Surfing H3O Review
It's hard to believe that with games like Midnight Club: Street Racing and Smuggler's Run, Rockstar Games would succumb to owning publishing rights to a game like Surfing H30. When first shown in early February, I was thrilled to see the game, and I thought that the surfboard controller add-on was a sweet touch. It was looking like Surfing H30 would be an exceptional playing game, and plus it was being released on the PS2. There are little to no surfing games on consoles, and the only one worth noting is Championship Surfer for PSOne and Dreamcast, which is quite a good game, so I've heard. Read the full review of why playing Surfing H30, feels more like surfing on sulfuric acid.
This is supposed to be next-generation visuals? These graphics look like they just escaped the alpha stage, and are moving into being made prettier, polished up, and then finalized. But Surfing H30 stops right around the alpha stage, the character detail is very sparse, the out-lining is rough, grainy and jaggy. Now I know we've seen aliased games before such as Ridge Racer V and Moto GP, but their aliasing wasn't as noticeable, the jaggies were there but you would have to look really close. ASCII did a terrible job of making the character detail even decent, they just look plain stiff, I can't say anything nice about them. On the other hand, the waves look pretty cool, and yet again on the other hand the water looks just plain, and can't compete to the liquid visuals we've seen in a game like Ecco the Dolphin for Dreamcast, now those were beautiful liquid visuals! There are no special environments to awe at, since the camera never shows them, so that leaves me to believe that there are no environments, but just average looking water. The bottom line here is that the visuals are far below average.
Talk about boredom, not only is the learning curve in H30 downright ridiculous, but the game experience itself is nothing surfing at all. The camera angle is set up incorrectly, therefore controlling your surfer is a chore rather than amusement. The surf board (which comes with the game) snaps in on the analog sticks and instead of being vertical, you play it horizontally, where is the realism in that? In order to enjoy a game like H30 you have to make believe that you are the surfer, and using the surf board horizontally gets you nowhere, you'll just find yourself wiped-out every turn you get. H30 lets you choose from 5 default surfers, and there are about 11 in total. The modes include Tournament and VS, the Tournament mode lasts for about fifteen minutes, as all you have to do is beat five incredibly dull stages, and you're done. Once you somewhat get the hang the controls you will pretty much just surf your way to the goal line, and not do any tricks, since pulling them off almost feels like torture. Doing tricks is hard, you have to use the shoulder buttons when you reach the peak of a wave. I can't really say that the gameplay is anything special, the sense of speed is missing, the adrenaline rush is completely gone, and playing Surfing H30 isn't exactly my idea of fun. Pick up Championship Surfer or Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 instead.
The rock soundtrack is average, while it may not be Blink 182, Three Doors Down or Metallica, the soundtrack still consists of decent beats, albeit at times somewhat repetitive as well, and it's also done courtesy of Hopeless Records. The bands include Dillinger Four, Digger, Mustard Plug, Selby Tigers and Lamiam The environmental audio is bleak, there isn't much to say really, the water waves just don't sound as they should, the audio department really needs to go back to work on this game. Some commentary would have also been nice, but that wouldn't even save Surfing H30 from currently being the worst PS2 game.
With the free inclusion of the mini-surfboard, you'd think that the game would play realistically, well think again! Since the board is positioned horizontally, it's hard to imagine being the surfer, but if somehow there could have been a vertical board, the control would have been much better. The shoulder buttons are used for tricks, and you won't use anything but the board, so you don't have to worry about using the buttons. Pushing the L3 and R3 button will make your surfer press back and forth onto the board, slightly sinking the nose or back of the board into the water, depending on what kind of wave you are about to encounter, so its a good way to stay balanced. The controls themselves take a very long time to learn, and they are just downright hard to master, to this point I still can't do tricks.
Being released one day after the PS2 launched [and I still wonder why], Surfing H30 is a poorly created game by ASCII Entertainment. I just don't feel the rush that surfing should really have, the sense of speed is severely lacking, and the overall game experience is terrible at best. The graphics look plain bad, and on a console that is capable of doing 25 million polygons with effects turned on, this is nothing but a joke, that looks barely acceptable as a N64 title. As for the gameplay itself, the five boring stages you go through take no more than fifteen minutes, and the VS mode could be used as a death threat. Please do me and yourself a big favor and just stay away from Surfing H30, get yourself Tony Hawk 2 or Championship Surfer, even if you don't have a PSOne, remember backwards compatibility!
12/22/2000 Arnold Katayev