Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer (Xbox)
Wow, that’s all I have to say about Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer. I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that a surfing simulation (albeit a rather loose one) could be so much fun.
The premise of the game is simple, pick a surfer, pick a beach and carve up the waves until your heart is content. The main selling point of the game is that you’ll never ride the same two wave twice and from what I’ve seen, this is a pretty accurate statement. Each wave breaks and behaves differently from the previous one and although you might not realize it from the start, but it goes a long way in extending the replay value of the game.
You’ll get to strut your stuff on various beaches from around the world including the famed Pipeline. As you progress through the game you’ll unlock more beaches that feature larger waves that provide more scoring opportunities. Of course each of the beaches look relatively similar to each other with the only exception coming in the background and the color of the water. There are 15 total beaches that feature varied and unique goals.
You’ll be given a small handful of surfers to choose from; surfer babes, surfing champions and of course, the Mac User himself, Kelly Slater. Each of them handles pretty similarly to each other so you’re basically just presented with a bunch of texture swapped surfers. They each have unique boards although you’ll hardly be able to check out the designs for obvious reasons. New boards are unlocked via the unlocking of goals and new beaches. Like the other “Pro” titles, the boards will warrant attribute upgrades that will help improve
Though the waves crash and behave in a fairly realistic manner but that’s where the realism ends. You’ll be able to jump off the crests of waves and perform outlandish grabs and flips with your board. Basically the game feels like Tony Hawk on waves because essentially, it is. The controls remain relatively unchanged, square for flip moves, circle for grabbing maneuvers, x jumps and the triangle even grinds on the crests of the waves. Double tapping a button will allow you to carve along the face of the wave while holding down on the d-pad will allow you to travel into the tunnel of the wave. While you’re in the tunnel you can perform various maneuvers like touching the roof of the wave with your hands or lying down on the board.
As you do more and more tricks your special meter will gradually begin to build up. When it fills and turns yellow you’ll be able to perform more advanced maneuvers like the Superman or the Darkslide. Unlike the other “Pro” games however, Slater adds a twist to the meter, while it’s flashing yellow you can perform tricks and the meter will act like a multiplier. Look at the special meter as the ‘revert’ function of Slater. If you’re good enough you can keep a line of tricks going for the entire duration of a run. There’s a catch though, if you wipeout at any time you’ll lose all of the points that you had just built up so there is a little bit of strategy involved in trying to decide when to go for another trick and when to just quit and run.
The gameplay takes quite a bit of getting used to but thankfully; Treyarch included a very helpful tutorial mode to cater to people who are too lazy to read the manual. It’ll teach you basic, intermediate and advanced maneuvers that are key to being successful in the game. The tutorial is narrated by Kelly Slater himself and will teach you the basic fundamentals of the game. It’s some of the best that I’ve seen in the genre and Slater himself is actually pretty helpful. Maybe he should start doing training videos for beginners, I bet he can give Tom Emanski a run for his money.
For a game that takes place at such picturesque locales I was expecting much more out of the graphics department, I was sorely disappointed. Though the water is fairly well done everything else looks unrefined and rather uninspired. The surfers are passable but could have benefited from a bit more work. It seems as if the player models are identical to those that appeared in Tony Hawk 3 as they have a few blocky aspects to them. The overall game looks fairly bland as well, the inanimate objects that appear on some of the levels just look horrible. For instance, there is a pier that must be jumped on one of the levels that just looks absolutely atrocious. Thankfully most of the game moves so fast that you’ll hardly have any time to notice. If you’re looking for the better visual package I recommend you pick up the Xbox version of the game. The water is rendered with amazing beauty and is light years ahead of its PS2 brethern.
I was able to notice some deficiencies in the audio department, however. The soundtrack is relatively weak and bland. I’m not a hardcore surfer by any means but I’m pretty sure that people don’t listen to Jack Johnson and Ben Harper while they’re surfing. The rest of the soundtrack is composed of some of the most generic tunes ever assembled, each of them are interchangeable with one another and really don’t do anything to engulf me in the surfer lifestyle. I was also disappointed to find that the game did not support the custom soundtracks feature. Why? This has PS2 port written all over it.
As you play the game more and more you’ll realize that there isn’t much variation between the locations. While games like Hawk are successful because they feature unique and memorable locales, Slater features repetitive beaches that feel too similar to another. If you were to pick out a level at random I would have a hard time identifying which beach it is from, everything eventually meshes together and in the end, the incentive to unlock new beaches just isn’t there. Why work hard to fulfill all of the goals when the next beach is going to be just like the last one, and the one before that, and the five ones before that?
When I look at Slater I find myself being impressed and underwhelmed at the same time. It’s a great entry for Activision O2 into the realm of Professional Surfing but at the same time, it feels too similar to their flagship title, just not as fun or addicting. Many times it’s easy to confuse this title with the other franchises and it’s just not healthy. More needs to be done to differentiate this title from its brethren in order for it to be successful in the future. A definite purchase for surfing fans and a highly recommended rental for casual fans of the sport.
Nearly identical to its PS2 brethern, Activision O2's excellent surfing simulation is an engaging experience that should appeal to all surfing fans. While the game looks a little better it loses points for the lack of a custom soundtrack feature.
Rating: 8.1 Good
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile