Neversoft and Activision continue to surprise every year as they consistently come up with new ideas with which to keep their hugely popular skateboarding games fresh. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland is another solid title to the franchise and brings the series to number seven. This game sees Neversoft moving away from the Tony Hawk’s Underground theme, which some fans felt was both silly and serious at the same time and tended to lose what the original games had. Another interesting decision was to feature all of the action in Los Angeles (yes, just one city - a first for a Tony Hawk title), allowing players to explore the different areas of the city like Beverly Hills and Hollywood. With no loading times and a great feeling of free-roaming gameplay – we wouldn’t be surprised to see Tony Hawk games going down this line in the future.
This time round Bam Margera is not a major part of the game’s Story Mode, nor do his antics control what your skater does. American Wasteland instead places you in the skater shoes of a nobody who for the third year in a row is struggling to make it big. With this in mind, you start off with only a very basic skateboarding ability and a very small set of moves. By meeting other skaters, some pro, some rough-cut amateurs and some skating legends, you’ll get access to new moves by completing goals set through out the city. The free-roaming aspect of the game also lends itself brilliantly to the customising of your character which is now done via stores located around the map, similar to the Grand Theft Auto series. Players can customise just about anything from decks, clothing and hairstyles. The graphics are highly polished and character animations brilliant on the current generation consoles – and only surpassed on the PC and XBox 360 (due out here in NZ around March next year).
Toward the later levels of American Wasteland, you’ll even get to build your own skatepark. Even though this feature has been in the series since the beginning - this time it is integrated into the story and creating your park is not like a map-editor, instead you will be out scavenging for stuff to add to your skatepark by progressing through the game. The whole game is packed full of extras (like BMX bikes and graffiti missions) and Neversoft have included some fun, new multiplayer modes as well.