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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Extreme Sports

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Shaba Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q2 2003

 

 

- Fun twist on the Tony Hawk formula

- Excellent water graphics and physics

- Great Co-op mode to bring a friend in on the action

 

 

- Levels lack real originality and punch

- Too few boarders to choose from

- No level editor or create-a-boarder mode

 

 

Review: Wakeboarding Unleashed featuring Shaun Murray (PS2)

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (XB)

Review: Transworld Surf (XB)

 

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Wakeboarding Unleashed featuring Shaun Murray

Score: 8.8 / 10

Wakeboarding Unleashed is Activision’s latest foray into the extreme sports genre. The game is heavily indebted to legends like Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Aggressive Inline, and SSX, but the vagaries of the sport itself, along with some twists to the formula, give it a feel all its own. Anyone who has been waiting for the extreme sports genre to expand into the world of wakeboarding (both of you out there) or anyone looking for something new from the genre should be happy with Wakeboarding Unleashed.

For those who have never heard of it, wakeboarding is to water skiing as snowboarding is to snow skiing. Instead of having two long, thin skis attached to each foot, wakeboarders have one wider, shorter board. The "wake" comes in because the main way wakeboarders "get air" is to use the wake from the boat as a kind of ramp. Gamers spend less time than real wakeboarders actually attached to the boat, but for the most part the game’s action is dependent on where the boat is pulling the player.

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Because of this restriction, Wakeboarding Unleashed reminds me more of Transworld Surf than the Tony Hawk games. Each new revision of Tony Hawk is about more and more freedom. Here, as in Transworld Surf, the particulars of the sport itself limit that freedom. In Transworld Surf, players had to surf the waves as they came. Here, players must deal with the lines the boat directs them along, though the ability to briefly let go of the rope to access distant areas broadens the possibilities a little.

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The controls are straight THPS right down to how they are mapped. The only new feature is the ability to use the left trigger to let go of the rope and also to have it thrown back to the boarder. Since it seems everyone has experience with the Tony Hawk system, WU is very easy to get into. The main thing to master early is the double tap to swing wide left or right and then the hard turn to approach the wave for launch. After getting air, the same sort of flips, grabs, and turns are available as those seen in most extreme sports titles. Stringing combos together is made easier with the inclusion of the wakeboarding version of the manual, so it is possible to run up the kind of sick scores that could be seen in the last two incarnations of THPS.

The career mode also owes a lot to the games that have come before. There is really nothing new there, but it is as vibrant and as deep as any I’ve seen before, so the lack of freshness is not too much of a problem. Like the most recent Tony Hawk’s, each level offers dozens of challenges—many of which, like collecting a sequence of numbers or doing a certain trick at a certain time, are very familiar.

WU is a great looking game. As this is a water sport, the first thing most players will notice is the excellent water modeling. This game joins Waverace and Transworld surf as having the best looking, playing water surface. For hardcore sim guys, its worth noting that the water physics is also some of the best I’ve ever experienced.

The character and boat animation is solid also, as are all the little interactive details within each level. The boarders themselves look great, though I’d like to have had the option of creating my own or at least a dozen or so more choices. The color scheme, however, leaves a little to be desired. The game has lots of drab earth tones and muted blues and greens. I wouldn’t want the game to have SSX: Tricky like primary colors, but a little more punch would have been appreciated.

The sound in the game is excellent all around. Especially worth mentioning are both the excellent soundtrack and the, by now expected in the genre, ability to use songs stored personally on the Xbox. In fact, the game comes with that function on by default, so halfway into my first session of the game I was momentarily stunned by the presence of one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack before I realized what was happening.

The levels range from okay to very good. None of them really jumped out at me, though the ship graveyard level (The Boneyard) is probably the most dynamic of the bunch. Nothing here has the punch of many of the levels in THPS or the fun factor of the some levels of SSX: Tricky. I would have been happy with just a few more solid levels, yet having at least one blow-your-mind kind of level is always a bonus in games like this.

On the plus side for the game is the ability to grab a friend and play through it co-op. One player plays the boarder, the other the driver of the boat. This gives the players full control of the lines to take through the level and opens up a large number of otherwise unavailable launching off points. Activision even went the extra yardage and made multi-player specific goals for all of the levels. The fun and quality of the single player experience would be enough, but the co-op mode just screams "Activision loves you." With the long, deep career mode, the multiplayer contests, and the cool co-op mode, Wakeboarding Unleashed is a very good value.

- Tolen Dante

(August 10, 2003)

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