Renowned for bringing us the likes of Shaun Palmer, Mat Hoffman, Kelly Slater, Tony Hawk and their respective ?extreme? sports, Activision see fit to bestow on us their first wakeboarding sim. We can already hear you thinking out loud ??what?s wakeboarding, then?? We looked it up on your behalf and we played the game too, and we can tell you this; it?s a bit like water-skiing on a stubby surf/snowboard, and whoever does it for real, based on what we?ve seen in-game, has our total respect. This is one sport that truly deserves the ?extreme? prefix.
One chap who does this for real is a certain Shaun Murray, and his name is splashed all over the packaging in order to pull in the punters. Okay, it?s not the most well known name in sports, as far as Europe?s concerned, but this game really doesn?t need a big name. Suffice to say, if you enjoyed the likes of Wave Race, the SSX series and most other sporty, stunt-y titles, Wakeboarding Unleashed is almost guaranteed to float your boat. All those daft words and phrases are back - blunts, indys, tweaks, switches, roast beef, slobs, rolls and combos of the aforementioned are all part of the package.
So to the water, and you?ll find yourself being towed at high speeds in the wake (see?) of a boat. Your challenge is to score points by catching waves and big air, pulling off as many tricks as possible along the way. Tricks, as ever, are executed through a combination of button presses and d-pad movements. The more complicated and well-executed the move, the more points you will earn. Eventually you will learn to string combinations of moves together to earn multipliers, maximising your score. It?s instinctive, impulsive and, believe us, very addictive.
In two-player mode, there?s something going on in Wakeboarding Unleashed that we haven?t seen before in a game of this type ? a co-operative mode. This is where one player drives the boat and the other trails in his or her wake. They do say that two heads are better than one, but even if you choose to play as one of the featured professionals ? Tara Hamilton and Dallas Friday among them ? driver and boarder can get into a bit of a mess at times. It?s worth persevering with, this mode, but if you prefer to go head-to-head in multiplayer, then you can do that too.
Real locations are featured in Wakeboarding Unleashed, such as Belize, Venice and Florida, and while they?re hardly accurately presented ? not so many articles to trick off in the real-life places we bet ? they are identifiable. Graphically, Wakeboarding Unleashed rocks. A game such as this is always going to be scrutinised by the cognoscenti for its water effects, and we say, in a totally non-nerd-like way, that this water is the best we?ve seen in a long time.
So, it looks great, it?s a lot of fun to play, and we haven?t even mentioned the soundtrack yet. It?s got guitars on it, and it?s the only thing we could have predicted about Wakeboarding Unleashed. The rest came as a very pleasant surprise.