- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2002

My last foray into virtually riding the waves came two years ago with a woeful game, Surfing H20, that had an extraterrestrial story line and less than stellar graphics.
Dude, things have really changed. It may have taken forever, but six-time World Surfing champion Kelly Slater has thrown his board into the extreme sports gaming arena, and his challenge will really impress all humans prone to this style of pixel popping action.
Boasting nine professionals to choose from, 30 levels immersed in 15 of the hottest surf spots in the world and the ability to never ride the same wave twice, the game does an excellent job of not only giving the player a very realistic experience but balancing it with controls that will appeal to all levels of gamers.
Opening video sequences revel in the introductions of the primary surfers as Slater declares that taking part in his sport demands that it become a discipline to be lived every day as soothing music plays in the background. I found this a nice change of pace to many extreme games that quickly induce a headache with outrageously chaotic noise.
Players are then taken out on a boat and can select from three primary modes concealed within pieces of the vessel: a Free Surf with variations ranging from trying to get a high score in three minutes to mimicking onscreen icons to perform intense tricks; a clever two-player mode with an option for surfers to compete for television space (the worst of the opponents ends up completely pushed off of the screen) and the obligatory Career mode.
Career, of course, offers the most intense competition as surfers travel around the globe, and as the player wins, he unlocks more stuff such as locales, videos and equipment. However, as a giddy novice, do I really care about the attributes of my surfboard? Will I really benefit from more height, balance or spin for my piece of waxed fiberglass? Hardcore folks may, but I just want to get wet, Daddy-o.
I began sucking water immediately as I plunged into my new lifestyle and chose Slater as my avatar. Training is highly recommended and occurs in a three-tiered course within a wave generation pool in Japan. The intense instructions hone a player's skill in the fine art of tubing (performing tricks within a wave in almost a first-person perspective), facing (riding the crest of a wave by simply double tapping buttons), carving (sharp turns across a wave) and eventually air tricks that leads to combining risky maneuvers for maximum points.
While on the subject of combining tricks, those very good at it will watch their point totals increase as well as a meter, that when it turns yellow, allows for an even higher level of insanity.
The game definitely utilizes the power of the Xbox by presenting gorgeous water graphics frothing and spraying about, extremely realistic humans and expansive landscapes. Surfers always grunt in agony as they wipe out and can be seen going under the water to a bubbly humiliation with fish swimming by as the controller trembles.
Other features include a decent selection of music with even Jane's Addiction front man Perry Farrell offering a track; a chance to watch a 30-minute video with Slater; and a scrapbook of photos that ends up as virtual magazine covers to tout a surfer's accomplishments.
Overall, Pro Surfer offers a breath of fresh ocean air to a gaming genre bogged down by maniacs riding skateboards, bicycles and snowboards.


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