When entering the indie area at a convention, such as those at Tokyo Game Show, Gamescom or PAX, one never really knows what to expect. Alongside the huge announcements and reveals made by industry giants at the many press events, there is always an array of innovative and creative gems just waiting to be discovered. We were at E3 last month and one of the gems we found there was the newest title by Funktronic Labs. While it might not look like it, Wave Break is essentially a reimagining of the Tony Hawk series but, instead of city streets and skateboards, this one comes with sea critters and speedboats. The premise sounds strange and at first glance, it seems as though it has nothing to do with the iconic Neversoft series.
Nevertheless, after getting hands-on with the game and playing around with the controls, the comparison could not be more fitting. Being a fan of the classic Tony Hawk games - notably the Underground sub-series - picking up the controller and performing insane combos and tricks felt like surprisingly familiar territory. Jumping from rail to rail, performing tricky flips and linking combos felt natural as it uses the same control scheme as used during the golden age of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. The overarching patterns were a deliberate choice by the developers, who explained that bringing over all these elements from Neversoft's series into Wave Break was mainly motivated by the lack of a proper THPS game in years. Thus, their game is an attempt at giving fans a similarly constructed experience.
The similarities, however, stop at the core gameplay because everything else is vastly different, not least because of the way that multiplayer has been implemented (more on that later). In Wave Break, every map seems more open and explorable and the player can navigate both sea and land. One can exit their boat as well, but there's no real motivation for getting out and walking around on foot since the player's avatar doesn't have any tricks at their disposal. When speaking to the developers about the lack of an incentive to get out and walk, they assured us that they're still working out how to make leaving the boat more exciting. Considering the tight controls they've implemented when it comes to steering the boats, we can't wait to see what they have in store for us.
Another thing that is vastly different from the Tony Hawk franchise is the addition of guns and slow-motion bullet-time and how that impacts multiplayer. The gunplay can completely change the outcome of a match. For example, if your opponent is about to land an amazing combo, you can shoot them in order to prevent them from scoring a huge number of points. Watching animals perform kickflips with their boats whilst shooting in slow-motion at other players is extremely satisfying and, being avid players of the Tony Hawk games, we noted how this mechanic resulted in a vastly different experience. The developers likewise told us that they deliberately introduced the guns in order to make an entirely fresh experience, and we welcome this addition. Regarding gameplay modes, the developers also teased the idea of adding the much-beloved 'Horse' mode from Tony Hawk, although nothing was officially confirmed.
Graphically, the game doesn't break any new ground nor does it offer gorgeous visuals. If it had been a huge triple-A title we'd be less forgiving, but the scale of the project means that the underwhelming visuals get a free pass from us. Despite the mediocre visuals, however, the animations were very well done. Whether we were doing flips, performing manuals, grinding or even shooting, everything was above and beyond what is to be expected from such a small title (especially considering what we've seen from more recent games in the same genre).
The level design, on the other hand, seemed to excel at offering entirely different environments and settings. During our time with the game, we got to try two levels. One was a tropical paradise and the other an arctic playground, and the developers' desire to make the player think in new directions and experiment with each level became apparent rather quickly.
All in all, we left Wave Break very impressed by what we had seen. From the Tony Hawk-inspired controls to the gunplay and fluid animations, Wave Break is a title we can't wait to play more of. If Funktronic can keep on refining the controls and add more depth to those moments when you end up leaving your boat, Wave Break will be a worthy successor to the golden days of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.
For more on the latest indie gems from this year's E3, head this way.