Tony Hawk's American Wasteland E3 2005 Report

Tony Alva, berts, runaways, and a nearly seamless skate-friendly Los Angeles await you in the latest Tony Hawk game.

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Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
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Year after year, the Tony Hawk series has continued to grow in size and scope. The last two years of the game have always focused on telling a story with you--as an unknown skater that eventually gains fame--at the center of the tale. Tony Hawk's American Wasteland continues that trend, but it does so on a significantly larger scale than ever before.

American Wasteland's story mode opens with you, beginning the game as one of five preset character models, running away from home. After being harassed by the likes of the cops, your father, and your girlfriend, you've had enough, and you decide to run away from your Midwest home in favor of the skating hotbed of Los Angeles. One quick bus ride later, you hit LA and promptly get all of your belongings stolen. At this point you'll be introduced to a girl named Mindy. Her dream is to put out a skate 'zine called American Wasteland, and she sort of takes you under her wing and shows you the basics of Los Angeles. Your first stop is a clothing shop. Much like in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, your character customization is done in various stores, where you'll spend cash to change your look. You'll visit different establishments to buy clothes, get tattoos, change your hairstyle, purchase accessories, and make changes to your skateboard.

Once you're slightly better dressed, you'll set out to start completing missions. They're being called missions instead of goals because they aim to be much bigger and more involved than the goals of the previous Tony Hawk games. In any case, you'll skate around Los Angeles, starting in Hollywood, where you'll see in-game versions of popular landmarks, like the Chinese Theater, the Hollywood sign, and more. There's no final area count yet, but we saw East LA and downtown areas. You'll be able to skate from area to area, but each section will also have a bus that you can use to quickly move from one area to another. One of Neversoft's design goals is to use streaming technology to prevent you from ever seeing a loading screen. Since bus rides are, essentially, quick warps to all-new areas, they'll take a bit of time as you "ride" through a hidden load. All things considered, it looks pretty slick.

The pro skaters get into the game a little later in the story, when you'll be charged with getting them all together to support your goal. There are some new pros in the game, including one of the early skating innovators, Tony Alva.

Some of the objectives in the game will be a little more basic in nature. To get cash, you'll occasionally bump into pedestrians who will give you some cash if you can satisfy a quick goal, like pulling off six grab tricks in a minute. Other goals contribute to a ranch that you'll have access to throughout the game. With these goals, you or the people you're down with will notice a nice piece of the Los Angeles landscape that they'd really like to have for their ultimate skate park. That's where you come in. Completing a goal--in the example we saw, you had to natas spin on top of the piece for several seconds--lets your crew grab the piece and drag it off to the ranch. You'll be able to head out there at any time, and the ranch will change depending on which pieces you've collected. This makes it a skate park that's also a reflection of your progress in the game. Some objectives will change the city by getting you access to the next section. In the demo we were shown, you had to distract a cop so that an angry, Falling Down-like man could get to his car and grab his bag. You did this by completing a combo line, and interestingly, the tricks in the line actually show up in the world, so you'll see "grind" hovering above a rail and "acid drop" at the end, where you drop onto the cop's car and set it on fire. That did the trick; the man got his bag, whipped out a rocket launcher, and blasted a path to downtown LA.

On top of a story mode, the game will have a classic mode that sticks closer to the Pro Skater games. Rather than reusing segments from the story mode, classic mode will truly be a classic mode, composed entirely of updated versions of levels from previous Tony Hawk games. There's no word on which levels will make it into this mode, but we do know that the downtown level from the very first Tony Hawk game will make an appearance here. You'll also be able to play classic mode cooperatively.

The gameplay in American Wasteland contains everything that the series has done up through THUG2, and there are a handful of cool-looking additions, too. Continuing on the classic skate concept that the inclusion of Tony Alva brings, you'll be able to do berts in the game by holding down a right shoulder button and moving left or right. Berts are like manuals in that they'll let you continue combos. But unlike manuals, berts will add to your speed, making it possible to pull off really long ground combos across flat land. You'll have more options when doing natas spins now, including spinning handstands. Rail stalls will let you hop directly onto a rail and stop all your motion, essentially turning it into a lip trick. Bank transfers will work like spine transfers, but you'll be able to pick up a little speed by doing these.

Getting off your board will be more rewarding this time around thanks to a new collection of moves. You'll be able to use your board like a weapon and smack fools in their faces, and you can even toss your board. You can toss your board as part of a combo, as well, which could prove interesting. Some free-running moves have been added to the game, allowing you to run up or flip off walls. But the craziest off-board option of all is that you'll be able to ride BMX bikes in the game. If you find a bike, you can run up, hit a button, and switch to the bike. At that point, your controls change and you'll use both analog sticks to control the bike and shift your weight around. Doing a backflip on the bike is handled by just leaning back in the air. You'll have a full complement of bike tricks, both in the air and on flat land. You'll be able to work on missions while on the bike, but use of the bike is optional.

A big mess of create-a-modes will appear in American Wasteland, and for the first time, the game will be online not only on the PlayStation 2, but also on Xbox Live for both the Xbox and the Xbox 360. The game will also be released on the GameCube. The game was being demoed on the PlayStation 2, and the menu options screens revealed that the game will have widescreen and progressive-scan support.

The Xbox 360 version of American Wasteland will be available alongside the release of Microsoft's new console. The other versions will be out around a similar time frame, so expect to see all four versions on store shelves in the fourth quarter of this year.

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