upon the THUG and THUG 2 schematic, THAW is another
step in the right direction for the series.
by Vaughn Smith
20 , 2005 - The
Tony Hawk Pro Skater series debuted in 1999 and with
each subsequent year Neversoft has released a new
installment. In essence Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
(THAW) is really Tony Hawk 7, but Neversoft made the
decision a few years ago to evolve the franchise and
make it fresh, exciting and new. The Underground games
were a dramatic departure from the linear environments
and lack of any real personality found within THPS
1 - 4, featuring a storyline that attempted to capture
the skate culture. Neversoft has been busy further
retooling the series, tightening up the aspects that
worked and removing those that didn't, and the result
is a more cohesive and involving gameplay experience.
should preface this review with the statement that
I haven't been all that impressed with the Tony Hawk
series as of late with the exception of THUG. Back
in the early days of the series I looked forward to
the arrival of the new games. Then around THPS3 I
felt that perhaps the one year window of development
time just didn't seem to be enough and the series,
in my opinion, was running out of creative steam.
When the series moved to the next gen consoles (PS2,
Xbox, GC) I felt that it was still cemented in old
generation design and didn't take enough advantage
of the hardware advancements. THUG managed to teach
an old dog some awesome new tricks, while THUG 2 was
such a radical departure that I felt I was playing
BMX XXX II. Truth be told I wasn't even wanting to
review THAW, but everyone else was busy so I had no
choice. I'm sure you're not used to such honesty in
reviews but that's the big bold truth. I loaded the
game into my 360 and sighed "Here we go again...."
I lamented to no one in particular. Then to my surprise
I found myself enjoying the events involving my characters
arrival in L.A. and it just mushroomed from there.
I was like Dicken's Scrooge born anew, bursting open
the window shutters on Christmas morn:
You there! What game is this?
urchin: It's Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, sir.
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland for all!
I would only tell you to buy THAW for the Xbox 360
if you A) own an Xbox 360 (that should be obvious!)
B) haven't played it for the current gen systems.
If you have already played it on the Xbox, GameCube
or PS2 you won't find anything new besides some enhanced
lighting, textures and resolution. Other than those
factors, the Xbox 360 is identical to the current
THPS and THUG games have always provided a healthy
dose of challenge and considering the fan base the
series has attracted, I was surprised to discover
that the objectives in THAW were on the easy end of
the difficulty factor. Veterans need only apply at
the hardest difficulty level to wring any challenge
out of the game, while noobs to the series might even
find the Easy mode too easy at times. Of course, playing
online against other skaters always requires you to
perform at peak capacity and therefore provides a
healthy dose of challenge, but the offline career
mode could and should definitely be considered a cakewalk
on the lower difficulty settings.
THAW probably won't impress 'graphic whores' (love
that term) as the game sports the same polygon count
and models as found on the current gen systems. There
are some visual enhancements such as the lighting
and textures, but for the most part the high res gloss
shines a spotlight on the visual defects - especially
of some of less attractive character models - since
the game was developed for the current gen systems.
The LA environment which I thought was supposed to
be one wide open level happens to be several areas
cleverly disguised by connecting points. Vehicles
can be located which will transport you from one area
to another quickly (such as a bus and truck) and you
will have to endure a little animation while the game
loads the selected destination. In the usual Tony
Hawk fashion, virtual areas of LA are easily recognized
by the various landmarks tossed in to get your attention.
You'll skate various LA locations such as downtown
L.A., Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica (where
Activision is located in the real world) and be able
to practice your skills at ingame legend skater Iggy
Van Zant's secluded Ranch and the Van's skate park.
story progresses via cutscenes and I have to admit
that I was pretty smitten with fictional character
Mindy and her American Wasteland comic book which
pays homage both in artistic style and name to New
York underground artist Harvey Pekar and his book
American Splendor (with a nod to R. Crumb of course).
Surprisingly there is a lot less of Mr. Hawk then
you'd expect in a game that has his name on the cover,
but when he does make an appearance it makes sense
in the context of the story.
of your character is handled by visiting various shops
to buy new threads or change your haircut. I always
find it funny that you can go into a barber shop cleanshaven
and bald in games like this and walk out with a set
of muttonchops and cornrows, but such as the limitless
imagination of video games. You won't have as much
control over facial features but pretty much everything
else is up for grabs. Customization even carries over
into gameplay as you are free to customize your own
"tags" and spray them around LA.
ingame music is a wrapped around an obvious product
placement of Sirius Satellite Radio which is hoping
to make some big inroads this holiday season against
competitor XM Satallite Radio. THAW features a ton
of great music, some of which I loved, some of which
I hated and some I was indifferent to. Considering
I'm an old fart, that's pretty good. Thank God skateboarders
appreciate the guitar....that's all I'm going to say.
