While Tony Hawk may have been slow to embrace the Xbox Live, this is one series that has not been shy about going online. All five of the Tony Hawk games on the PlayStation 2 have been online, even before Sony had released their Network Adaptor. This year's model doesn't stray too far from what we had last year, it still allows gamers to play in a room of eight and take part in all kinds of different games. Playing the game online is a lot of fun, even if we're bogged down by the lackluster levels found in the game.
Perhaps my biggest gripe about Tony Hawk's American Wasteland is where it's located. While I have nothing against Los Angeles, it just doesn't seem diverse enough for a video game ... especially one like this. They do a good job of making the various "levels" look different, but I couldn't help but want to go someplace else just to experience something new. L.A. is fine for awhile, but why stay there when we can go all over the world?
Even more interesting is how similar some of the levels are to places we've been before. We've already experience L.A. before in other Tony Hawk games, and the Santa Monica level is a spitting image of Santa Cruz, one of the classic levels found in American Wasteland (as well as the PSP version of THUG 2). Speaking of the PSP, the final level in American Wasteland is the casino level found just a few months ago in THUG 2 Remix. I'm all for reusing old levels in the classic mode, but it just seems lazy to reuse levels in the story mode.
The graphics in American Wasteland are good, but not great. This is the fifth Tony Hawk game on the PS2, so there haven't been a lot of graphical improvements over the last few years. The L.A. world you are skating through looks decent, but a lot of the characters are kind of blocky and showing the limitations of the hardware. The game itself runs reasonably fast, so you will rarely notice any imperfection in the level detail ... but it's a whole different story in the cinema scenes.
The music is what you'd expect from this type of game, a wide mix of everything from punk to rap to heavy metal. There are some nice cuts - including Frank Black's Los Angeles, Oingo Boingo doing Who Do You Want to Be, and Holiday by Green Day - but, by and large, there is a lot of filler. With over sixty licensed songs this isn't really that big of a deal, but it would have been nice to be able to select what type of music you wanted to listen instead of having to suffer through it all.
As expected we get quite a bit of voice acting from a number of famous skaters. These characters don't really come into effect until late in the game, but they all make more pretty interesting characters. Well, all but Bam Margero who not only sounds like he's phoning it in, but kind of sounds like he's using the speaker phone. The rest of the cast does a decent job, and Neversoft has even included Tony Alva, who was documented in the movie Dogtown and Z-Boys (the documentary that inspired this year's Lords of Dogtown movie). Too bad they couldn't find a better use for these real-life skaters.
Regardless of how it looks or sounds, American Wasteland just feels like a step backwards from previous Tony Hawk games. The levels aren't nearly as interesting as they should be, it's far too easy, and they didn't add much to the over all game play. Even if you've mastered all of the older Tony Hawk titles you may still want to try this one out before you sink your $50 on this installment. It's not a bad game; it's just forgotten what made the first six entries so good. Let's hope Neversoft realizes their mistakes and gives us something really special for the 2006 model.
American Wasteland doesn't quite live up to the promises made by its creator, something that ultimately ends up hurting this seventh Tony Hawk installment. After all these years of teaching couch potatoes how to skate, the good folks at Neversoft have finally released a game that you might as well skate past.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!