Those who know me know that I pretty much owe my career as a strategy guide author to this series. Not only did I base the writing sample I submitted to BradyGames on one of the levels in the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, but I did so just as the series and its various spinoffs were really taking off. As such, I've authored the guidebook for every game in the series since the release of Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3. In other words, five books for five different Tony Hawk games. So I'll forgive you for thinking that I'm a bit biased in my opinion of the series. I love it.
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland is what I would consider to be a bit of a mix between the original "Pro Skater" formula and that of the recent "Underground" installments. The game features a far more compelling story than the recent games in the series, but still retains the sense of humor and expansive levels that Neversoft has always included. In THAW, players are free to skate all over Los Angeles (without any load times) by skating through small tunnels and corridors that connect one neighborhood (i.e. level) to the next. The individual levels are quite large and feature tons of objects to trick on, with each area resembling a distinct Los Angeles neighborhood.
Although I've already played the game through to completion, I'm still going to buy a copy of the game for one reason -- Xbox Live. I've played the THPS series online with the PS2 in the past and always found the experience fun, but the act of getting online cumbersome. Now with Xbox Live compatibility, it will be as simple as popping a kickflip down a ten-set.
I definitely recommend Tony Hawk's American Wasteland to those who are either big fans of the series or those who haven't purchased a game in the series in a few years. If you know for a fact that you don't care for skating games, then it's probably not for you. But if it's been a while since you last played one, you might want to give it a go. As far as my personal ranking of the game within the series is concerned, I still hold THPS4 as the very best in the series, but this may knock THPS2 out of second. If for no other reason than the Xbox Live functionality.