STAFF REVIEW of Surf World Series (Xbox One)


Wednesday, September 27, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Surf World Series Box art I’ve played two surf games in my whole life before receiving Surf World Series to review: T&C Surf Designs and California Games, both were classic NES titles. That shows you how few dedicated surf games are out there. There have been a few odd ones that have released over the years, but given that it’s such a niche sport and audience, I can see why it’s never hit mainstream. I’m sure the sport as a whole is huge in its own circles, and developers Climax Studios hopes to cash in on its sectioned popularity. I won’t pretend to know much, if anything, about surfing, and given that I’m not even able to swim, I’ve never pursued it much either, so I was curious to play the game and maybe even learn more about the sport.

Upon starting Surf World Series, you’re thrown into the tutorial mode, as you’re going to need to take some time to practice how to maneuver properly on a moving wave. The basic controls work fluidly, though it took me some time to get used to the design decision that pressing right on the stick moves my surfer to the right of the screen, not necessarily to their right (as you face the front of the surfer). You’ll learn how to paddle and get momentum to stand up on your board, move across, and up and down the waves, and of course you'll learn how to do awesome tricks once you catch some air off the crests. Training takes some getting used to but you’ll be fine until you need to link a certain amount of combos together (repeated tricks back to back reset your counter).

Once you grasp the controls, you begin the campaign, though don’t expect any sort of narrative about working your way up from an amateur to a pro, as it’s simply a series of 40+ quick events in succession across a small handle of event types. There’s essentially only three types of events you’ll compete in: survival, where you need to simply last without crashing into the wave, championship, which has you needing to break a specific score barrier to succeed, and battle, where your average score is taken over a set time. It sounds basic because it is, and survival is simply beating the boredom of the timer, as you can crash quite easily if you don't have a handle on the game controls.


You’re able to customize your surfer to your liking as well, though you’re only given a couple of choices to choose from, both male and female. You’re also able to change your outfit with a handful of options as well, choosing from different tops, bottoms or wetsuits. There are a decent amount of patterns to suit your style, and you’re also able to choose different colors and hues. The more you play and progress through the game the more different patterns for the clothing you unlock. It’s very minor, but at least there’s something for you to constantly work towards aside from the campaign progress.

For being a game based on, and in, water, I was hoping to see some amazing looking water systems with unique physics. Very few games have gotten water to look very realistic, even less has it interact in a realistic way as well. Unfortunately the water in Surf World Series looks and reacts mediocre at best. There isn’t much detail in the crests of the waves, or mist of the water, so it was a little disappointing considering it should have really been the showcase of a surf based game.

You’ll travel the world across different locales, though each of the counties don’t feel any different aside from the slightly different backdrops. Brazil, USA, Portugal, Australia and more are a few of the places you’ll surf at, but again, each looks exactly the same as the rest, so don’t expect varying scenery from one country to the next. Your camera viewpoint is constantly facing towards you, looking out to the sea, so it would have been nice to see other views of the closely approaching beach to change things up.


As a whole, there’s a constant surf vibe to the overall package. The menus have gorgeous sunsets and a warm pallet, looking like photos with filters you’d take on your phone. Musically, the game also has the whole surf vibe as well, with calming soft rock. It would have been nice to have some popular licensed music that I’d recognize, but even audibly there’s a warm feeling to the game as well.

The tutorial will give you the basics of how to perform tricks once in the air, but it will take some time to really grasp how to do it naturally, without having to think about it ahead of time. Essentially, you need to queue up your tricks ahead of time and you only have a short period before you launch off the lip of the wave, as it will automatically perform the trick based on the combination of buttons you press beforehand.

It’s a little odd that spins midair are performed with a pre-queued bumper press instead of rotating the stick, and perfect landings are based on a button press as well. You can add grabs to your tricks with button presses mid-air, but it adds a little more complexity, as you’re going to need some finger dexterity to string together tricks before the combo meter ends. I was quite good at doing complex tricks in Tony Hawk games, but doing them in Surf World Series seems much more complicated than it needs to be with the pre-loaded moves while having to avoid the crashing waves.


What really surprised me was that there’s an online mode for you to compete with your friends. After 2 days of trying I’ve been unable to find a single person playing online, so don’t expect to find much competition unless you have a friend that’s also going to pick it up. I applaud the effort made, but from what I can tell, there’s essentially no community playing this in any substantial way to be meaningful.

Surf World Series sets out what it intends to, as it’s a surfing game meant for fans of the sport. Is it going to have broad appeal to the masses that don’t surf? Probably not, as its counter intuitive controls tend to hold it back, even though the overall theme has the perfect surfer vibe to it. After an hour or two of gameplay, you’ll have experienced everything Surf World Series has to offer. There’s only a handful of achievements to be had and the career progression is about as bland as it comes. It may be a decent title for those specifically looking for a surfing game, but that’s a very narrow and niche market. If you’re not in that very precise demographic of the targeted player then there’s not much here for you aside from a slight distraction for a few hours of awkward controls.




Overall: 5.5 / 10
Gameplay: 5.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10

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