Transworld Surf is the first surfing game to acknowledge that surfing does not occur in a vacuum. While you're out on the water, you'll encounter debris in the water--man-made and naturally occurring--a variety of sea life, and other surfers. The game has a karma meter, which will move from good to bad depending on how you interact with the surfers and the sea life. If you snake waves from other surfers, spray them with your wake, or generally mistreat the marine life, you're more likely to get abused by other surfers or, worse, eaten by a shark. It's really a minor point, and if you didn't know about it, you might simply chalk your bad luck with sharks up to fate. But knowing about karma and using it to your advantage will make playing Transworld Surf a more enjoyable experience.
Surfing games have never been known for impressive graphics, but Transworld Surf effectively breaks that trend. Angel Studios, the developer of Transworld Surf, is best known for its racing games like the Smuggler's Run series, Midnight Club, and Test Drive Off-Road Wide Open. One of the hallmarks of Angel Studios' games has been natural, believable environments, and its experience pays off in Transworld Surf. Since the focus of the game is on your surfer and the water, an exceptional level of attention has been paid to both of these elements. Your surfer generally animates smoothly, crouching down onto his board in especially tight barrels, dipping his hand into the water to help maintain balance, and making subtle celebratory gestures after pulling off an especially big combo. While the surfer just looks good, the water in Transworld Surf looks simply incredible. The use of high-quality textures and bump mapping and the natural shape of the waves make you believe that you're out in the surf, making that suspension of disbelief needed for past surfing games obsolete. The game tends to run at a solid 60 frames per second; however, on the odd occasion that a wave crests at two different points, eventually forming together into a single barrel, you might notice a tad bit of slowdown. And, as with many of the Xbox launch titles, Transworld Surf lays on some of the special effects just a tad too liberally. Your surfer's skin has a little bit too much shine to it, and the effect of water spray beading up on the "camera lens" is overdone and ultimately distracting. Aside from these minor offenses, the game has a level of polish that sets it apart from other surfing games or console launch games. Simply put, surfing has never looked and felt more real than in Transworld Surf.
Transworld Surf's sound really works well on multiple levels and comes together to produce a truly immersive effect. Each round of surfing is introduced with an announcer breaking down the current conditions of the surf, such as wave size, tide conditions, and the temperature of the water. The environmental sounds are generally great, and it's the smaller details that really do an excellent job of selling the surfing experience. The splash of your surfer paddling to the next big wave, the increasing roar of the water as a curl slowly creeps up behind you, the muffled sounds you'll hear once inside the tube, and the fizzing of the sea foam as you pass over a wave are all expertly executed. The soundtrack is also quite impressive, if only because of the sheer volume of songs available. Instead of falling back on a soundtrack of Dick Dale-style surf rock filler, Transworld Surf actually has eight different soundtracks that cover a variety of musical genres. So whether you prefer punk rock, alterna-rock, heavy metal, hip-hop, down tempo, or good old-fashioned surf rock, Transworld Surf has got a soundtrack for you. The only thing that tarnishes the game's aural production is that when one song ends and another begins, you'll experience a split-second pause in the gameplay. Considering that in the pro competition mode a run lasts three minutes, and considering that a good portion of the soundtrack is made up of songs that clock in at just under three minutes, this stutter usually happens right when you least want it to.
Due to qualities inherent to the sport of surfing, Transworld Surf won't enjoy the same level of accessibility as titles like SSX and Tony Hawk and will definitely appeal to a more niche market than either of those games. However, if you're an action sports fan who's grown tired of the more well-worn board sports, Transworld Surf offers a unique gaming experience that's worth checking out. Fans of surfing and surfing games will agree that no other game has been able to capture the essence of surfing quite as well as Transworld Surf. And when it comes down to it, Transworld Surf is one of the best action sports titles in the Xbox launch lineup.