From the first paddle developers, Climax Studios had a very challenging task, capturing the atmosphere and ‘feeling’ of surfing in a modern video game. Although a sense of freedom is absent in Surf World Series; the core gameplay, brilliant soundtrack, and atmospheric lighting all make the game a wave worth surfing.
Before you can your paddle on your own Surf World Series puts you through surf school, and although only the first three stages are compulsory I recommend you fully graduate and gain a good understanding of the different techniques and tricks at your disposal. The learning curve going into the high-score competition in Surf World Series is a little steep, but once you nail it you genuinely feel pretty awesome.
The main gameplay loop come through you completing different high-score challenges in progressively challenging leagues. There are 5 leagues for you to master over all, ranging from Rookie up to Master – the difficulty level is set based on the score you need to achieve, and this high score can increase to what seems impossible levels, especially in the Master league.
Surfing your way through the leagues will see you competing in three different events; championship, challenge and big battle. Both championship and big battle simply set a high score for you to beat whereas challenge events set out three challenges you have to complete in order to progress. These challenges carry over into the unlockables available in Surf World Series – and there is a ton of them.
All of the unlockables available are simply cosmetic, but that doesn’t mean looking good on the waves isn’t important and with the ability to design your own board there’s no doubt you’ll really stand out when cutting through the waves
The core gameplay of Surf World Series is a mix of simulation and arcade; on one hand, you have the responsive and clean controls of just riding a wave, but you also have the ability to pull off some pretty gnarly looking tricks – all of which are highlighted in the excellent edition of slow-mo. In order to execute these trick, you’ll need to use the waves physics to build enough speed, a task that feeds more into the simulation side. The seamless integration of the arcade style tricks feels right at home and offers a huge vocabulary to learn and style out.
Surf World Series biggest downfall is how linear it feels. Outside the main leagues’ campaign, there is little on offer and I really don’t like how you drop in on a wave. When prompted you’ll simply need to hold down a button until you’re prompted to release it and off you go. The drop in is no doubt one of the most fun elements to surfing and Surf World Series completely neglects that. I would have like to have seen more integration with the controller’s vibration, allowing you to physically feel the wave more and drop in on a line you choose.
A mention has to go to how well Climax Studios capture the atmosphere of just being out on the waves. This is due to both the brilliant sound track that always seems to play the perfect acoustic notes while sitting in the lush blue barrel of a wave; and the excellent use of lighting that illuminates the waves. The two best come together when competing in a sunset surf and often had me longing to be back in France with the freedom of the open waves at my fingertips.
Although Surf World Series doesn’t quite capture all the nuances of surfing, it does a great job in trying. The brilliant soundtrack and atmospheric visual make you wish you were sitting on a beach in Hawai. Although some elements of the gameplay feel too prescribed, once you’re up and on the wave Surf World Series has a lot of fun to offer with its slick simulation and over-the-top arcade style tricks.