Pass the Dramamine.
Even though it is the stuff of life, water sometimes does strange things to people. I remember one time when a friend of mine spent the majority of a catamaran cruise leaning over the rail doing his best imitation of a cat hurling up hairballs. It wasn't pretty.
Now I've never been one to get queasy on water, but I think I learned how thanks to the nauseating ride that is Wave Rally.
Strangely enough, Eidos' new jet ski racer is the very first game to give me what amounts to motion sickness. After playing for just a half-hour or so, my head began to hurt and my eyes felt like they were going to pop out. I wish I could say that it was fun while it lasted, but well, I can't.
The play modes are nothing new. There's Arcade, Championship, and Time Trial, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. There's also a Freestyle mode where you do as many tricks as you can in two minutes and a skeletal Versus mode which only allows you to race head to head.
Interestingly enough, Wave Rally is the first game I've seen to allow you to race Runabouts (sit down watercraft) as well as the normal jet skis. It would have been a cool feature if the game were easier to handle, but as it stands it just doesn't feel very different than the normal skis.
The basic gameplay of Wave Rally is very similar to the GameCube's Wave Race: Blue Storm. You plow through various courses as quickly as possible, making sure to pass buoys on the correct side. Miss one, and your craft will lose power for a few moments. Miss too many (between 3 and 5, depending on difficulty) and you'll be disqualified.
Strangely absent is any kind of turbo boost. You could do it in Wave Race and you could do it in Splashdown, but you can't do it here. Even doing tricks or leaning back a little doesn't seem to help you go faster at all. It may be more "realistic," but it sure isn't as fun.
The trick system is much more complicated than any of the other jet ski racing games but doesn't work as well. I hope your fighting game skill is formidable, because you'll have to pull some crazy Street Fighter combos like Circle, Down, Left, Up to do interesting things. Make sure to keep that manual handy.
Control is kind of wily as well. It's much more difficult than the other two games with much less emphasis on holding down the throttle. Similar to an auto racing sim, you'll really need to find good lines in order to stand a chance against the computer controlled players.
Wave Rally's headlining features are "ultra-realistic water and real-time variable waves." This technology attempts to simulate wave physics as well as the visual distortion of things below the surface of the water. If you look at the water before you start moving, it's great. The wave effects are actually pretty good and the water reflection looks kind of neat. But once you start moving, all you see is a very lame looking wake, some transparent waves, and a screen that shakes so much you get a headache.
Part of the shaking problem lies with the game's fixed camera. If it was fixed on the horizon, things would be fine and you'd just be watching your racer bounce over the waves. Instead, the third-person cam is fixed on the player and bounces each and every time you hit a wave. And being a "wave oriented" game, this happens every second that you play. There's also a first-person view, but you can't see what you're doing at all. The incessant bouncing might make your eyeballs explode.
The rest of the game looks okay when you're stopped, but all of the bouncing around makes everything in the distance look like one big blur. It's too bad, because I bet there are some decent background out there somewhere.
The courses seem interesting enough with some shortcuts for you to discover, but again, it's tough to really see what's going on with all the bouncing. Did I mention my head still hurts?
For the most part, the sound is okay. You won't really hear much of it at the default levels, but just know that the majority of it is some inoffensive drum 'n bass. The only problem I have is the very lame remix of 2 Bad Mice's Bombscare. A classic has been tarnished.
When it comes to wave racing on the PS2, Wave Rally is sunk. It's got some nice waves, but a bad camera, tough controls, and some unsatisfying gameplay cause an evil tsunami of massive proportions.