|Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer
June 26, 2003 | Eddie Park
Ride 'em CowboyAs can be expected, KSPS's gameplay centers around the ability to pull off a variety of tricks. Utilizing a five button interface combined with the control stick, players will be able to pull off carves, lip tricks, jumps, board grabs, slides, and tube rides. If it's a surfing trick, it's probably somewhere in there, given that the input of several famous surfers was used to make the game.
Besides the basic tricks, KSPS also allows players to interweave smaller tricks within bigger ones. While riding inside the tube, for example, players can touch the walls, lie down on the surfboard, or do a rail grab. And of course, launching the surfer into the air opens up a whole variety of tricks, including grabs, spins, and fakies. KSPS actually allows a lot of leeway for landing a jump, rewarding players for perfect landings and indicating when a landing was sloppy.
The game also lets players know what they did wrong when they wipeout, displaying messages such as "surfing backwards," "landed sideways," and "hit the tube wall." Needless to say, I saw these messages quite often.
Rounding out the trick scheme is the special meter. Filled up by either pulling face moves or perfect landings, the meter will go from green to yellow. Once it hits yellow, players will have access to special tricks which can be pulled for big points, In addition, point multipliers and new combinations of tricks will also be available, creating opportunities for massive scoring combos.
Each surfer comes with their own trick book, meaning there's more reason to pick a favorite surfer rather than overall look or stats. Players who have trouble remembering how to pull a particular trick off need not worry, as each surfer comes with a trick book outlining the controls for all maneuvers. This trick book can be accessed at anytime, which means lousy players such as myself will spend a lot of time flipping back and forth between it and the game for at least the first hour or two.
Water, Water EverywhereKSPS is a fantastic looking game. This would be true even if the surfers in the game were stick figures, the boards looked like banana peels, and the flocks of seagulls fly upside down.
Hands down, the winner in the "graphical wow" game is the wave engine. To see a wave in action is to believe that the ocean has somehow found its way inside Mac OS X. Realism is a trite word to use in this day and age of gaming, but its difficult to find a better term to describe how the waves shift and move. The sensation of watching one in motion is incredibly fluid and really gives a sense of liquid physics. From the way a wave generates whitewash to the way it forms a tube, one has to see the things in motion to fully appreciate them.
No two waves appear to be alike either. Besides the random generation of waves within each surf break, different locations offer completely different types of surfing experiences. One location may offer slower riding waves that are easier to ride, while another location may offer huge cresting waves great for carving and jumping off of in style. Players who fully plumb the depths of KSPS will undoubtedly choose a favorite location that suits their surfing style, much like a real life surfer would.
Adding to the wave mechanics is the way each surfer reacts to a wave. The surfers interact quite believably with the water while surfing, carving vast swaths out of the side, skimming along the top, or jumping off altogether, all with very smooth animation. It's quite something to carve a reverse 360 in the side of a wave, jump off the top, pull a 1000+ degree turn, land on top of the tube just as its cresting, and slide off. In addition, each surfer boasts his or her own set of unique animations, actions, and mannerisms, all of which are modeled after their real-life counterparts.
Thankfully, we can disregard my earlier comment regarding stick figures. The surfer models are well modeled and decently detailed, with enough attention shown to body types and facial features to distinguish between them. The available surfboards are perhaps more detailed, with various designs painted on each board ranging from solid colors to eviscerated sharks. Each surf break, by contrast, is quite understated, with minimal background and muted color. This understatement actually works, however, as it stands aside and gives the incredibly wave engine center stage.
KSPS contains a lot of voice from Kelly Slater himself. He narrates practically every facet of the game, from the lengthy intro to the cutscenes accompanying each surf break. Accompanying this is the soundtrack, which boasts a variety of surprisingly laid-back songs featuring tunes that range from tropical to meditative. Ambient sound effects, including the cry of seagulls, the complaints of an overturned windsurfer, or the muffled gurgling of a surfer that just wiped out, are also in place, as is the ever-present sound of waves forming and crashing.
Included with the overall package is a series of unlockable movies. Besides the usual montagues of each surfer in action, KSPS also includes a 30 minute movie that features most of the surfers found in the game as they get together to add their ideas to the game, get caught on camera, and surf it up in Hawaii.