distract from the skating
The create-a-park feature included in every game since the Pro Skater series has been included in this just to mix things up a bit. While a will not say this feature has anything new or revolutionary, I will say it is nice to create a few parks for the enjoyment for your friends, but it is not exactly something you would look forward to. It has some good features, but when it comes down to it is just placing ramps and rails and other obstacles down for a few good combo points, and generally gets boring after your third or fourth map.
American Wasteland seems to have taken some inspiration from San Andreas because now there is included a character editing feature that you can use in-game. While this was a great idea in San Andreas, it just doesn't work for Tony Hawk. In the beginning you have five character "models" to choose from, and then you can edit that model in-game. This is limiting compared to the other Tony Hawk games, which were used out of story mode and had amazing options that you could choose from. This compared to what we had before just seems like a step-backwards in the series.