Wakeboarding Unleashed Review (PS2)
August 31, 1999 a new dynasty was born. It was that day when Activision released a title that would forever change the way extreme sports were played. For, it was that day that Activision released Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for the Sony Playstation. Not only did THPS find instant success, but it brought about the possibilities to expand that oh sooo addicting gameplay into several other extreme sports. Flash forward a few years (and a few additions to the THPS franchise) to June of 2003 and Activision’s release of yet another Extreme Sports title, Wakeboarding Unleashed Featuring Shaun Murray. Does the style of gameplay show its age? Read on to find out.
Since you are reading this you have probably played at least one of Activision’s several other Extreme Sports titles. I can even feel safe in saying that odds are you’ve probably got a lot of stick-time in with one or more of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater games. Going with that mindset, I am going to assume that it’s safe to say that you already have the basic gameplay down before even putting this game into your Sony Playstation 2 Entertainment System. Is that a bad thing? Well, that all depends on how you look at it. Activision seems to have stuck with what works. While there are a few tweaks in the overall gameplay, for the most part it is the same thing we’ve been doing for years. From executing tricks and utilizing manuals to string together some wicked combos, it’s all the same. You score as many points as possible by completing objectives while executing insane tricks or while competing in competitions.
What is not the same is having the option of taking control of a speedboat in co-op mode while towing your friend through several locations filled with objectives to be completed. In my opinion this is what makes the game stand out from the rest of the Extreme Sports games out there on the market. Working together as a team to complete the objectives makes it much more fun than just going through them alone while using the computer controlled speed boats.
Another great addition to the gameplay is what Activision calls “Rope Mechanics”. This allows you to let go of the rope in order find secret areas or to explore into unknown territory. With the press of a button you can either let go of the rope and explore or call for the rope to be thrown back out to you. This adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay as you need to make sure you do not let the boat get too far ahead of you. If you do just that, you’ll find that you cannot call for the rope to be thrown back out to you, possibly ending what is sure to be a high scoring run.
Wakeboarding Extreme Featuring Shaun Murray allows you to control seven of the world’s best wakeboarders and includes nine levels for you to explore filled with multiple objectives for you to complete. Each level has its own unique objectives such as boat races, water balloon battles, banjo players, fishermen, and a whole lot more.
If there is one innovation that sticks out in my mind for this generation it has to be water physics. It’s something that several games have wowed with and Wakeboarding Unleashed has taken it a step higher. This game features some very impressive water physics that not only look great, but help you in scoring some serious points and also getting to higher, hard-to-reach places. Each one of the nine locations has its very own personality, whether be the canals of Venice or the more open Lake Powell. Each location has a unique look it, which really adds to the longevity of the game. Solid trick animations combined with silky smooth frame rate also help to keep this game on par with what you expect from Activision’s Extreme Sport experience.
For me the sound is a mixed bag. The soundtrack selection (XBOX version allows custom soundtracks) while somewhat diverse, is not really to my liking. I would love to have the ability to select my own tunes without having to sacrifice the great control of the Dual Shock 2 controller. With that being said, the rest of the game sounds great. The sound your board makes as you cut through the wake is excellent as well as the revving of the boat and the sounds of grinding on objects. Even the crashes have a nice little sound to them.
Even with all of the good things I’ve said about this game up to now, there is one thing that holds this game back. After a few hours of gameplay it feels as though I’ve done this all before. Maybe it’s the whole trick system (again, nice additions with the co-op mode and rope mechanics), or the fact that it’s the same old “complete objectives to open new locations to reach competitions” thing that we’ve been doing since August of 1999. This is a game that diehard fans of the Tony Hawk franchise will want to get their hands on. If the Extreme Sport game feels a tad bit played out to you I still recommend that you give it a rent. It’s a very good game that only suffers from the fact that after a few hours we feel like we’ve already been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.