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Surf World Series

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Vision Games Publishing
Developer: Climax
Release Date: Aug. 29, 2017


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PS4 Review - ''Surf World Series'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 7, 2017 @ 3:00 a.m. PST

In Surf World Series, players will take to the waves to experience the thrill of pure arcade-style surfing.

After the success of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in the late 1990s, several other development houses tried to develop an extreme sports game of their own. While a good number went for skateboarding, others tried similar sports, like BMX and motocross. There were also a number of surfing games of varying quality, but none of them ever set the world on fire since the sport itself has a rather small audience, and the gameplay mechanics didn't appeal to those who weren't fans of the sport. In the previous console generation, there were no attempts whatsoever to give the sport another shot, so Climax stepped up to do its own take with Surf World Series.

Once you start up the game, you'll be thrown into an eight-part tutorial mode to learn the basics. This generally amounts to waiting for a good wave to come along, paddling to gain some speed, riding that wave for as long as possible, and performing tricks before the wave dies out or you wipe out, whichever comes first. Almost all of your tricks have you taking leaps off of the top of the wave and either performing a spin or a grab. A few have you riding along that crest for a short while or doing sharp cuts in the water. Being able to enter the tube of the wave and riding inside of it for as long as possible is also part of your arsenal, and it's usually a good way to end a run before restarting the process on the next incoming wave.

Players who are used to other extreme sports titles will find two things off-putting about Surf World Series. Instead of going behind the surfer, the camera turns to face the surfer and pulls back to give you a better view of the wave. It seems rather odd at first, but you'll get used to it rather quickly.

The second thing is the controls. Movement is fine, but tricks are entered in a way that's completely different from other titles. Riding in the tube of the wave or skimming its crest requires holding down L2 and letting go at the right time to complete the move. Holding down R2 and flicking the left analog stick down does the cut maneuver, which is harder to accomplish, despite how simple the commands sound. All of the tricks need to be preloaded before taking the jump, and accomplishing a perfect landing requires pressing L1 or R1 at the right time.

Advanced moves with the face buttons require the aforementioned preloading, and you must also fill up a meter before you can use them. On the one hand, the action seems strange since no other game does this. On the other hand, it is rather nice to predetermine what you want to pull off and then you'll only have to worry about making it to a jumping point in time to see the trick executed instead of frantically inputting the command right then and there.

After completing the tutorial, you're given three modes. Free mode is exactly what it sounds like as you can surf to your heart's content without shooting for a goal. You can choose a handful on locales to surf in and their weather conditions, from sunset to sunrise, nighttime, or raining, but none of those things seem to affect anything beyond aesthetics.

The campaign mode is your real focus, as you have over 40 different stages to work through, each with a set of challenges. The stages belong to one of three game types. Championship has you going for two runs in a locale as you try to hit the target score. Big Battle takes this same principle but lets you take as many runs as you can in a four-minute timespan, and you can average out your two best runs to beat the target score. Survival simply has you riding a big wave for as long as possible before wiping out.

The mode is pretty straightforward, as it skips all of the story and pretense, choosing instead to throw you into an event for the sake of doing said event. It also seems to go by rather breezily, and as long as you're good with the controls, you'll get through a good chunk of the events without realizing it. In a way, it's pretty mellow since the only thing you're unlocking are customization pieces for your surfer. At the same time, unless you're set on having the full suite of options for clothing and board designs, the campaign can feel more like busy work rather than something meaningful.

The online mode is where players can show off those new designs. Much like the campaign, you'll get to choose which of the three events you'll participate in against others. The good news is that you aren't forced into having human players present before starting up an event, so if you want to win every event by default, feel free to do so. That becomes a boon of sorts since there's actually no one playing this game online. If you're looking for any sort of competition in the game, you won't find it.

As far as presentation goes, the whole thing is rather soothing yet reminiscent of the old extreme sports games. The bleached tones of sunrise and sunset put some warmth on the colors and make the whole thing look like a classic postcard. The waves behave pretty realistically, with a physics system that feels right and easy enough to handle. The color scheme also does a good job of hiding the fact that these models aren't the most detailed. They look fine but aren't the best examples of what can be done in Unreal Engine 4. Meanwhile, the ambient sounds of the waves contribute to the sport's calm vibe, and the soft rock music adds to that feeling. The soundtrack is full of a bunch of indie acts, and every song is carefully chosen to make you feel good while riding the waves. None of the artists are wildly famous, but don't be surprised if you find yourself putting a few tracks on your own personal playlist.

Surf World Series is a decent game for those who want to surf without learning how to physically do so or go to the beach. Once you come to grips with the trick system, the controls are rather good, and you'll get plenty of fun from riding the waves and pulling off some realistic tricks. For that alone, those looking for aimless fun will enjoy playing this in short bursts. This isn't recommended for anyone who's looking for a title with a long campaign or online competition.

Score: 6.5/10

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