Championship Pro Surfer Preview

Championship Surfer still has a good way to go before it hits store shelves in November, but from the look of things, it's already got every other surfing game beat.

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Krome Studios and Mattel Interactive are looking to put themselves at the top of the surfing-game market with Championship Surfer, an extreme surfing simulator with a focus on realism that still retains a distinct arcade feel. We recently got our hands on a fairly complete build and found out exactly how Championship Surfer is going to shred its way past the competition.

The premise of Championship Surfer is rudimentary - pick one of the eight initial Billabong pro surfers and hit the waves of more then ten different beaches surrounding an imaginary island. You'll do this in any of the game's five different gameplay modes. In the championship mode, you'll compete in a traditional surfing competition against the game's AI-controlled surfers. In the arcade mode, you can surf any beach you've unlocked in the championship mode, each of which has obstacles and point gates. The free mode allows you to simply surf an abandoned wave on any beach of your choosing, without a time limit or obstacles. The multiplayer rumble mode is where you and a friend battle it out on a wave complete with mines, exploding ducks, poison gas, and other fun obstacles.

For a game centered on the fairly boring task of simply staying on a wave as it moves you to the left or right of your screen, Championship Surfer touts some fairly complex gameplay. The game is packed with actual surfing tricks, from slicing and wave-riding tricks to aerials, floaters, and barrels - just about every trick you've ever seen is in the game. Krome Studios decided that requiring you to actually catch every wave really killed the fun factor, so that element has been completely removed - now you simply press the corresponding button at the start of the wave, and you're riding. Once you're on the wave, you can hit X to slice or slow down your speed, circle to spin 180 degrees, and triangle to perform an aerial. Using a combination of all these buttons, you can perform just about any wicked trick in the game's stable. Feel free to spin 360s on the wave face itself, then glide sideways across the lip of the wave for a floater, spin around to the backside of the wave, and then pop yourself back onto the face, riding backwards. It may be a simple control scheme that works on a simple premise, but it's still a whole lot of fun.

The graphics in Championship Surfer are easily the best graphics in a surfing game to date. They may not be as shiny as the PS2's Surfoid, but Championship Surfer's graphics have got it where it counts. Krome Studios uses a completely original spline-based technology to generate amazingly real waves. These waves look simply stunning - they form, rise, and break just like they would in real life. There are also plenty of little visual effects tossed in for good measure including the whitewash of a breaking tube and your surfer's stream. There are some excellent background effects, and the surfers in the game look nice as well. Each surfer model is completely different, varying in height and weight. All the animations for the game were motion-captured by actual athletes, which provides the game with a great sense of varying styles. The sound in the version we played was still a long way from being final, but it still had a good amount of audio effects in it. Krome told us that it's currently working with some top-notch studios to create a soundtrack that is a blend of techno and high-energy music and that definitely has roots in classic surfer guitar rock.

Championship Surfer still has a good way to go before it hits store shelves in November, but from the look of things, it's already got every other surfing game beat. Gamers who are looking for a new extreme game that's simple to learn but offers excellent complexity should keep an eye out for this one.

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