reviews\ Oct 9, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer - XB - Review

In the opening movie, Kelly Slater--the Tony Hawk and Mat Hoffman of extreme surfing--says that surfing is not just a sport but a way of life.  And watching Slater ride monstrous waves, the look of complete concentration and pure love for the sport, I can see that this way of life can be both satisfying and challenging.  The same can be said about Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer, this is a game that can is both enjoyable and challenging so wax that surf board and let’s hit the beach.  


There are three playing modes in this title--FreeSurf, Career and Multiplayer mode. Free Surf comes with Infinite Time (you’re free to surf without worrying about scores or a timer) and Handicap (adjusting the Handicap meter to make things a bit harder). Then there’s High Score (a timed run where gamers try to score big) and Icon Challenge (each icon represents a trick and you must perform it). 


Career mode has you choosing any of the nine surfing pros--all of them real-life pros such as Rob Machado or Lisa Anderson--and take them through various beaches that offer many challenges.  The first step is a tutorial that, once mastered, is all you really need to be comfortable with the smooth controls.  Each beach has enough challenges that range from earning big points by performing air tricks to spraying windsurfers. The more challenges you complete, the more beaches and secrets you unlock.


Multiplayer mode has three games that are fun for two-players (seen in split-screen fashion).  The first, Push mode, has gamers competing against each another until the player with the most points “pushes” the other player’s screen away.  Head-To-Head has gamers trying to earn as many points as possible to win and Time Attack is an individual timed run.


This is also one of the most beautiful looking games with the most remarkable wave and weather effects seen in a surfing title so far.  Since the waves are completely unpredictable, gamers will notice the differences in their shape and mass.  Watching the bounce of the coming wave is just so authentic that you won’t help but be impressed.  The model of the surfers are also quite striking and they are a treat to watch when they are in action.  And to add to the eye-candy is an assortment of interactive obstacles that get in your way.


The soundtrack and sound effects are also something to adore since both are excellent.  A collection of eclectic tunes from artists ranging from Pearl Jam to great underground artist like Christophe Goze is strangely fitting for a surf title.  The sound effects also work wonderfully with the action, with the crashing waves and foam practically immersing the gamer into this exotic world.


Surf’s up, sports gamers, Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer is the most enjoyable surfing title to grace any console.  While not as polished as Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, this game is still the top of its genre with enough to see and do.  My only complaint is that there could have been more challenges, but what is there is good enough.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.8
With the smoothest controls this side of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, Kelly Slater’s controls couldn’t be more exceptional.  The trick-based moves are joys to execute and while the more difficult tricks sound way too hard to perform when the game asks for said trick.  Yet there’s nothing a little practice won’t rectify and the tutorial is very detailed when it comes to giving gamers the basic idea of how the more elaborate tricks, such as Two Hand Foot Drag or Kick flips--can be performed.


Also, there’s something of a strategy in choosing the nine surfers.  Each surfer has his or her own attributes and utilizing the right one is just a question of reading their stats.  A surfer like Tom Carroll, for instance, tackles a particular wave more differently then a power surfer like Donavon Frankenreiter.


Graphics: 8.7
Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer is also one of the most gorgeous looking surfing titles available with somewhat crisper graphics for the Xbox version.  The surfer models, for instance, look even sharper and better looking not only in the replay but also during the action.  Their movements are authentic and realistic that if you narrow your eyes you’ll believe you’re watching an ESPN presentation.


Equally impressive are the wave effects that just happen to be so realistic and beautiful at the same time.  Gamers will marvel at the details of the wave as it rises in a wall of water and foam.  All around you there are schools of fish that swim by and you’ll occasionally come across other surfers trying to catch the same wave.


Sound: 8.6
Another wonderful achievement is the game’s soundtrack and sound effects that work so effectively in getting gamers in the right mood.  The eclectic soundtrack is composed of New Age world tunes to songs from Ben Harper to Perry Farrell.  With the Playlist Settings option, you can change any of the twenty-four songs available. There’s also a Surround sound option worth selecting if you have a good sound system hooked up.


The sound effects aren’t bad either considering the fact that most surfing titles just add roaring wave effects.  Here, though, the effects are more than just crashing waves.  You are surrounded by sounds of other surfers in the area, seagulls, the sound of your board breaking through the tube and the frustrated cry of your surfer when you land wrong.  Kelly Slater also lends his voice throughout the game to offer tips and to give gamers his insight on the beach itself.


Difficulty: Medium
It isn’t easy completing all of the challenges in Career mode but it is highly entertaining attempting them all, especially the last challenges that have gamers performing tricks for the cameras or jumping over obstacles.  Each beach, as Kelly Slater will tell you, has it’s own charms and challenges.  Some beaches have waves that are more difficult to manage than others.  Gamers should be able to know what board will be helpful in each particular beach.


Concept: 8.7
Not since Transworld Surf has a surfing title been so complete with various goodies and extras.  There are enough beaches and challenges to keep gamers very busy and the game’s only visible fault is that there are not enough unique challenges such as jumping over obstacles or interacting with other surfers.  More is definitely better in this case.


There are also interesting extras included in the game such as a thirty minute video titled Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer Pipeline Sessions worth watching and videos of Slater talk about the other surfers in the game.  But one of the game’s best features is the Scrapbook filled with stills of a gamers’ best moves.  


Multiplayer: 8.5
The game also offers a two-player multiplayer mode that has three different but recognizable playing modes.  There’s Push Mode, which has been seen before in Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2 and is a real treat here since the wave is big enough for two surfers out there.  There’s also Head-To-Head mode that gives gamers a certain time limit--the player with the most points at the end of the run wins.  And Time Attack is a wait-your-turn type of game where the higher a player scores, the less time the other player gets for his or her turn.  


Overall: 8.6
Action sports gamers and surfing enthusiasts that have been waiting for a true surfing title should rejoice--Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer is quite possibly the best title available for this particular genre.  With smooth controls, stellar graphics, a killer soundtrack and enough extreme challenges to make Tony Hawk jealous, this is a title sport gamers will love.  You won’t be sorry for buying it, believe me.


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