There was a time when extreme sports games were all the rage. It seemed that every developer was in on the genre in some way, having some variety of skateboarding, BMX, or surfing games. Tony Hawk of course was the king of the castle, but Activision put out a few other extreme sports games, including Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer. It was a pretty simple, but fun, arcade surfing game. It’s been years since it came out, but playing Surf World Series has reminded me of the fun I had with Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer all those years ago.
Surf World Series is basically an arcade surfing game with an emphasis on a pick up and play setup, but it has a trick system that allows for lengthy combos and high scores. When you start up the game, you head out on a lengthy tutorial, that caused a little tedious by the end, but it does teach you all that you need to know to play the game well. As your little surfer sits out, you wait for the right wave to come, and then start paddling in to eventually start your run.
The controls when you are playing are fairly tight for the most part but they take a bit of getting used to. As you carve and swerve along the surface of the wave, gathering momentum, you can do a number of tricks. The meat of it will of course be your spins and grabs. There are grabs you can easily pull off as you launch in the air, and you can rotate as you take off, but it’s best to preload your rotation. Additionally, the flashier tricks can only be done as you build up your trick meter, and then you enter in a three button command before you take off into the air. This can lead to some very impressive moves, but you do need to be aware of your speed and how you are taking off and landing. It’s very easy to botch a landing if you don’t have enough air, but thankfully you are penalized mere seconds if it happens. There is a decent variety to the tricks, and it’s easy to build up combos and get a good chain going.
The character models look decent enough, and there’s a bit of a variety in the game. However, I feel that Surf World Series could have handled it a bit better. It would have been nicer to see more than a half dozen characters, or at the very least a character editor, to let you create yourself in the game. Hopefully in the sequel, they will add a character creator or at least an editor for the available surfers. Despite not having this feature, the game does feature a fairly hearty unlockable selection, to keep you playing. Much like a game like Titanfall 2, you play and unlock new patterns for your shirts, shorts and boards, allowing for some customization. While many will be playing to beat high scores and earn spots on leaderboards, it’s nice that along the way you can unlock some pretty cool customization options, so there’s that at least.
As far as how Surf World Series looks, well its five locations are fantastic to see. You’ll be surfing in America, Brazil, South Africa, Portugal and Australia, and each beach is noticeably different both visually and in how the waves come in. The water looks fantastic, with some pretty decent effects in play, and there are a number of periods in the day that your runs will take place in. The soundtrack as well is pretty spot on, with some great indie and surf type tracks that really fit the tone of the game, and the music supervisor deserves a raise for the selections picked for Surf World Series.
So, all of this sounds pretty good, correct? What could go wrong? While I did enjoy my time playing the game, it just felt a little lacking. Even with some variety in what happens in one of the five beaches you surf at, it really did start to feel a bit repetitious. It was potentially that combined with the limited game modes. There’s a single player mode with about forty-five challenges to take on, and usually each challenge will be one of a few different varieties: things like make it to the end of the wave without wiping out, or a big heat challenge where you are just trying to get a couple of high scores to proceed. There is some online, where you can play with friends, or just open up and play with strangers, but basically you’re still just surfing solo and seeing where everyone’s score ends up. With a limited trick set, and the five beaches, and handful of surfers, it just got a bit old during extended play sessions. If I wanted to just play a few rounds, and pick it up and go for about fifteen or twenty minutes, it was gold; longer than that though, I would just lose interest.
Climax Studios have done a very good job with Surf World Series, and it’s worth picking up if you’re a fan of the genre. While I don’t think it has enough legs to last through extended gaming sessions, it is great for some pick up and play arcade surfing action. The beaches do look gorgeous, and the clothing and board unlockables will keep you playing for quite some time. If you long for the glory days of extreme sports, Surf World Series is worth a look, but maybe for the more dedicated kahunas among you.
A PlayStation 4 code of Surf World Series was provided by Vision Games Publishing for the purpose of this review.