Ever since the release of Nintendo's Wave Racer for the N64, absolutely nothing has been able to reproduce the intense and extreme feeling set by Nintendo's jet-ski racer title. In fact, the standard was so high that no other publisher or developer even bothered to go up against Wave Racer. Wave Racer's incredible water physics, mountain high waves and impressive trick system really made the game that much more addictive. As it has done already, the next-generation era is now opening the floodgates to an all new kind of gaming. Environments now live and breathe, racing games feature visual detail that is almost indistinguishable between life and fiction, and on top of that experiences never imagined to be achievable on consoles before come to life before our eyes. Splashdown is a perfect example of a game that would've never been possible on a console like the Playstation or N64. Sure, it's gameplay that counts but an incredible feel for the game's water is a must to truly experience a game such as Splashdown. With Rainbow Studios, developers of the highly acclaimed ATV: Offroad Fury and Motocross Madness series, creating the project from the ground up, I expected nothing short of excellence from Splashdown. I waited anxiously to play the game from the moment I saw it. It was one of my most anticipated titles of the year, and it has finally arrived. The result: nothing short of excellence.
Comparing Splashdown to Wave Race is almost like comparing apples and pears, in the sense that both look different [aesthetically]. Wave Race pretty much pales in comparison to Splashdown's amazing graphics. The most important of all visual aspect in the game is of course the water detail, and believe it or not but Splashdown has the best damn looking water in any videogame! Every time I gander at the water I can't help but drool and get thirsty. I'm not kidding folks, every time I play the game this sudden thirst and crave for ice cold spring water hits my mouth. Chances are it's because the water just looks unbelievably realistic, and presents this CG rendered look - almost as if it was something straight out of a Final Fantasy CG sequence. To truly get a grip of what I'm referring to, one must check out Splashdown for him/herself. The water looks 'that' good! Aside from looking pretty, the water splashes, breaks up and rides up on shores realistically as well. The environments that surround you are immensely detailed with high points of attention to detail. Rainbow Studios' knowledge with PS2 architecture definitely shows, as they have created some very sweet looking backgrounds complete with polygonal tress and other structures. The water reflects the superb lighting effects brilliantly, something that also stands out. Splashdown's only lacking trait is that the riders look somewhat average. Rotating the camera and bringing it up close to the rider shows the lack of detail behind these polygonal bodies. Then again, seeing as how everything else is nearly perfect, the character detail has little effect on visuals score. Everything in the game moves very smoothly as the action sails at a very fine 30 frames per second. Even though it's not he 60 we'd all hope for, chances are the difference wouldn't be very noticeable. To say the least; this is hands-down the best-looking watercraft racer to date.
Splashdown's gameplay is reasonably similar to Wave Race's, but at the same time both games share their differences. For one, Splashdown is a licensed Sea-Doo racer, unlike Wave Race, which is a jet-ski racer. In Splashdown the riders are sitting, meanwhile in Wave Race the rider stands. Pulling off tricks is also different, as Splashdown incorporates freestyle stunts from the BMX world, while Wave Race is a blend of its own. So clearly, there are differences, but when you get down to it both games are watercraft racers that share the same goal: awe the gamer. I was definitely awed when I played the first Wave Race on the N64, but I feel lost in the GameCube version. The control has changed and takes time to get used to and something just feels out of place as a whole. Meanwhile, Splashdown feels more exhilarating as an overall experience. Even though the game doesn't have the insane waves like Wave Race does, it does have various ramps placed throughout the stage for your big-air desires. When I say big-air, I do mean big! Some jumps can send you soaring the distance of about half a football field! During your flight, you of course can pull off tricks by using three of the shoulder buttons and the directional pad to perform various stunts like Can Cans, Cordovas, Supermans, Flying handstands and etc. The lack of incredible wave definition does hurt the game a little, but not enough to deny that this is the best water based racer to date.
Splashdown, in general, is an unbelievably addictive and fun racer that comes together as an excellent all around package, with few if any flaws. Skill and use of strategy can come to play from time to time, as you will have to learn how to properly 'hydroplane' while you drive, and how to dip your nose to make a sharper and quicker turn. Rising your performance trick meter delivers better performance for your watercraft, so keep the meter up and you should do well in your races. Splashdown features over 45 fantastic, gorgeous and exotic courses through 18 wonderful locales, ranging from Spain to Hawaii and to Germany; Splashdown takes you on a global adventure of fun. Each rider features more than 30 available tricks, and there is a total of 9 to choose from. To save my breath, typing rather, let me explain one thing; if you are looking for a Wave Race-esque title to play on your PS2, look no further because the Wave Race killah' has arrived!
Splashdown's soundtrack is quite predictable. Being an extreme sports title and all, the game includes performances by Sum-41, (who mysteriously graces one out of every two extreme sports titles on the PS2), Blink 182, Groovie Ghoulies, SR-71, KMFDM, Smash Mouth and few more. Pretty much everything in the sound department is fine and dandy, as all of the riders talk trash during races and the soundtrack sounds great, but why Infogrames and Rainbow Studios decided to include Smash Mouth's "All-Star" into the soundtrack beats me! The song just doesn't tie in with what's going on, not according to me at least. Not to mention that Blink 182's "Rockshow" has about 30 seconds of the second verse cut off...why? The ambient sound effects are incredible though! Turning the music down you can hear your Sea-Doo rip the water apart, and while racing on a rainy course you can hear the rain dropping all around you. The audio is a great aspect, but a song or two just doesn't belong in the game's line-up.
Rainbow Studios sure knows how to work with incredible physics and at the same time create perfectly suitable controls that entice the gamer from the start. Splashdown is an easy game to quickly access, but at the same time it features controls with depth. The trick system works a lot like SSX, in fact it's nearly identical to that of SSX. Splashdown makes use of three shoulder buttons, with L1 functioning as a look-back camera view. Perhaps the best part about the game's controls is how smooth they are. Everything is incredibly precise and truly lets the gamer get a perfect feel for the watercraft. Hydroplaning, inverting, 'submarining' and tricking is done free of hassle with the Dual Shock 2. I couldn't imagine myself playing the game on any other pad, besides the PS2. I think Rainbow Studios did a fantastic job. The controls feature few, if any flaws for me to even mention.
I have a copy of Wave Race: Blue Storm beside my GameCube, and yes I have played it excessively, to the point where the game doesn't seem as challenging as it did for the first few hours. I think Blue Storm is a great title with some insane waves, but if you're looking for 'the' definitive water racing experience with true next-generation gameplay physics, visuals and whatnot, Splashdown is downright the best game for your money! The gameplay is accompanied by the most gorgeous water detail in a videogame to date, and the controls couldn't get any better. Splashdown has become a personal favorite of mine, whenever I need a great adrenaline rush, it's either this or Tony Hawk 3. On top of that, the two-player is great fun! It's a damn shame if anybody misses out on this fantastic water racer. Go buy it! Now!
11/20/2001 Arnold Katayev