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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

My view: 'Tony Hawk's American Wasteland'

By Jeremy Castillo
Special to The Advertiser

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5 Outstanding: Add it to your collection now. A must-have.

4 Great: Buy it or rent it definitely play it.

3 Good: Worth playing despite some flaws.

2 Fair: Unless you're a fan of the license or series, don't bother.

1 Poor: You'd have more fun playing Pong.

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Game: "Tony Hawk's American Wasteland"

Console: PlayStation 2; also out for PC, Xbox, Xbox360

Developer/publisher: Neversoft/Activision

Genre: Skateboarding

Number of players: 1-2; 6 online

ESRB: Teen

Premise: You, a nameless skater, are from the Midwest. Tired of living in the Middle of Nowhere, USA, you hop on a bus to Los Angeles. On arrival, you're met by Mindy, a raspy punk-rock chick who pities you and offers to show you around the city.

Game play: Just like the "Underground" installments of the Tony Hawk series, "American Wasteland" has two modes of play: story and classic.

Story mode is where most of the fun is. Choose one of five ragtag skaters on the road to stardom and legend Tony Hawk's skate tour; start by improving your appearance, including your ensemble and hairstyle. After that, learn the ins and outs of the game's controls through unorthodox tasks such as performing a heel flip over movie star Ben Whoffleck and sabotaging a feminist anti-fur protest.

There are tasks to be completed, such as earning money to expand your wardrobe and gear collection, learning to ride BMX (which plays exactly like the Mat Hoffman series) and helping graffiti artists pretty up Los Angeles.

Classic mode appears again in all its glory, sure to bring smiles to the series' longtime fans. All of the familiar tasks are here (Find the Secret Tape, Get the High Score, Collect S-K-A-T-E), as well as new ones such as linking moves together to spell C-O-M-B-O. The developers brought back some classic levels as well, including Minneapolis from "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2."

For the design-inclined gamers, there are plenty of creation modes to keep you happy. You can customize your own skater, skate park, skate trick and now a custom graffiti design to use in story mode.

Good/bad: Activision has been touting the absence of loading screens in "Wasteland." While it's by no means the best thing about this game, it surely helps keep the fast pace of skateboarding and is quite the feat, considering how much stuff goes on.

Also, story mode does a good job of weaving instructional cutscenes into the game play. Having to watch them from the beginning after failing tasks can be time-consuming and repetitive, but it's better than guesswork and trial-and-error to get things done.

The one red flag for this game is its soundtrack. Many of the songs are good, but the mix of classic rock, alternative and emo throws off the flow and makes for a confusing listen.

My take: "American Wasteland" is a great game that does what it set out to do. It still lacks the charm of the "Pro Skater" parts of the series; with all the additional features, the core game play is put on the back burner. But on its own merit, this is a great game and worth the time you're willing to pour in.

Jeremy Castillo is a student at Windward Community College and editor of the college's newspaper, Ka 'Ohana.