There’s nothing quite like a good extreme sports game and since it was announced, I’ve been pawing at a chance to get my hands on Surf World Series. Now I’ve finally had the chance to get neck deep, I must say I’m pleasantly surprised, yet somewhat underwhelmed.
Surf World Series is an extreme sports surfing game where players can take to the waves in several iconic locations around the world and pull off some impressive tricks whilst trying to wrangle the unpredictability of Mother Nature. On paper it sounds impressive, like the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater of surfing games, however once you begin to get into the core of the game, you realise just how limited this game can be.
So diving right in you’re introduced to the tutorial, and I’ll be honest, you NEED to play through the tutorial because Surf World Series is quite a complex game, especially for those not too familiar with surfing. With this game there’s so much you need to pay attention to both with the controls and what’s actually happening on screen, you’re often left frustrated at the entire thing.
What would make this game much less frustrating however would be the ability to get right back into it once you wipe out – because we’re all going to fall off at some point, right? However each time you wipe-out, you not only reset, but you also have to get through a handful of menus before you’re back in control of your surfer. This can be even more frustrating when you have to spend those additional five seconds navigating the menu when you’ve only got three minutes to set a high score.
Now, for the controls, the game uses the face buttons to perform simple grabs as well as combinations to perform more complex tricks. The left stick is used for movement which in combination with the triggers, makes things move a little swifter. Combine that with the bumpers, which act as your rotations, there’s a lot of use of that controller which seems almost unnecessary. Adding to that Surf World Series requires the us to pre-plan a lot of these tricks.
Once you’ve raised enough of your skill bar to perform the more complex button-combo tricks, players have to tap three of the face buttons, while also timing it right to get high enough for the trick to pull off. The same goes with rotations, players press the bumpers before performing the trick to nail a rotation. Adding to this, bumpers also act as an additional bonus when pressed at the right time after a trick is performed. Though it’s not difficult to achieve, it really is difficult to master.
Now, I’m someone who’s had a lot of experience with the Tony Hawk series and this MAY be my downfall with the game as I naturally fell into that rhythm with Surf World Series. It took a bit to shake pressing certain buttons for certain actions. That being said, once you’ve spent a good half-an-hour or so attempting the same thing over and over, you will get into a swing of things with the controls and things do start to come naturally, but this is just the tip of the wave in Surf World Series.
While the control scheme does require a lot of attention, it’s also worth mentioning that the screen also needs a lot of your focus because of the level of realism the game portrays, and don’t get me wrong, this is fantastic. Not only do you have to time waves correctly, each wave has a certain life-span, and each wave can be fairly unpredictable with the arching coming in at sporadic moments. However, it requires you to not only pay attention to how much the wave has left in it, but also where these hazards are incoming, while also making sure you don’t over-shoot the wave, or lose the wave entirely by straying so far.
As you can probably expect, you don’t have an entire skate-park at tour disposal, instead you’re given a very small amount of space to work with for each wave. Given the more complex nature of the controls as well as this small real estate, you can feel fairly claustrophobic when attempting strings of combos. The level of unpredictability also comes into account when trying to figure out when your surfer is going to catch some air. In skateboarding games you know where the edge of the ramp is, however in Surf World Series the tip of the wave seems to vary as there are times where my surfer catches some air even without my instruction.
It’s this overwhelming level of attention that Surf World Series craves, that leaves you often shouting at the screen when you think you’ve gotten to grips with everything only for your surfer to shoot off screen and “lose the wave”. What’s more the game becomes pretty fast paced and trying to nail a three-button trick whilst also getting enough air to successfully pull it off can be somewhat of an art form. While there are some pretty great “YES!” moments there are far too many “AW COME ON!” moments to keep me glued to the game.
Where the game really shines though is the visuals. Of the five locations available, each one has been given some incredible attention to detail, so much so that even the dingy waves of the UK look somewhat appealing. Visually, this game is fantastic, even if for the most part you’re spent staring at the sea.
Another area in which the game shines is its soundtrack. Developers Climax have managed to nail the games soundtrack here giving an almost nostalgic feel to classic extreme sports titles. Given that a soundtrack is usually the most celebrated part of these games, Climax should definitely pat themselves on the back for this one.
Overall Surf World Series is a game which you can easily dip in and out of, but it does become fairly repetitive and frustrating for longer sessions. It’s a game that’s difficult to master but quite pleasing to the senses. However, I’m sure it’d be quite enjoyable for those really into the sport. I on the other hand, prefer dry land.