The history of surfing video games stretches further back and wider than I ever realised. With more extreme sports titles becoming mainstream at the back end of the 90’s thanks to the likes of Tony Hawk and the late Dave Mirra, it is the surfing genre that may not have only passed me by, but you too.
Previous entries in the surfing world include Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer and TransWorld Surf, of which the latter was a launch title for the original Xbox in 2001. But the last decade has proved relatively quiet for wave goers. Until Surf World Series that is. But is it as radical as a teenage mutant ninja turtle? Or will it like, totally wipe out, dude?
Surf World Series, developed by Climax Studios brings together this generations first arcade/simulator on the waves. And with it a variety of game modes to suit both surfing fans, and those that may never have taken a board out to sea. The feel of the game definitely leans toward being much more arcade like. With scores to set and tricks to pull off, it comes at the cost of a slightly difficult learning curve. You’re faced with a not overly long tutorial, but an essential one that you can expect to fail certain requirements maybe numerous times before you can be let loose out in the open seas. But stick with this, because once you pass, the game then opens up its true potential.
One aspect you lose in Surf World Series is any sense of freedom. Once you’ve picked your wave and stood up on your board, the title becomes extremely linear. But that is by no means a bad thing. It is at this point you can start to test your skills learned in the tutorial known as ‘Surf School’, and put together your own combos to tinker with trick shots and rack up that score. At this point the title becomes much more about your own personal skill than luck. You will need to assess waves, when to hang low and when to build up speed to execute those perfect trick combos. It’s about timing, and the player focusing on the wave and environment around them. This never becomes a chore and always provides a challenge as tasks ramp up the difficulty as you progress through.
The main challenge comes from objectives, which mainly revolve around obtaining certain scores that are set through the games surf leagues. You will start in the rookie league but once you have grasped the nature of the wave, you can progress through five leagues in total. Eventually to the master league.
One area Climax Studios have shone extremely well in is the graphical depiction of the open oceans. The water glistens with realism right down to the last drop and the waves appear to act, and react as they would do. What is highly appreciative is that the water in one location will not look the same as another. So while you may be in clear blue seas in Australia, other locations may have a more clouded, murky feel to them.
The soundtrack that accompanies your surfing experience is just as enticing as its graphical nature. The two work in tandem and hand in hand with musical notes always seeming to hit the right tones to suit the situation.
One area that can not go unmentioned is the unlockables. You are absolutely spoilt for choice however, all of these lean toward the cosmetic side. But don’t fret, as you do also have the tools equipped to design your own board to show off with which offers that more hedonistic, personalised style.
There’s a lot of replay value in Surf World Series, largely owing to the arcade nature of the game. Extreme sports titles have never looked so good, and haven’t felt as appealing since those days of Tony Hawks. From someone who has never played a game in the genre, this undoubtedly has the appeal. And if you’re a boarder, it can’t be missed. Whilst there are minor areas of improvement that stop it becoming an essential purchase, such as the steep learning curve, it is by far your best option. Hang ten, dudes.
Surf World Series is available now from the Xbox Store, priced £11.99
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Surf World Series is an entry into a genre that often gets left alone. It’s appeal to the hardcore will be huge, and to those that have never taken to the board, it has the power to sweep them in with the tide too. With only minor niggles, an essential for any extreme sports fan.