The sun breaks across Kirra Point (Queensland, Australia) as you paddle out to the oncoming surf.
Following your natural God-given instincts, you paddle hard and pop to your feet as the wave crests. Riding the wave, you naturally pick up speed as the wave breaks and you find yourself in the pipe. Accelerating, you pull out of the pipe as it closes behind you and instinctively ramp off the top of the wave, catching some serious air. Slicing across the water you look back and see that you have outrun the wave. Doing a quick cutback you head towards the foamy goodness and quickly execute another cutback. Only this time you are not so lucky and the wave knocks you off of your board. Mother Nature is a hard mistress, one moment she's allowing you to smoothly glide across the water, the next moment, SMACK! That's for surfing into a sea turtle!
Welcome to the wonderful world of Transworld Surf. An extreme sport game that's part SSX Tricky and part Point Break (The Movie). Compete as one of 13 surf pros in some of the world's most beautiful and harrowing surfing locales. Learning backbreaking tricks and riding notoriously dangerous waves is only half the challenge, if you're not careful, sharks'll eat you.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
I would like to say first off, that this is the best surfing game ever (detect the facetious tone?). Personally, I couldn't believe that I was going to actually be surfing so early in my Xbox career. After a lengthy discussion with my editor, we agreed that this type of strange, not-so-common game is the kind that comes out in the latter half of a console's career, not the beginning. So it is with a certain amount of surprise that I find myself smiling about this game as I type this review.
Transworld Surf (TS) is an extreme sports game in the vein of Tony Hawk and SSX. Players begin by selecting whether or not they would like to start a Surfing Career, a single surfing session, or the Free Surf mode. From there, on all three modes, you can pick your pro-surfer and which board you would like to use. Pay attention to both the Pros and the boards as they all have varying strengths and weaknesses such as paddling ability, overall speed and handling. As I don't follow the sport of pro surfing, I cannot say with any real authority if the game makers designed the Pro surfers with their real talents and abilities. I can say, however, that there was a definite varying controllability when playing the various surfers.
First off, the career season is exactly that, a career's worth of surfing rolled into an ass-aching amount of surfing on your couch. Playing this mode, you really must be ready to work, as a series of challenges are prompted on the level start-up screen. Things like scoring 10,000 points (which is done by pulling tricks and linking tricks via combos), freeing a certain number of trapped dolphins (from fishing nets), and completing any other number of tricks/stunts/maneuvers. In the beginning, there are only three locations in which to compete. Once those locations' requirements have been met, other surfing locations will open up. Personally, I really enjoyed the challenges that were presented. Not only was this game a challenge, but it also was original in its requirements. I felt almost prideful when cutting through a fishing net with my surfboard to free a trapped dolphin (somewhere out there Ecco the dolphin is smiling). All of these challenges must be completed in a specific set time or the location cannot be beat.
Transworld Surf features a free surf mode where players can practice their surfing tricks and abilities. Here, one can practice shooting the barrel and pulling trick combinations for the big point scores. It was here that I felt I mastered the speedy kick-flip, a not-so-difficult trick that I found to be a good link trick. Doing tricks, and the basic controls for that matter, is easy to pick up and, with pop-up hints that show you even more tricks, I found this game to be very user friendly. The early complaints of the Xbox controller being too big and bulky were WRONG. This controller and this game are pure butter.
It should also be noted that there is a multiplayer surf mode, but I'll talk about that in the multiplayer section of the review.
As you surf and slice and dice the waves, an important little gauge to keep your eye on is the Karma meter. As you surf, the karma meter goes up and down depending on what kind of a surfer you are. If you take other surfer's waves (computer players) it will go down, so will harming any of the sea life or running into fishermen in their boats. Freeing dolphins from the nets and being a responsible surfer helps the meter swing towards the positive (good) side. If you are a schmuck and surf on the dark side, eventually the wave runs out and you'll find yourself out of boundaries where the sharks are. And yes, you will be attacked and subsequently eaten. It's a bit extreme if you buy into the whole karma thing, I mean, does someone really need to be eaten alive if they take another surfers wave? Well, in this game if you do that, consider yourself sushi.
Transworld Surf features a two to four player multiplayer mode where you and your friends can have a surf competition with a split-screen view. Not an entirely bad idea, mind you. But more and more, I have become an advocate of link cable multiplaying. Sadly, this particular title does not feature the link cable. However, since sometimes we must make-do, I will admit that the king of the wave section of the multiplayer mode was by far the most original. Players are challenged to see who can ride the wave the longest while pumping up the trick meter by executing tricks. Once the meter is maxed out, you can knock other surfers off of their boards by running into them or hitting them with your spray (so much for Karma).
Well, one thing is sure, the Xbox has had an impressive run of graphically sound games. Transworld Surf is another fine example of this. If anything, you will be floored with how well the game looks. Whether you're surfing at sunrise or the middle of the day, light sourcing is practically flawless. The water itself must have taken programmers many a night to get right, but it was worth it. One small surprise though, I hit some lag more than once while pulling a kick-flip. I wonder if the massive moving wave is too much for the processor to handle?
Surfers have always had the distinction of being laid back and easy going. Well, sometimes that just isn't the case. The musical selection ran the entire gamut, hard rock to easy-going ocean groove. In all honesty, my wife enjoyed the music a lot more than I did, but after playing for a while, I almost seemed to meld into the tranquil audio that accompanies the game's action. The voiceover for the surfers was a bit difficult to listen to as the surfer-dude speak talked of hard-core riders and 'rippin' it up.'
Originality / Cool Features
This is the first surfing game I have played since California Games on my Commodore 128. With a fairly successful launch title, I imagine we will see more games featuring surfing. Only the next one will probably have combat or be set on alien worlds or will have ramps and obstacles on which to perform stunts. I can hardly wait, if it's as good as this title.
My initial reluctance robbed me of two days worth of playing I could have had. Yes, I was surprised that the Xbox had this as a launch game, but after experiencing its easy controls and beautiful graphics, my opinion was changed. If you still aren't convinced that this game is something you would like to play, then go and rent it. At the very least you'll be treated to yet another graphically impressive Xbox title.
Download Transworld Surf
When this game arrived at my doorstep, I can't say I was particularly enthused, not being a gigantic surfing fan myself. I'd played other titles, and found that they either just didn't look very good or had poor control. Still, my opinion withheld, I was looking forward to trying out one of the more popular PS2 games from recent months. Just like every other reviewer, I was stunned at the quality of wave animation in Transworld Surf. It's cool and then some. Once you get used to the slightly unconventional controls, you find that surfing in this game isn't much more difficult than playing a skate or ski title, with just more combos and tricks to get used to.
The video is awesome, the audio even more so, and given how cool this game looks, you will be amazed when it plays the same. Like any sports genre title for a next gen system, there's a series of tricks and goals you'll need to pull off in order to advance your character, but you'll be able to get through it pretty easy. Once you get used to how to surf, these objectives don't present much of a challenge.
Still, with the great multiplayer features (you can free-surf, or compete with a friend in a few areas), and the free ride on any of the beaches you've unlocked in the career mode, you could play this title for quite a while and still not get bored. For any PS2 gamer that enjoys sports titles or extreme sports, I'd call this a must buy.