Written By Shaun McCracken

When you look at all the extreme sport releases so far, you kind of wonder what they haven't done yet. We have skateboarding, snowboarding, motocross, BMX, and even surfing. There have also bee many games done by different companies for each genre, and each with their own end result. The surfing genre is probably the one genre that has never had a critically successful game. I think the best surfing game up to the point of KSPS was the surfing game in California Games for the Lynx. And that's pretty old. Transworld Surf made a moderately successful surfing game, except I heard it had problems with the design of it's camera. So, what better time than for Activision to do a surfing game. They did skateboarding, BMX and snowboarding, so this seems like a natural move. Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer may be the best video representation of the sport to date, but when you look at the other "extreme sport" games, this one seems a little behind. Perhaps it's due to the nature of the design, since surfing is a little more restrictive than land sports.

KSPS is pretty much THPS in the water, minus the ability to do rail tricks and other things you can do on land. Plus, Activision claims "you never ride the same wave twice", so your "terrain" changes from time to time. It was like comparing Wave Race to a street racer, the dynamics on your racing surface are two different worlds, and provide two different experiences. Same goes for here. It takes a little more thought and quick thinking to execute your tricks in the ocean, and makes for something new to get in to. The trick system is designed kind of like it is in the Tony Hawk series, although it's fitted for surfing. You can still link tricks and fill a meter for a special move, but you really can't connect everything with manuals or rail slides. It's great that the developer knew this, and didn't try to cram a trick system that doesn't work in a different environment like the developer's of Shaun Palmer's Pro Boarder did.

In terms of stage design, it's thought out rather well. You have a main goal that needs to be accomplished, and sub-goals to accomplish for extra items. Your goals can range from achieving a certain score, to photo ops, to knocking people over. Some things, such as jumping over the pier, are a bit tough to do. Most of the goals seem fair, and doable. While the whole game seems similar stage by stage, since really you're always in water, each stage has different wave heights and direction. Some stages you will not be able to do tube tricks, while others may have large wave heights. Then you have the different objects and varying weather conditions. Before you start a new stage, you have a video (horribly compressed) which shows the real-life location, and Kelly Slater rambling and reminiscing about that location. Seemed kind of odd to me, and we could have done without it, quite frankly.

Graphics in KSPS are not stellar, but they get the job done. The water texturing looks great in most stages (although Wave Race Blue Storm still has the smoothest and best moving water and waves). It's pretty much all you see, with the exception of some objects in the stage. The player models are decent and have smooth animations, but for some reason in many of the Activision sports games I've played, the models look pretty beaten up. Maybe it's the colors in the texturing, I don't know. There is some slow down, mostly when you go near the area where the water sprays from the wave. Why the game can't handle this is a mystery, seeing how Burnout 2 manages to churn out some complicated particles and still keep the frame rate stable. The splash effects when a player bails is not so pretty. It's a pixelated effect, much like what we were treated to in the GCN version of SpyHunter. At least here, it only occurs in that effect.

A note to Activision, and any other company that uses Bink Video. Stop using it! It horribly compresses video and sound. I've seen some pretty sharp video in GCN games, such as MK Deadly Alliance, NHL Hitz 2003, F-Zero GX and Bloodrayne. The audio doesn't suffer in those said titles, either. But companies who use Bink Video end up with tinny sound and awfully compressed graphics. I've seen this in THPS 4, Smuggler's Run Warzones, and the tinny sound heard in Robotech Battlecry, as well as pretty bad video and sound quality here too. The company would be better off doing the video themselves without the middleware.

The sound in KSPS, with the exception of the video, is clear and not too bad. Good ocean sounds and effects, but the effects do not change that often. The music is ok, but really laid back. It's kind of the opposite of what you would hear in other extreme sport games. And once again, it's a soundtrack with music I've never heard of.

KSPS is not a bad game, but not a perfect one. It's a different offering in the extreme sports genre, and it's a welcome one at that. While I have yet to try Transworld Surf Next Wave, I think it may be safe to say that this is the better surfing game, just because of a tighter camera and a good trick system. But compared to games such as THPS 4, SSX Tricky, and Aggressive Inline, Kelly Slater just doesn't have the same compelling gameplay or design those said games have. Also, there's the lack of a custom surfer and a park editor mode (of course, how would that work here?), which kind of pushes back the appeal somewhat. But, it is easy to get into, much easier than I thought. It's an intuituve and good handling game with a decent design, and I think those who enjoy the genre may appreciate this game. Like I said, it's a different offering, much like Aggressive Inline was.



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KSPS fills in an absent genre with a solid effort, but it lacks the mainstream appeal that the THPS games have.

Surfing H30

As far as surfing games go, this is probably the best one. Now if compared to other extreme sports titles, well, the THPS games stand better, as well as SSX Tricky.

2003-2006 SPM

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