Reviewed: November 6, 2005
Released: October 18, 2005
I can remember when I was 16 and skateboarding was just starting to become a big thing. Sony had just released Grind Session for the original Playstation and I was playing it to death until I discovered the very first Tony Hawkís Pro-Skater which had been released on September 1st, 1999. It didnít take me long to switch over to what has now become a huge video game series.
Since that time numerous other versions of the Tony series have been released on nearly ever system. The latest being Tony Hawkís American Wasteland for the three current consoles, GBA, NDS, and its forthcoming appearance being a visually enhanced version on the Xbox 360. I've played and owned every console game in the series including the two versions of Tony Hawkís Pro Skater 2 (and 2x). In my opinion, Pro Skater 2x was the best game in the series...until now.
Since the series began the gameplay has been this franchise's strongest suit and over the years it has grown with the addition of bigger levels, challenges, and more complex/insane moves. Each year Neversoft brings something new to the table and the series keeps getting better and better.
American Wastelandís story mode starts off with you choosing your character and then fully customizing him after you arrive in L.A. From there you are slowly introduced into the massive re-creation of Los Angeles, and the world that is skateboarding. Youíll gradually learn new moves and skills after theyíre taught to you. It was one of the hardest parts of the game for me because I already knew how to do everything and I just wanted to start the action. Thatís when I decided to start up Classic Mode, just one of many game modes in American Wasteland.
There are a ton of game modes featuring Story Mode, Classic Mode, High Score/Free Skate Mode, Create-A-Mode and this yearís all new one called Co-op Classic Mode. High Score/Free Skate Mode will give you an opportunity to score the highest amount of points in 2 minuets and then try to best your score over and over. It seems like thereís always a way to best your own score because you can go anywhere in city to do it. This allows you to find new places to grind and get air on to maximize your score.
Co-Op Classic Mode is something new this year and it allows you to play with a friend simultaneously through the entire Classic Mode. Itís a brilliant idea and one thatís a lot of fun for veterans of the series. Classic mode has always been my favorite mode to play in because itís very similar to the original Tony Hawk game. You get into the game right away and are able to accomplish a given list of tasks. Itís the formula that made the game popular and itís still number one in my book.
Create-A-Mode is essentially everything in the game that you can customize. Most of these things everyone is familiar with like customizing your skater, making your own skate parks, creating your own tricks, and making your own graffiti tags. Everything is similar to what youíre accustomed to and these options are always fun to play with. With all of these modes, the main one is still the story mode which plays the biggest role in the game (which it should).
After you customize your character and learn the basics itís off to do the story based missions which are triggered when you talk to NPC's. There are also sponsor challenges that can be found at any of the skate shops around the city each day. Doing these and winning them will increase your skating ability. There are even cash goals located in random places to earn money to customize your skater which can be important later on when youíll need to change your clothing style in order to fit in.
Throughout the game youíll fill up the special meter as you perform regular tricks and be able to execute really sweet special tricks. Youíll go into slow motion while performing one of them and simply press a direction on the D pad to pull off one of these moves. Itís the coolest thing in the game and very rewarding when you execute one perfectly. There are of course new tricks like every year featuring ďBert slidesĒ (a cool limbo-style move), extensions to the Natas spin and cave-man combos. So for all of you masters of Tony Hawk, try again. Wasteland has the largest trick list thus far and itís only going to get bigger as the series continues.
In addition to the skateboarding portion Neversoft decided to throw in a complete BMX game as well. You donít have to do the missions, but youíd be missing a really cool portion of the game if you did. People familiar with BMX games will be right at home with spot on controls and tricks youíre accustomed to with moves like wall-rides, stalls, tire taps, grinding, and course, riding backwards. Riding a BMX is very similar to skateboarding, so if you already know the controls for Tony, then you already have them mastered for the bike.
As you can see, I gave Wasteland a 3 for graphics. I hated to do it and I really didnít want to, but anything higher wouldíve been a lie. This game looks terrible on the GameCube. It's extremely pixilated and everything looks like youíre playing it at a very low resolution. To be honest, this game reminded me of the original Tony Hawkís Pro Skater graphically, but with a few less jaggy lines. Nothing stands out in the city because everything looks plain on screen and the water is some of the worst Iíve seen all year.
This game was definitely forced onto the GameCube like many other games that go multiplatform. It seems to me that unless a developer creates a game specifically for the GameCube, then itís going to look bad in comparison to its counterparts. Unfortunately this is the case yet again and itís sad to see when you consider how much potential the Cube has, just look at Metroid Prime 2 or Starfox: Assault. Those games look gorgeous and really show off the full potential of the Cube while Tonyís American Wasteland shows just how bad a poorly ported game can look.
The game is actually hard to look at, which definitely takes away a lot of the enjoyment from playing it. I hope developers see this game and take note. Donít make cheap ports to consoles and expect to get away with it. It damages a companyís reputations of quality and will hurt them in the long run.
Tony sounds great yet again with more new music and exclusive tracks from My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Taking Back Sunday (over 70 tracks in all!). Even more impressive is the voice acting done by some very good unknowns. Each skater has their own distinct personalities and its fun to go back and play as each of them through the story mode.
The sound effects are still basic, but there are a lot of them throughout the seemingly endless city. All the sound effects and music are presented in a nice Dolby Pro Logic II package that sounds great.
Let me start off by saying that this game is huge. There are an endless amount of things to do and see. The seamless city is vast and you can travel around it on bike or skateboard in Story Mode, Classic Mode, High Score/Free Skate Mode, Co-op Classic Mode, and Create-A-Mode. Each one of these things would be enough to make a game out of alone, but the Tony Hawk Series hasnít only become a huge series, but an even bigger game.
The story mode is relatively short and you can blaze through it in 11 hours or so given you are familiar with the Tony Hawk series and already know the controls. If not this game could easily last 20 hours while the classic mode should take about 10-15 to beat. All the other modes will provide you with an endless amount of things to do and will be the remaining reason to keep playing.
Once again, the GameCube suffers from a lack of online play. While Xbox owners are getting their first taste of online gaming, GameCube owners are left to play with themselves and a friend. It's fun, but it can't begin to compare with the numerous online modes and infinite replay on the PS2 and Xbox.
Tony Hawk veterans will definitely be happy with the gameplay improvements in American Wasteland. You still have the largest trick library thus far and a seamless re-creation of L.A. to skate/BMX in. Fans of the series are sure to fall in love with this newest installment; just not on the GameCube. The dismal graphics and lack of online gameplay is just too huge an obstacle to overcome.
Itís difficult for me not to give this game a higher score when the gameplay is so much fun, but a great game includes all the basic element, great: gameplay, sound, value, and graphics. And while American Wasteland may have the gameplay nailed down, it falls short of being great on the Nintendo GameCube. If you really want to experience the true greatness that is Tony Hawkís American Wasteland then youíll need to play it on another system.