Back in 2008, I had the opportunity to review the original Deadliest Catch game (Alaskan Storm) and came away severely disappointed
. I thought the game had some serious potential and felt the developers let us down with a rushed title that lacked fundamental physics and gameplay options. Although the game was a letdown, it did have some good qualities and could have been much higher rated with some additional development time. Fast forward to 2010 and the Deadliest Catch name is once again found on a video game. This time around, the game does not seem to be focused on one boat and crew (The Northwestern in 2008’s Alaskan Storm) so much as a broader cross section of boats and crew members from the entire show.
The game starts off with you in port, being asked (forced?) to take the tutorial to figure out how the heck to mine the crab from the waters of the Bearing Sea. You start up with a screen that takes you through the process of buying a boat, hiring crew, making repairs, buying fuel and so on. Adding crew is probably the most important, because they each have an initial strength meter for various on-boat tasks such as setting, retrieving, sorting, and so on. Here you will find many of the TV personalities we have become familiar with, as well as multiple greenhorns. It is important to choose you crew wisely so they are not standing around (based on size of boat), have the proper skills to do what you need and do not eat up too much of the boats profits. For most of my trips, I usually picked a boat the size of the Time Bandit and added Freddy (CM), Mike (TB), Lenny (Wizard) and Edgar (NW) along with a greenhorn that I was working on developing his sorting skills. As you get deeper in the game and different scenarios present themselves, you will need to change these selections in order to give yourself the best chance at winning.
Once you load up and set sail, you are presented with a very un-lifelike map or the Bearing Sea with weather systems, fishing spots, other boats and Harbors all highlighted. You work your way around using the menu system and the analog sticks on your PS3 controller. As you pull up to your first fishing spot, the core of Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos
game begins….Minigames. Basically, the entire game is broken down into five different minigames. You have one for setting pots, retrieving pots, sorting crab, making repairs at sea and the offloading the crab in port. There is at least one more (rescue), but it is the exact same as the retrieval minigame with a life preserver and an overboard crew member instead of buoys and a hook. To set pots, you basically steer your boat over open ocean until you can drop a pot in a circle marked with a 3 or a 5 to signify how many pots you dumped. It is primarily about steering, speed and timing, and is isn't that hard to master. Retrieval is basically a hook that shoots at a 90 degree angle off the boat to various lengths. You goal is to snag only your buoys based on distance and speed of the boat. Again, not overly complicated. The sort is probably the mist fun, as you are grabbing and flicking crab and fish to the appropriate conveyor. You can earn extra money for speed and stringing together multiple accurate throws. The Patch game comes along periodically and basically forces you to rewire a board until your boat is operational again to get back to port. And finally, the offload game requires you to toss your crab in an arch (by button mashing no less) into a swinging brailer while a swinging crane hook.
After playing through several seasons of the game, I deduced that it doesn’t matter what scenario or what season of the show (different scenarios require you to emulate a specific season of the show) you are playing; it is all done by the minigames. While they initially offer a fresh appeal the first few times through, they quickly become boring and repetitive, regardless of whether you are stat-building your deckhands or not. Some of them (like emptying the crab into the brailer) are just plain dumb, as no boat I have ever seen in the TV series actually has a gigantic crane hook just swinging lazily about in its hold while the crew are trying to load crab into the brailer (which ironically, usually is attacked to the only crane hook on the boat.)
Another massive issue with this game is the load times, which are frequent and simply ridiculous. Every time you switch from one section of the game to another, there is a minimum of at least a 10-20 second load that sits there and shows you the same game tips over and over. Another issue is that graphically, the game is way behind the current generation of titles. It feels like graphics from about 8 years ago when the PS2 was being tapped out for what it was capable of producing. Having said that, there are actually a few areas where the graphics improved over the original title, including the sorting, pots and crabs in general. However, you would expect more graphically out of a game (regardless of whether it was only $50 instead of the normal $60) at this point of the current generation systems. Regardless, I was expecting much more from the graphics and physics and simply didn’t get what a second game based off a common theme should have provided.
There are a couple of other notes about the game. The first is that it does support the Move controllers, but I have not invested in this yet, so I was unable to test to test the functionality. I do not know that it would have made much of a difference, because you were still grinding away doing the same thing over and over regardless of what type of control system you are using. Another game mode is a local multiplayer function that allows up to eight players to take each other on in pre-set conditions. You may have to take a rickety boat out, or get so much in a limited time, etc. It is a novel approach and can be fun for a bit, but it ends up being a bit of a snooze fest after awhile because each person has to play their section while the others watch and wait. It wasn’t nearly as much fun as you might think, and that was with two people.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one jewel of the game disk, and that is the 1-hour tribute to Captain Phil Harris (originally shown as a special after last season) who lost his life last year after a battle with blood clots and several strokes. In the first game we had a Jake Anderson (NW) based minigame where you competed running a skiff around Dutch Harbor to get the best time. This one gets us the Captain Phil video. I will take that any day of the week.
Ultimately, the game is true to the world that inspired it, as playing Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos is essentially a grind. Unfortunately, the game has actually been dumbed-down from the original to the point that it has become overly simplified and lacking replay value. A couple of season’s in-game and you are ready to run for the airport like a greenhorn that was abused by Captain Keith on the Wizard. While, the game will appeal to the hardcore Deadliest Catch fans, those that are fringe watchers or can’t stand repetitive games will quickly be bored.