Review by Fastkilr
"Let's give this a seventh try..."
There's one thing that can be understood by everyone coming into American Wasteland: they'll know before they even pick up their remote whether or not they will enjoy the game. Removing all the stale elements from their late Underground series, Neversoft has divided their Classic mode with their hybrid Story mode to create a behemoth Hawk meant to be the Seventh heir to the crown. Even with sketchy competition such as Thrasher looping out as quickly as it came on the Playstation and a host of other generic skater-games, American Wasteland leaves our protagonist's wide-open-pastures and breaths the carbon monoxide of California for some heavily GTA-inspired inspiration.
Hey, look what we can do, cries Neversoft as they introduce a few new ideas that feel somewhat burrowed from the more-recent-than-not San Andreas. New BMX engine? Expansive intertwining so-cal environments? Character development (clothes, gear, and hair) through the story mode? It sounds like last year to me. Now that customization has swept the gaming world off its feet, we have to rely on that to get us by. But when we start up Wasteland we soon realize our customized character cannot even be used on Story mode, which was my favorite thing about THUG one & two.
While I do appreciate the Animal Crossing-meets-Grand Theft Auto endless expansiveness that this new installment induces; it's not like I don't want a break every few hours, or something. The way our story mode is presented is non-stop action in between monotonous poorly-dubbed cut scenes, and a load of unnecessary missions. These range from tearing up all the surrounding monuments in order to create a massive skate park, to grinding on high-up railing only to bank drop down onto a police car resulting in its fire enthused ignition.
Challenging mostly in its lack of clarity, Wasteland feels deprived of an overlying quality the THUG games seemed to catch from their evolution from the ordinary Pro Skater games. Thankfully, some older themes have been revisited, and homage is constantly paid back to the preceding games in the series. Thankfully, the Classic mode picks up the slack from where the empty Story mode leaves off. In-fact, Co-Operative play is now available for the Classic mode which was introduced in THUG 2 in fear that Pro Skater fans weren't feeling the vibe of some shifty story.
Key gameplay consists of the standard skating missions with a bit of BMX thrown in for the hell of it. I say this because it's not so much a change to the gameplay as it is a throw-in that hopes to satisfy deprived Matt Hoffman fans that can't find anything better to play. Yet Tony Hawk is so far off in so many areas. The tricks have worsened in realism, but they've created a load of new lines that are now made possible. As long as you can put up with some non-sensical objectives, Wasteland should be reminiscent enough of the old series to keep you smiling the whole way through.
Glitched as any of the old games, more development time for Wasteland hasn't exactly paid off in spades. It's more likely to have jaded Neversoft between a rock and a hard place. With such wide-open environments, I hadn't expected so much of a graphical adventure as I received, but the PS2-like clipping that appears almost everywhere in such an apparent manner really isn't necessary these days.
Overall, this is just Hawk in new face-paint. And while it may be rather brutal to have such an unhealthy transaction between Pro Skater-to-Thug-to-Wasteland, Neversoft seems to have attracted their audience through use of GTA-like themes. California truly is a city that fostered skating, and budded the roses of loves long lost.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 11/04/05
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