As I mentioned, the quality of graphics in Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm fall all over the spectrum. There are times when you marvel at the intricate details, and times you shake your head at the half-ass attempt you see on the screen. The boats and facial scans of the crew are re-created faithfully, down to the last rust spot in some cases on the boats. However, there is this overwhelming feeling that you are looking at a scene that is the image quality of a painting, when it be that of a digital photo. While the painting has every aspect of the scene on the canvas, there simply isn’t close to being the amount of detail that you would get from a digital photograph. I commend them for getting just about everything in there; however the lack of high-end graphics is disappointing for a next-gen title.
The physics are also another let down, especially the way the water and crab flow across the deck of the boat. While the open water of the Bearing Sea does look fantastic anywhere four-feet from the boat and out, any wave breaking over the bow or down the boat looks like a solid sheet of ice running along the rail. There is no movement to it at all, just a solid white mass until it falls off the end of the boat. Another issue is retrieving and stacking pots on deck. As the boats crew member stands dead-center at the very stern of the boat and simulates hooking and unhooking the pots, the pots vanish or appear on deck from the hook when they are lowered to within five feet of the deck. It’s like a bad episode of Mindfreak from Chris Angel.
And this takes me to the last physics gripe, which is probably the most important action in the game…dumping and sorting crab at the sorting table. Wow, where to start. First of all, when the lift starts dumping the crab into the sorting table, you would expect them to tumble out of the pot. Well, in this game, the “crab” comes out of the pot like a slab of frozen cod bait (those that watch the show will know what I am talking about). Then, as it slides onto the sorting table from the pot, the graphic changes from what appears to be a rectangular frozen mass of King or Opilio crab, into a big lump of reddish brown muck. As the “crab” is being sorted off the table, it sort of just “melts” away while the guys are moving their hands back and forth like they are trying to shoo a fly or something. Obviously this was a shortcut the developers took, as there are not any true crab-sorting animations with the crab keepers being put in the tanks and the non-keepers being sent overboard.
While the physics, graphics and frame rate issues hurt this game considerably, the audio is probably its crown jewel. Having watched the show since inception, I was pleasantly surprised that the ship noises, soundtrack and voice-overs were done as well as they were. Whether it is the seagulls, engine rumble and cavitations or the sounds and words uttered by the crews, the game is spot on with what is expected. There are a couple of caveats though, the first of which is the ridiculous Russian sailor accent that Nick of the Northwestern recorded his voice-overs in. For those that do not watch the show, you wouldn’t know the difference. But for those that know it well, it strikes another mark against the authenticity of the experience I believe the Hansen brothers wanted to bring to the game. The other issue is with the overall lack of variety of voice-overs while interacting with the crew. Just like the animations, there simply aren’t enough tracks laid down to fulfill what was needed to make this a really good game as there are simply too many one-liners.
As for the achievements in Deadliest Catch, there are a total of 20 of which the first three are earned just by completing the five-mission tutorial. They are a nice cross section of earning for longevity (Complete 5 king crab seasons), playing online and completing mini games. There are also a couple of fun ones for spotting such things as a shipwreck, or a whale. They equal a full 1,000 points, but I would be surprised to ever see any additional achievements via DLC to get to the current max of 1,250 points.
Over the years, Deadliest Catch (the show) has evolved the formula for which ships and crew appear on the show. Originally quite a few ships shared equal time with the show changing out most ships every year. As the seasons have gone on, the formula has been to focus on four core ships with footage from a couple of secondary boats. These boats include the Northwestern, Cornelia Marie, Time Bandit and the Wizard. From that group, only the Northwestern and Cornelia Maria are featured in the game. Other boats included (but not limited to) in the game are the Shellfish, Sea Star and an unnamed vessel of your choice you create from the ground up. I was disappointed that the Time Bandit was not one of the original boats in the game, as the Hillstrands are some of the most entertaining characters from the television series. I’m sure additional boats and crew could be made available through DLC, but I highly doubt the time and effort will be put into that development. It will be interesting to see if another version or additional content for the game becomes available.
Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm will appeal to the hardcore fan as well as the casual observer of the show, but will disappoint any gamer that is looking for a high quality experience. The game premise itself is sound, but there are serious flaws with the development (frame rate and Jekyll and Hyde graphics). While there is a lot to like about the game, there is simply too much to overlook to say this is a keeper. The fact that it plays like a Beta that is missing its final coat of polish is what eventually drags the game, and the entire fleet, to the bottom of the Bearing Sea.
It pains me to hammer Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm, as the potential of the game was unlimited. However, the bottom line is that it feels like it was rushed to the market to coincide with the release of 2008 show schedule.
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