Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland Xbox 360 Review
Welcome to the Xbox 360 version of Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland also known as Tony Hawks 7 (although Activision would be happy if you did not know that). When a franchise has a that high of a number in its title you know that game must of a spark of quality some where in it and while the Tony Hawk game are fun to play and mess about with it has to be said that in recent year things have not been good for Tony. Most of the “Underground” versions of the game have not been of the highest quality and many of the “great new additions” that Activision have boasted about have turned many a fan away from this long running series. During the last few years the game had also been losing its “one more go” appeal and it quickly gathered dust on gamers’ shelves a few days after being bought, but in a welcome turn of events THAW brings a breath of fresh air to the franchise however, sadly it is not about to push the 360 to its limits.
Story mode is probably where you will be spending a great deal of your time in American Wasteland and thankfully the story mode is a rather nice one, at least while compared to some of Underground’s story modes anyway! The story mode starts with you being placed in the shoes of an unknown skater who makes his way to LA to become king and make a name for himself. As soon as Mr. Noname hits the streets of LA he gets mugged (see the game is realistic!) but in an interesting turn of events a nice girl called Mindy comes to your assistance (ok, not very realistic!) and thus the game begins. From now on the game plays just like most of the older game in the series hinting more toward the “Pro Skater” days rather than the “THUG” ones.
Your skater starts off knowing little to no cool tricks, he is pretty weak and does not know his stuff but in little less than an hour you should be throwing some very advance tricks and kickin’ it with the big boy. It is this rapid progression and easy to lean (but difficult to master) gameplay that is what makes the Tony Hawk games what they are. In American Wasteland, Neversoft have seen fit to throw a BMX into proceedings to shake things up a little and even though these section down amount to much there are a few goals the game sets you to do with them. Surprisingly the BMX’s are also very easy to control and while a completely different beast than the skateboard can be a lot of fun to ride.
Some of the missions the game sets you are rather interesting but many of them feel like copies of previous games in the series. In fact, a feeling a déjà vu popped up more than once over my course of play with the title and if you have played any of the recent games then you will feel the same. The sad fact is that due to the Tony Hawk series of games being available for so long, the stuff that used to be fun now just seems boring but if this is your first TH game then there is no doubt it will be lots of fun. It also has to be noted that Classic Mode makes a welcome return to the hawkverse (yes I made up a word, sue me!). Personally I can see myself playing around with this mode for a few week as I was a huge fan of the original game back in the PSone days and it great to see objective like tape collecting, letter collecting and, of course, the two minute timer make a return
One last point I would like to bring up is the fact that Activision have been promoting the game as having “no loading” in many of its adverts and while this is sort of true it does not work exactly the way the adverts would have you believe. Instead of having loading screens to progress to other parts of the city the game uses loading tunnels or hallways that are void of fancy graphics that you must skate though to get to each area of the city. While skating and tricking off things in these areas, the game loads the next area in the background. It is a nice idea but probably not exactly what gamers were expecting after they hyped this aspect of the game so much.
It seems that Neversoft do not like the 360 too much, as graphically Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland on the 360 gets the same treatment as their other 360 title, Gun. The game is exactly the same as the PS2/Xbox/Cube versions, in fact if there was some way to count the number of polygons I am sure there would not be one extra in the move to 360. Yes I know the game can now be played at 720p/1080i but this jump in resolution just results in making the game look worse. All the little inconstancies that were hidden in the older version now glare out at you and are much more noticeable than before. This is the second game that Activision have not updated for 360 so lets hope a trend does not develop from this but they did bring us the fantastic Call Of Duty 2 so I guess they could be forgiven, well maybe!
Let’s talk about sound effects first as they are probably the best part in terms of sound in American Wasteland. All the grinds, bumps, crunches and bags are in there. The skating sounds realistic and falls sounds like they hurt a lot. The voice acting is also of a good quality; all characters in the game are voiced with most of them putting in believable performances with only one or two hiccups over the whole game. Now onto the music, if you could call it that.
It was all going so well wasn’t it? The sound effects guys did their job well, the voice talent worked their asses off for the most part and all some guy had to do was talk with a few companies and try and license a few nice songs to skate to. Well whoever the guy was did not do his job very well as most of the music in American Wasteland is not of what I would call great quality. Ok maybe I am being too harsh, I did like two songs on the soundtrack. The first on being Frank Black’s “Los Angeles” and the second being “Peace Frog” by The Doors, the rest were trash. Thankfully, as with every Xbox 360 game you have the ability for custom soundtracks and as soon as I remembered this I proclaimed my love for J Allard, Peter Moore and Bill Gates as I stumbled to hook my iPod up to the 360 to listen to what I would deem quality music.
So, what’s going to keep you playing America Wasteland after shelling out your hard earned money for it? Well first off there are loads of secret skaters to unlock which are given to you when you finish the different modes on different difficulties. These unlockable skaters include the likes of Matt Hoffman amongst others. There is also a rather interesting unlockable for completing the story mode. There is also the option to create skaters, skate parks, tricks, deck graphics, graffiti tags; but they have been available in previous version so that’s nothing new. Gamerscore points and achievements are really the only new addition that Neversoft included for this “next gen” version of American Wasteland. There is a maximum of 1000 points to get (which seems the norm for many games now) which range from one called “The New You” which you get for getting a new haircut and some new clothes. Other points come for setting high scores and getting a certain number of goals in classic mode. Xbox Live offers a collection of different game modes, and most of them are pretty entertaining. Trick Attack, Graffiti, and Elimiskate will probably be the ones that will get the most play in my opinion,
In terms of gameplay American Wasteland is easily the best Tony Hawk game in recent years and it easily thumps any of the recent “Underground” incarnations that hit store shelves, but on the 360 the game is a graphical letdown. Now I would usually be the first to say the gameplay should always be rated above graphics but if you have just played the likes of COD2, Kameo, PRG3 and FIFA then when THAW enters the 360 and it appears on screen it was huge disappointment. I can in no way recommend the 360 version of THAW as it in no way pushes the system and is in no way “next gen.” If you really need the game just go out and grab a the PS2 or Xbox version as there is some fun to be had and you save a tenner on what the 360 version would have cost you in the process.