Tony Hawk and his band of kick-flipping, melon-grabbing, wall-planting, building-destructing, manualing,
grinding, skateboarders are back for the 7th installment in the highly successful Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. This is also the third T.H.U.G.
(Tony Hawk’s Underground) in which the extreme sport adds RPG and Story elements.
This time, Tony Hawk attempts to return to what the sport is actually about, and that’s just tricking out and getting
air, rather than being a one man city-destroying machine. This is not to say that American
Wasteland doesn’t let you destroy everything you can, the difference is that American
Wasteland attempts to concern itself more with tricking to do so, and then using the items which you destroyed to build
a skate park. That last part needs a bit of explanation. THAW’s story mode
starts you off as a “Kentucky-boy” skater coming to Los Angeles to get famous where it all began. When you get
there, you meet Mindy, a sketch artist who is hoping to start a zine. She knows the ropes and guides you along your way. After
some progress, you meet Murphy, Boone, and Useless Dave. They stand between you and “The Skate Ranch,” a skate
park which is supposed to be a haven for true skaters. After proving yourself, you meet the person behind the Skate Ranch,
Iggy, a skateboarding legend who went into hiding because of his dislike over his rising fame. When you get in, Mindy draws
a sketch of what she thinks the Skate Ranch, which at the time is very barren and dull, could be and it gives you and your
buds the idea of improving the Skate Ranch. It’s this idea that set you and your buds off on your American Wasteland adventure.
Just as it was in the two T.H.U.G. games, the biggest draw of American Wasteland is the story
mode and its improvements over its predecessor. What the story mode does, just like the last two, follows your journey for
skating success and respect; however this game’s method is different than the last two. You will have to learn new tricks
and impress different people in order to continue your way across Los Angeles
collecting more pieces for the skate ranch. From this, one may wonder why there has yet to be any mention of a level other
than Los Angeles. The reason is that instead of many different
small maps, THAW introduces one large load-free map of Los Angeles with different areas. Now this is not all it is built up to be, as each area
is connected by a large tunnel and isn’t nearly as detailed as the areas they connect and therefore will make it hard
to achieve the ideal of tricking one major combo across every area in the game. Aside from the large map, there are few true
“innovations.” A fun new feature added is called the Bert Slide, which allows your skater to place one hand on
the ground and quickly perform a hairpin turn. It’s fun to use, though isn’t the most useful thing. One of the
cooler additions to the Tony Hawk series is the inclusion of BMX biking. True,
previous games in the series did have the ability to ride a bike, but now there is an actual system to riding the bike, and
there is almost as much available to do on the bike as the skateboard, although the majority of the game is still on the skateboard.
A new story and a couple small additions are just about all that the Tony Hawk’s
American Wasteland brings in what is essentially the third “re-invention” of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Along with the positives there are some negatives
to what Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland brings to the THPS series. First of all, what is immediately noticeable when starting story mode is the elimination of being
able to create your own customizable character, a feature which was available in the previous two T.H.U.G. games. Why this feature was left out in favor of having to choose from five previously created characters,
but it’s a feature that will likely be missed. Although once the story mode progresses one has the ability to change
his or her character’s hair, clothes, and gear, as well as add tattoos, it’s just not the same as making a character
that is close to a clone of yourself or a character that is totally far out. Even though the Create-A-Skater is absent in
Story Mode, it’s still around in all other modes. Another odd “improvement” is replacing some cut scenes
with exaggerated comic book style panel drawings. These panel drawings seem out of place and look as if the developers at
Neversoft were just too lazy to put more animated movies in. Sadly, some new features of THAW
make take away from the experience that it should provide.
Outside of the story mode, the Classic, Multiplayer,
and Create-A Modes return to the series better than ever. Classic Mode, just as it was in the previous games, returns the
gamer back to the pre-T.H.U.G. days where 10 goals were set per level and they
had to be achieved within a 2-minute time limit. Outside of some new levels, Classic Mode takes you back to some of the classic
Tony Hawk maps, such as “The Mall” from the original THPS. Classic Mode integrates with Multiplayer mode by allowing the gamer to team up with a buddy to beat the
goals in two minutes. Elsewhere within the game, multiplayer brings backs some of the best multiplayer games like King of
the Hill and Firefight, and includes some new ones. Create-A Mode is just as it was before, an opportunity to create new skaters,
new tricks, and new skate parks. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland still provides
a lot of enjoyment outside of the main story mode.
Not too much has changed in the Tony Hawk series with its 7th installment, but the formula still works. The game we know and love still
has its zaniness and little extras (popping kick flips with secret skater Lil’ John was what gave me the most enjoyment).
If you are a hardcore THPS fan, this review won’t change whether or not you
pick up Wasteland. If you haven’t picked up a THPS since Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 or earlier, then Wasteland is for you but if you have any in the T.H.U.G. series, just
wait for the next installment. I give Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland 7.5
out of 10.