Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Activision

GameCube/PlayStation 2/Xbox

****

Overview: Midwest Johnny takes a journey to Los Angeles to avoid being hassled by the police. (Pretty funny, because in reality it’s easier to skate in the Midwest than in L.A.)

Gameplay: T.H.A.W. walks you through Story Mode, unlocking the various skateable areas of L.A. and introducing different skills and tricks along the way. Most of the objectives are rather simplistic and shouldn’t take more than a couple tries to complete. T.H.A.W. has added a couple things—like Bert slides, and BMX bikes are available to jump on at any time.

Graphics: Each area of L.A. is pretty large, and the possibility of linking combos is very high. The modeling of the levels will have you recognizing famous skate spots, like Hollywood High among others.

Sound: Interesting soundtrack with High On Fire, Venom, Dead Kennedys, The Doors, Pig Destroyer, Prefuse 73, D.R.I., Public Enemy, Mötley Crüe, 7 Seconds, and a few mediocre bands doing classic punk covers not worth mentioning.

Entertainment: For the Tony Hawk professional thumb player, this game will be cake, but if it’s your first time playing, T.H.A.W. impresses with a big bag of tricks and a big new feature: no load times.—Eric Sentianin

The Warriors

Rockstar

PlayStation 2/Xbox

*****

Overview: Well, it’s the video-game version of the movie, and if you ain’t seen the movie, you’re slippin’.

Gameplay: Basically, you’re kicking the shit outta people all over New York City. Coney Island is home turf, but there’re dozens of gangs in the five boroughs to bop through. Don’t think it gets repetitive: You can also jack cars, smash up jewelry stores, mug pedestrians, and handcuff hookers. Just watch out for cops—actually, you can whoop them, too.

Graphics: Permanent midnight in the slums of Gotham is the perfect setting for this surreal gang warfare. Even with twenty or so brawlers going at it on-screen, the action never slows—it stays quick and responsive, which is key for the fast-paced hand-to-hand beatdowns. There’re nice little slo-mo close-ups, too, for those stylish brick-to-the-heads or straight-up curbings.

Sound: The same eerie soundtrack from the movie wafts through the air as the Wonder Wheel looms high above the carnival booths. And boy are those Warriors a bunch of potty-mouths!

Entertainment: One of those games where you wonder where your night went—and your social life.—Blair Alley

Star Wars Battlefront II

Lucas Arts

PlayStation 2/Xbox

*****

Overview: The sequel to one of the most popular Star Wars titles ever makes slight improvements on its already successful infantry team-based third-person shooter.

Gameplay: Playing as part of the infantry during land battles, you take out the opposition by capturing command posts or completing specific objectives depending on the single-player game mode. Because you’re part of the infantry, if you’re killed in battle, you’ll re-spawn as another player to continue. The space battles are of epic proportions: Jump into a choice of an X-wing, Y-wing, or a Tie Fighter to destroy the massive Star Destroyers, land in its hangar to sabotage the ship from the inside, or engage in a dogfight.

Graphics: Excellent quality with a great sense of scale in space and on the planets of Mos Eisley, Degobah, Naboo, Tatooine, Hoth, and others from all six movies. On land, jump onto beautifully modeled speeder bikes, AT-STs or AT-ATs. Act out your own Star Wars fantasy.

Sound: Orchestral soundtrack of theme songs from Star Wars flicks.

Entertainment: Highly entertaining. Could convert you into a Star Wars fan (if you aren’t already).—Eric Sentianin

Top Spin

2K Sports

PlayStation 2/Xbox

**

Overview: Tennis simulation game with Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer.

Gameplay: The load times are horrific, but once you’re playing, the movements are realistic and responsive. In the career mode, you can build your rank and skill by completing challenges with specific skill coaches and by winning tournaments.

Graphics: The load screens could use an update from the 80s to 2006. The player modeling is average—nothing special.

Sound: The women grunt with each swing, and the umpire voice-over sounds real.

Entertainment: This game is pretty entertaining if you like playing tennis games. Could become repetitive, but then again, that’s what it takes to become the number-one player in the world.—Eric Sentianin