Surf World Series Review – DUUUUUUUUUUDE

You ever seen Point Break?

Stupid question actually, it’s an essential for anyone whether they’re a fan of surfing or of Gary Busey’s weird face. That was the film that introduced me to the concept of surfing, and seeing Patrick Swayze balance himself like a bronzed god on the board was hypnotizing, to say the least. But enough of these homoerotic thoughts, let’s talk about Surf World Series. 

As far as I’m aware, this is the first serious surfing game on the market since 2002’s Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer, which was a game I always saw but never bought. If it’s just Pro Skater but you can actually land in the water, then it’s probably good. Now Climax Studios, creators of the Silent Hill spin-offs Origins and Shattered Memories, have decided it’s time to raise the dead, with varying degrees of success.

Surf World Series starts with an opening from Tom Lowe, professional big wave surfer, who pines about how surfing “ a form of expression”. Forgive me for straying off the track so quickly, but this is an incredibly stupid thing to say. Anything is a form of expression. Eating, drinking, urinating, watching 8 seasons of Family Guyyou can make an expressive statement doing any human activity on the planet. Me ranting about “forms of expression” is a form of expression. However, it’s over before it begins, so let’s get started.

Climax is going to stick to the main guns of surfing, and that’s serious waves with serious skills attached, but never shows haste. The tutorial and its controls ease you in, and it never really hassles you to complete it. The game will always have this relaxing aura around it, and couldn’t care less if you don’t want to push yourself to the limits.

Even the soundtrack encourages you to just lay back and listen to the ocean. It’s all chipper yet calming pop-rock and folk-rock, with artists like Fight Like Apes and Silvers Got Strings setting the mood for you instantly. It gets the job done, but I personally would’ve preferred music with a bit more bite to it. Throw some Kyuss, High on Fire and Ugly Kid Joe in there, go crazy.

I think how Climax approached the atmosphere works in favour of the game itself more than anything. Surfing isn’t riding a bike, and yes, I know that sounds obvious, but I mean in execution and feel. The road ahead of the bike can be predicted, whereas the sea cannot. I also believe surfing offers more of an adrenaline rush than biking, unless you ram your BMX off of a cliff. Climax has done well to emulate the tone of surfing in what could’ve been an insanely stupid montage of “DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE”.

The general gameplay is mostly executed with flair. Tricks aren’t too hard to pull off, and gaining a rhythmic flow through the tubes comes to you with a satisfying rush. The advanced learning curve is incredibly steep, like the combo system and how you approach a jump with the right angle for the highest air, but these aren’t particularly necessary to master. In the end, you’ll probably gain a high score and feel proud of what you accomplished anyway.

The only nail that is driven into Surf World Series is the lack of gameplay variety. The only thing you can do is ride the endless waves and despite the different locations, it doesn’t offer much of a mix. You could do all sorts of challenges with this bad boy! Slaloms, Air contests, skitchin’ minigames, the list goes on. Nevertheless, the issue with Surf World Series is one of it’s many positives: The consistent tone.

You look at any other great extreme sports game out there, and they all succeed due to the insanity of the tricks that are laid bare for all to see. The Tony Hawks’ series, Amped 3, SSX, and my personal favourite, Skate 3, all survive even now due to the madness of what you can do with them. Be it Tony Hawk’s pizza-chewin’ grinds, the Miracle Whips over mega-ramps in Skate 3, and the colossal spinning of SSX, they all live and die on the scale of impossibilities that follow. Unfortunately, Surf Simply can’t follow suit.

Don’t get me wrong however, Surf is still a consistently solid experience. It makes me want to overcome my fear of the ocean, tackle waves like a radical Poseidon, and conquer the online lobbies (if anybody was playing them). Without the charm and personality of its predecessors, it simply won’t survive long in an industry dedicated to the aesthetic.

Is Surf worth your time? Kind of. As an extreme sports game and surfing game, it stands up to the crowd and can perform a nifty tune while it’s at it. But the tune is 1 minute long and it’s the only one he knows. There’s simply not enough to keep you enthralled, even if you show a commitment to surfing. Climax has the right cards to make a worthwhile game, but they don’t know how to use them.

As it stands though, I’ve wanted to see the extreme sports genre return for a long time now. Yeah, Pro Skater 5 made everyone want to commit seppuku, but that was one of few missteps for the genre. For every Shaun White title, there was one Skate or SSX to eliminate its pathetic stride. Both this genre and the rhythm-action game need to come back soon. Don’t give me the super sleek Guitar Hero Live, give me the rugged and heavy-hitting Warriors of Rock. 

Same principle applies here. Don’t give me a super serious surfing game, give me the Ocean World Destruction Tour.


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