Players guide World Professional Surfing Champion Kelly Slater across some of the best waves that the beaches of the world have to offer in this release for the PlayStation 2 console. Slater is joined by Lisa Andersen, Tom Carroll, Donavon Frankenreiter, and several other professional surfers of international renown in this never-ending quest for the perfect ride on the perfect wave.
In terms of gameplay and style, this title falls in line with similarly themed Activision releases like Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX and the category-founding Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, featuring real-world brand names, an intuitive interface, a suitably alternative soundtrack, and a large catalog of unbelievable tricks and combos. Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer was developed by the Interactive Republic Corporation and uses a new proprietary engine to create realistic, dynamic virtual waves for the pro boarders.
Adding to the list of sports in Activision O2's portfolio of extreme sports made into games is surfing. Again following the release of their console equivalents is this, the PC version of Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer. Like Matt Hoffman and Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater is apparently a god when it comes to surfing, although I really wouldn't know. Not to worry though if you don't know anything about surfing either as Pro Surfer is a really accessible game that I would even go so far as to say educates the gamer about surfing.
Right after booting the game up, the gamer will be treated to quite a long video introducing you to Kelly Slater and the world of surfing. At the beginning of each location that you surf, you will be shown a video of the history of the location in the surfing world, and the impact and contribution that that location has made. This gives the game a nice feel of peeking into the world of surfers and learning more about the lifestyle and the locations in the game. This is definitely very interesting for surfers and non surfers alike.
The gameplay mechanics are quite similar to the other O2 extreme sports games: Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX, Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder, and of course the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. There is one button to jump off the top of the wave, another button to slide your board, a grab button, and a carve button. Each of these buttons also has a secondary function in different given situations. Using each of these buttons in different combinations, the player is able to perform various tricks on the face of the wave, and in the air when doing aerial tricks.
For those of you familiar with the other O2 games, you will immediately recognize the style of the game as there is the ability to link tricks and maximize your special meter which will allow you to perform more complicated, cooler tricks. Most gamers will probably want to take a quick run through the tutorial which explains everything as this game has a few nuances and is not just Tony Hawk on water.
One problem that the gameplay suffers from is the simplicity of the moves. Most moves can simply be executed by double tapping one of the buttons or by holding a button. By quickly mashing on the buttons, it is very easy to max out your special meter. At this point it is possible to perform a special move. The only problem is that the special moves are also very easy to perform. Overall, this leaves a fairly simple and unchallenging level of gameplay. Also, many of the moves appear very similar and the excitement garnered by mixing many different looking tricks is not there.
The greatest challenge is in landing the aerial tricks as the greatest points are awarded for landing a perfect trick. The direction of landing is what is critical here as landing a perfect trick requires the player to land at a perfect 180 degrees to their angle of takeoff. The only problem is that the angle of takeoff is very difficult to determine, and after a few spins in the air, which also adds points to the trick, it is very difficult to determine what angle at which to land in order not to fall, let alone land a perfect trick. This is primarily due to the water graphics. As good as the water effects are there are no markers so that you can tell in which direction the momentum of your character is traveling. This appears to be more of a design flaw than a viable challenge as it makes landing a decent trick very difficult not through the mechanics of the game but through a problem that will likely be experienced by most gamers.
One cool thing that can be done in the game is the ability to ride tubes. This means that as a surfer, you can ride within the crest of the wave. At this point a balance meter is displayed on screen and to maintain your position in the tube you must balance the joypad from left to right much like a grind in the Tony Hawk games. Apart from this little part of the game, there isn't a whole lot of variation in the types of things that you can do.
The layout of the game is very similar to the other O2 titles. There is a two player mode, a career mode, and single player challenge and practice mode. All the extra videos of locations and surfers that you have unlocked appear in an extras section that you can view at any time. The career mode is the real meat of the game and this is where the extra surfboards, improvement on surfer's skills and the more surf videos can be unlocked. The upgrades to your surfer's skills can not be chosen, but happen automatically when clearing a certain number of career objectives. The different surf boards that you affect your surfer's ability to perform in different ways. Some will be more built for speed while others will afford you a better carving ability.
The graphics here are really top notch with the water effects looking especially crisp. At the higher resolutions, the game is a true beauty to behold. As an added bonus as well, the system requirements really aren't that steep and even top systems from a few months ago should be fine at the higher resolutions. One piece of hardware to ensure that you have sprouting from your USB port is a gamepad as this will improve your level of enjoyment as it will afford you so much more control.
While in no way a serious contender of taking the crown of extreme sports games away from the Tony Hawk series, Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer offers an interesting look into the world of surfing. The gameplay is fairly solid, if a little elementary and repetitive, but does offer enough of a challenge in its specific career goals as to offer most gamers at least a little diversion from some of the more deserving holiday titles.
People who downloaded Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer have also downloaded:
Championship Surfer, Links 2003, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, RTL Ski Jumping 2007, MVP Baseball 2005, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, Wakeboarding Unleashed featuring Shaun Murray, Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX
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