Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, Pulisher: Activision, Formats: PS2, Xbox, 360, GameCube, Price: 39.99: Family friendly? Yes.

FANS of the Tony Hawks' series were beside themselves when they heard this new edition would be set in a free roaming city freed from irritating load times.

Sadly, that's not strictly true.

American Wasteland does have loading times but the developer has tried to disguise them by having you skate down l-o-n-g tunnels as a new level is prepared.

Certainly you can still practise your combos when travelling between areas but it does little to mask what's really happening as your console desperately tries to digest masses of information.

Another cardinal sin is the addition of a BMX bike. A bike? In a skateboarding game? Err, yes.

The control you have over your two-wheeled steed is pretty wayward at the best of times so I reckon most gamers won't bother until they have played out the boarding main course.

A story mode sets tasks that must be accomplished; you know, collect things, spray paint objects or just race another boarder.

Thankfully for Tony Hawks' newbies the difficulty level is probably a bit easier than previous outings - even the bizarrely named "sick" difficulty rating. The ease with which you can achieve your objectives makes American Wasteland a fairly quick piece of software to finish.

Veterans will appreciate some new tricks and combos can be strung together without the menace of an irritating cut scene stealing your glory.

Looks-wise it's fine on the PS2 and the Xbox 360 version looks stunning. The design of all nine levels is up to the high standards set by earlier entries in the series.

Gamers looking to spend hours on their skateboards will probably be disappointed that the promise of a free-roaming city hasn't been fulfilled.

Console owners new to the series are well catered for, though, and there's just enough to keep enthusiasts busy on Christmas Day too.

THE WARRIORS, Formats: PS2, Xbox, Publisher: Rockstar, Price: £39.99: Family friendly? From the makers of Grand Theft Auto? You must be joking.

THE accepted wisdom for a film tie-in is that the video game should appear as close to the movie release date as possible.

But given that the film on which this game is based came out in 1979 when an Atari 2600 was state-of-the-art, it's fair to say The Warriors pays no attention to general convention.

It's also quite likely that many gamers who buy this free roaming adventure won't have seen Walter Hill's street gang cult movie.

The game follows the film's plot faithfully. When the Warriors are wrongly framed for killing a rival gang leader, every wrong 'un in 1970s New York city is out for their blood. They must fight their way through the ghettos in order to clear their name.

Respect to Rockstar Toronto for not trying to up-date a movie classic (director Hill himself made this mistake when he revisited The Warriors for its DVD release and made a right mess of it). Instead the game goes back in time to the grubby streets of New York 30 years ago. The developers spent months poring over the film and examining photos of streets taken in 1979. They claim the game is historically accurate and I wouldn't like to argue: everything looks right from the music to the ludicrous clothes and dialogue.

And just like its progenitor, The Warriors is an exceptionally violent story. It's packed full of swearing, fighting and bloodthirsty death.

Unlike Grand Theft Auto, your characters have to depend on their physical abilities more than an arsenal of weapons. They kick, punch and gouge their way through each level. What weapons there are tend to be makeshift stuff like broken bottles, bars, bricks and baseball bats.

In order to drag the entertainment out a bit, Rockstar throws in a plethora of multi-player options including a cool "coin op" mode that allows a mate to join in the mayhem to fight alongside you.

Not so much a slug-fest as a thug-fest then but The Warriors is a cool way to enjoy a cult movie. My advice? Make sure you get the film for Christmas before you stick this in your console on Boxing Day - and keep it well away from the kids.

Published: 16/12/2005