Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer
|a game by||HotGen Studios|
|Platforms:||XBox, PC, Playstation 2, GBA|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||8.5/10 - 4 votes|
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|See also:||Water Racing Games|
There has always been a surprising lack of professional surfing games on the market—but, nearly twenty years after its initial release, Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer is still at the top of the list. With an emphasis on the actual sport of surfing rather than minigames playing over the waves like a Mario Party entry, Kelly Slater offers players one of the few, more authentic, surf experiences. Inspired by the success of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, Treyarch (now famous for their Call of Duty Black Ops series), tried their hand at replicating the addictive fun of skateboarding, with a surfboard on the waves, instead.
It’s All About the Physics
What Treyarch realized when designing their surfing game and what many, even titles released more recently like Virtual Surfing don’t fully understand, is the waves are the main event in a game like this. Nailing the physics, the look, the sheen, the froth, the feel of the break and the barrel is the most important part of immersing players in the game. That being said, even by today’s standards, the water effects of Kelly Slater still stand close beside some of the best modern games—even those with really great wave physics like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. Conversely, newer surfing entries like previously mentioned, Virtual Surfing, has the gelatin looking water that Fallout 3 was famous for—it looks nice aesthetically, but for some reason it just feels off. Even with the limited capabilities of the systems it was released on, the pixel quality or polygon count—Kelly Slater runs at a smooth 60 fps and handles most all surfer animations and, especially, unique wave generation, wonderfully well.
Where Do We Put the Camera?
On the other hand, one of the main drawbacks is something that most surf games have struggled with—where is the best place to put the camera? Another successful game, Trans World Surf, opted for a third person perspective when paddling that zooms out when riding to get a bit more breadth of the wave. Ultimately, this is probably the best camera option for a surfing game—but Kelly Slater instead opts for a front view of the wave which allows a great scope of incoming sets, but still can feel a little limited as far as control standpoint. The points where you find yourself in the barrel are the most exciting as the camera moves to a third person close-up perspective of the character. When it comes down to it, the most immersive feel when surfing comes from that close third person perspective or the newly realized VR first-person perspective from Virtual Surf. However, the camera placement is a small gripe when the gameplay feels as varied as it does.
Embrace the Good Vibes
In an effort to cash-in on all the more extreme sports of the world Activision attempted to set up multiple franchises based around a sport-star like Tony Hawk for skateboarding, Matt Hoffman for BMX, or Shaun Hoffman for snowboarding. The wonderful twist of Kelly Slater Pro Surfer, is that Kelly Slater became a big part of the development of the game—even offering stories for some of the locations and narration throughout. His involvement allowed his own feelings about surfing to be echoed in design. His love for the sport and the ocean encouraged the construction of the wave physics, the sound design and the overall relaxed feel of the game opposed to the punk-rock vibes of the Pro Skater series.
Unfortunately, this was the only entry in the franchise, but it still holds up today as an amazing surfing video game and fans of it still hope for a sequel or, at least, a remaster.
- Multiple surf-venues
- Amazing wave physics
- Relaxed, exciting gameplay
- Simple character animations
- Limited mode variety