If I have to listen anymore drum and bass bling bling
crap I'm going to freakin' lose it. Okay, now
that's all I'm going to say. The voice actors run
the gamut from good to bad to "Hey, that's Will
Ferrell". At least I'm pretty damn sure that
vagrant that calls your character "skaterat"
is Mr. Ferrell. If not, it's a very authentic soundalike.
The Chinese dude who eventually teaches your character
Special and Focus seems to go from Chinese to a bad
impression of Team America's Kim Jong Il to an Irishman
and back again. At any rate it's supposed to be a
caricature, I'm just not sure if it was supposed to
be a caricature of that many characters at once.
been an Xbox graphics sympathizer over the last few
years but yearning for the control of the far superior
PS2 Dual Shock 2, THAW is like butter on the Xbox
360 controller thanks mainly to the 4 shoulder buttons
on the new deck. Executing insane trick combos finally
feels 100% perfect as everything you need to do is
right at your fingertips. For those among us who haven't
spent a lot of time playing the latest in the series,
Neversoft accomodates novices by introducing new tricks
at a comfortable pace via various objectives handed
out by your skate posse or other colorful characters
hanging out in LA. As in previous games if you blow
a goal, you can easily do it again by pausing the
game and selecting Restart Goal. Longtime fans of
Matt Hoffman might need to wipe a tear from their
eyes as Neversoft gives us the ability to drop the
four small wheels for two large BMX ones. The control
of the bike feels very reminiscent of the Hoffman
games and that's a good thing as it was pretty tight
to begin with. If bikes and boards aren't your style,
you'll be able to run around on two legs to get where
you need to. THAW even allows you to toss your board
in frustration if you bail which, depending on fast
you mash the button, will present you with points
that you can then use to start off a new combo.
vets will definitely enjoy THAW's Classic mode which
features some already classic levels from days gone
by such as Minneapolis, The Mall, Santa Cruz etc.
As you might guess if you're familiar with the THPS
series, the infamous 2 minute time limit will be forever
taunting you to complete the various objectives. A
nice touch in Classic mode is having exactly the same
control and moves over your character as you do in
the American Wasteland portion of the game. You can
get off your board, climb ladders and execute tricks
that weren't available when these levels first appeared
in the original games.
has been refining the online portion of this game
for the last few years...at least on the PS2. Finally
Xbox and X360 owners are allowed in on the action.
Taking THAW online will definitely enhance the overall
play value. As with most online games you'll generally
have to look in the evening for people to play against
as it's a little sparse during the day. THAW features
a plethora of online and multiplayer modes, most of
which have are incredibly entertaining if played with/against
the right people. Multiplayer staples such as Capture
The Flag, King of the Hill and newcomer Pot o' Gold
are great time wasters. If you can't find more than
a handful of online/co-op modes that you absolutely
love to play, than you're extremely hard to please.
as time consuming but just as entertaining and brimming
with play value, THAW's Create modes are not only
intuitive to tinker with, but a great way to share
the love of virtual boarding with your comrades. There
really isn't anything new here but that's nothing
to complain about. Neversoft has also been refining
these modes for years now and it shows.
is sure to please almost everyone who said "WTF?"
when playing THUG 2. The story mode is fun, funny
and yet not absurd enough to wonder what drugs were
abused during development time. As mentioned this
installment will gently ease any players back into
the Tony Hawk series and while there is perhaps a
little too much handholding at times, vets can always
ramp up the difficulty as they see fit. While the
Xbox 360 is the best looking of the bunch, it doesn't
come close to showing off the power of the system
since it's a visually upgraded port from the current
gen systems. If you're playing THAW on the Xbox, GC
or the PS2 you aren't missing out by not having the
"hot system" of 2005. As I see it, Neversoft
has brought the series back from the brink of no return
in this sound and solid piece of game coding. I look
forward to the next one and that's something I haven't
said for quite awhile.
to Ride Forever: No load times. No level-based gameplay.
In American Wasteland you travel throughout the
vast urban terrain of Los Angeles including: Hollywood,
East L.A. and other landmark areas without restrictions
Player Control: More tricks and expanded controls
than ever before! New on the board tricks include
the Bert slides, Natas spins handstands, and one-footed
grinds and manuals. New off the board tricks include
wall runs, wall flips, and charged jumps.
board or Bike: For the first time, you can choose
to ride BMX bikes throughout the entire game, with
all-new physics, a BMX-specific control system and
several BMX-specific goals.
Like Crazy: Enter and explore dozens of shops in-game
to customize your gear and your look! Check out
skate shops, barbershops, tattoo parlors, and clothing
stores as you accomplish goals and earn cash.