Wave Race Blue Storm GameCube Review
This is of course the sequel to the N64 original, Waverace 64. You can probably find Blue Storm in some shops for less than £20 now, and are wondering if it is worth it. Waverace was one of the GameCube launch games and I have had it since May 2002.
The N64 original was a good showcase for what was possible using 64-bit hardware. Water is a very difficult substance to model accurately but Nintendo have made an impressive attempt, as they had with the original. There is a big leap from the original in terms of water behaviour and appearance. There are tides, realistic waves and you really can’t complain about the graphics when it comes to the water. It is also nice that you can see to the bottom in shallow water and see the sea weed growing on the rocks. Although it is very nice I do think that better camera work and even better textures could have lead to a mind blowing show of graphical capability.
In 4 player split screen the game surprisingly has no drop in framerate and does not suffer from much loss in graphical detail. Again, Nintendo should be commended.
There are a few complaints about the graphics however. Firstly, the game only runs at 30fps, and whilst this is no major problem, it would have been nice to see it fly by at 60fps for that extra effect. Plus there is no 60Hz option for us PAL gamers, although the game is actually optimized and therefore at full screen, as is the case with Luigi’s Mansion. One word of warning however is that PAL times cannot be accurately compared with those done using an NTSC version of the game. Surprisingly the PAL times are a good deal quicker too. It would have been nice to see matching times but clearly this was too much work.
The level and rider models could easily have been improved however, they are hardly cutting edge and there are no smooth surfaces and lighting effects. Although they do not look terrible it would have been nice for the developers to spend an equal amount of time on every aspect of the graphics. Even still, Waverace does impress, and for a first generation GameCube game you cannot really complain.
Waverace: Blue Storm has faced some serious criticism when it comes to the handling of the jet skis. Yet I feel that it is spot on, and gives an accurate feel of what it is like to drive on water. If waves hit you from one side then you must act upon this, and everything does feel right. However, it can be slightly hard to manoeuvre in between the buoys if they are spaced close together as.
In general, Waverace will not suit the casual gamer as it does take a great deal of skill to control the jet ski properly. On time trial it is amazing how much time can be saved from just driving better, even if it on the same route. As you are allowed 5 ‘misses’ when it comes to buoys you can tactically miss certain ones out to gain a shortcut advantage. This can be anything from cutting a corner to missing 3 buoys in a row by cutting out a huge section of the course. You must time your boost so that you use it just before you miss a buoy, otherwise you lose it.
This brings me onto the time trial mode, where I have easily spent the most time on Waverace. Many people online have posted their times and it is a good deal of fun trying to beat them. However, the best routes have now been found and times nearly perfected, so it may not be much fun for a new player online. Yet if you can persuade a friend or two to buy the game at the same time as you, I can guarantee that trying to beat each others times will prove great fun as there is so much depth to the gameplay compared to most racing games. This is what water brings to the series, and combined with the ability to do tricks to raise your boost meter, you will be constantly thinking of ways to improve your times.
It is worth noting that the gameplay can prove highly frustrating. The slightest of errors can lead to huge disadvantages and it is very easy to hit a rock or go of course. On Aspen Lake in particular is it only fun when you have learnt the route fully.
The original had some classic music, none more so than the title theme. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Blue Storm. Although the music is heavier and slightly catchy, it is not classic, simple as that. Even so, the music in the game is pretty decent, if nothing special. The menu music and intro music is probably the best examples in the game.
Sound effects in Blue Storm are well implemented, although again nothing amazing. The sound of the Jet Ski’s engine roar is effective, if slightly over powering. The sound of the waves crashing, thunder in a storm etc is nicely done and adds to the overall atmosphere.
There is an in-game commentator, who is actually your coach it would seem as it changes depending on which character you are. Unfortunately he is actually highly annoying and despised by many who have played the game heavily. The same sayings are repeated every time you do a boost etc and this gets very tedious.
This is a very difficult section to talk about as it really does depend on what type of player you are. If you are only a casual gamer with no interest in the real life sport, or playing time trial excessively then I seriously doubt you will get value for money out of Waverace. On the other hand, if you like time trailing, difficult handling and something a little different then this could be for you.
The single player competition is pretty much useless, there are about 3 difficulty levels, the first being relatively easy once you get used to the handling, the second being very demanding even for a moderate player, and the last being extremely hard; so much so infact that I have not tried seriously to complete it. Not only does the difficulty of the computer controlled racers dramatically increase, the route and buoy layout is entirely different and more challenging. After racing the beginner courses endlessly on time trial it is very hard to adjust, even for expert players.
The multiplayer 4 way split screen mode should bring you a few hours of enjoyment with your friends, but unless any of them have played the game seriously it may be pretty boring as a good player can beat a newbie without trying very hard. If you could find 3 friends who love the game I can see this mode being extremely entertaining however. There is also a tricks mode where you must compete for the highest score. I felt this was very poor as there is not the customisation of the excellent Tony Hawk series, and there is no way of doing the moves without learning them beforehand. The tricks are a nice addition to the racing modes, especially in time trial, but as a separate mode fails to impress.
There are a decent range of characters, but unless you do the trick mode everyone should chose David Mariner. He may be fat and have a hamburger in his logo, but when it comes to top speed he is the dude. For time trial on normal mode there is no better character. It is also possible to set the speed and handling ratios for your rider by pressing the Z button on the select screen. This again adds more depth as it will take time to test different combinations.
Although there are only about 6-7 tracks, some being only playable on different difficulty levels, there is an entirely different layout for each of the single player challenges. Most of the tracks are also unique and well designed enough to stop you getting bored of them.
I have used an average for the life-span in the summary, but assume that for a casual gamer it would be about 4, as it will prove too demanding and boring, and for a serious gamer it would be about 8. If you are somewhere in between the two, expect about a 6.
Waverace: Blue Storm is a relatively good looking, difficult to play although potentially addictive game that deserves your attention. It is considered by many as the type of game that you will either love or hate. I definitely like the game, but at the same time recognise its limitations and downfalls. With another years development this could have been a truly revolutionary and classic game, yet the lack of scope is unfortunate. Even so, considering the price I highly recommend the game to everyone.
7.8 out of 10