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Tony Hawk's American Wasteland PC DVD-ROM

Published by Aspyr
Developed by Aspyr
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, an introduction.

Out of all the early PlayStation 2 games we reviewed, one of the most memorable was Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. It was my first contact with the series and I was very surprised to find out how enjoyable the game was, even though I don't particularly like skateboarding. The sequels flowed and we enjoyed them all. However at the foot of our review for Tony Hawk's Underground 2 we said: 'It's the sixth in the Tony Hawk series and it's still a great experience but it is becoming more predictable and the wow factor isn't there any more.' Can Tony Hawk's American Wasteland do anything to rekindle our appreciation for the series?

What's the game about?

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland combines a story mode with the traditional classic mode that you'll be familiar with if you've played the Pro Skater games in the series. The story mode revolves around you taking a skateboarder to Los Angeles. On arriving he's immediately sorted out by some nutcase locals and you're left wondering what to do next, when a rather rough looking young woman by the name of Mindy appears on the scene and points out that you look too strange and a change of appearance is the first course of action that you should take. As you would expect you'll receive challenges from all kinds of citizens in urban Los Angeles as you'll travel around the various locations.  If this all seems a little too similar to the Underground games well that's because it is. However, there are some additional tricks here and you'll also get to ride and do tricks on a BMX as well as a skateboard.

What's good about the game?

If you've enjoyed the previous games and haven't tired of the whole experience then, to put it simply, you'll enjoy American Wasteland. The PC version of the game has its advantages over its console counterparts but it also has its disadvantages too (which we'll come to in a moment). Perhaps the main plus is that an original classic mode has been included so if the story mode isn't doing anything for you, you can revert to the traditional Pro Skater style of play. Here you'll have to complete a certain amount of challenges (such as the highest trick score, pro score and sick score as well as finding the letters to spell SKATE). As before, the levels are timed so you won't be able to hang around. Some of the classic levels from older games have been included too. In fact the classic mode feels much more focused, and in many ways more enjoyable, than the rather limp story mode. Two-player modes and online play have been included too (you can play the classic mode in co-op if you wish) and there's a variety of familiar games to take on your rivals with.

What's not so good about the game?

Whilst the game is on the PC and does support higher resolutions the graphics are poor and it smacks of being a quick port from a console, which is disappointing. The default keyboard controls feel very awkward, although thankfully they can be changed. You can configure your joystick too. Whilst it's great being able to select your control configurations it's very irritating that the tutorial messages that you'll encounter in the story mode don't take into account your new control system. In effect this makes the tutorials pretty pointless if you've changed your control configuration.

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland whilst being a good game (putting the aforementioned problems aside for a moment), simply won't revive your interest in the series if it's been flagging of late. It's beginning to feel like a dead horse that's been flogged for too long and it's probably time to either wind the series up or at least take a few years rest to allow the developers plenty of time to create a fresh experience. In some areas American Wasteland simply isn't as good as previous titles in the series. Character customisation options have been significantly reduced, which is disappointing. The quality of the story in the story mode also leaves a lot to be desired and doesn't really do enough to keep you playing. Whilst the addition of the BMX tricks is fine, it doesn't really do anything to make the game more appealing.

How does it look?

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland looks ugly on the PC and looks like a game that's years old. Cranking up the screen resolution does nothing to hide what is basically a no frills console port. Whilst this quality is fine at the standard TV resolution, it looks pretty nasty on the higher resolutions. The character models in particular won't be doing your expensive graphics card any justice. Even with high quality shadows and anti-aliasing enabled, the game still looks poor. Textures look particularly blotchy and the level of detail on the whole is disappointing. Even with distance clipping disabled you'll still see various objects and people pop-up as you approach them. Yes, the frame rate is smooth and there are no apparent loading times between areas but this does nothing to hide the fact that the game could have looked a heck of a lot better, on even a modest PC specification.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Subtitles can be enabled in the options menu and as a result you'll be able to follow the dialogue in the story mode. The subtitles are clear and easy to read but occasionally the subtitles are not word for word with the speech. Objectives in both the story and classic modes are shown in text and you can check up on them at any time from the pause menu. Unimportant comments from characters in the levels, comments that aren't giving you instructions, are not subtitled. Although there are a few omissions on the whole, the game shouldn't cause deaf gamers any problems.

Final thoughts.

Despite there being a few differences in Tony Hawk's American Wasteland the game just feels too much like it's more of the same, despite the addition of being able to ride on a BMX to perform tricks. The game has stuck fairly close to a tried and trusted formula for too long now and despite a few tweaks and additions here and there, the sequels aren't really offering anything we haven't seen many times before.  In the developers defence though, it's difficult to suggest how the formula could be changed significantly enough to make it feel like a fresh experience. Those waiting for the PC version in the hope they would see improved graphics will be very disappointed, although where load times exist (outside of the story mode) they are much shorter than anything you experience on a console. In short then it's essentially a good game but it's really just more of the same and it doesn't really take advantage of the PCs superior hardware.

Overall Game Rating: 6.9/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Tony Hawk's American Wasteland is a disappointing seventh title in the series that just isn't offering anything substantially different anymore. This is a rather lacklustre PC port too.