I was really enthusiastic about this game. Especially after seeing the movie and watching Johnny Depp swagger about during the film and making it a very good summer flick. So imagine my surprise when I discovered he was not present in this game, nor was Orlando Bloom’s character. Instead I am dropped in the shoes of Nathaniel Hawk, a young lad off to make a name for himself out on the Seven Seas. Man talk about déjà vu, I’m getting Minority Report flashbacks just thinking about it. Except this time instead of fighting in the future, I’m much further in the past, where the enemies are just as dumb, although the scenery isn’t the sterile cities but rather lush tropical islands, and rather than running from Pre-Crime you’re running from various countries since you recently sank a ship of theirs and pissed off their diplomats.
Let us get the pleasant aspects out of the way first so that I have more room to rant about the bad stuff. First off the game does look very good, the towns are bustling with life, lots of characters, and the scenery is well detailed, this is how a 2nd generation Xbox title should look, and the water… Well let us just say that it is some of the best water ever showcased in a game. Although that really isn’t something to pride yourself on, although I guess you would have to make the water look good, seeing as how you’re going to be spending a lot of time in it. The music is also very well done, while out in the open sea the music can set the stage for a dramatic battle or can be very calming once you get your feet onto dry land.
There are some graphical qualms I have though, the biggest graphical problem you will encounter is the dismal frame rate, constantly hitting numbers you can count on one hand. This is a trend I’ve noticed quite a bit of lately, over taxing the hardware with amazing graphics that leave you with horrible frame rates. The littlest of things will disrupt the frame rate too, like adjusting the camera. I spent a lot of my time “Quick Traveling” from place to place in order to avoid this. Not to mention to cut down on load times. But I would rather my game not look as fabulous rather than suffer awful awful frame rates the likes of which can only be matched by Sky Gunner
for the PS2. Speaking of load times, this game has many opportunities to load stuff, and they take a good amount of time. It even seems like there is a load time to get the in-game menus. This is really noticeable when you want to go to save your game, you’ll experience loading lag everywhere in the game.
A good portion of the game is spent building relations with other countries and doing the dirty work for various politicians, with searching islands for treasure, and fighting it out on the high seas as a bit of a side game. The Black Pearl is kind enough to grace this game with its presence although it would have been nice to be able to capture the ship and use it yourself, but no such luck. Battle out on the seas is a difficult chore that you’ll find yourself avoiding for a good portion of the game, if you choose to do so that is. The open-ended gameplay is quite the saving grace, because if I had to battle at sea constantly in order to progress this game would be receiving a much lower score. If you wanted to you could spend the game making your money for ship necessities by going from port to port to trade items. But let’s just say that until you get a nice and powerful ship you’ll want to avoid all forms of gameplay that take place out at sea, whether it be fighting between ships, or sailing through storms to lose people. Storms are terrifyingly difficult to navigate and I must say that if you’re not saving often and you happen to wander in to one you’re better of just resetting the game at that point.
There are plenty of aspects to worry about with your ship as well; crew morale, the overall condition of your ship, your ammunition, and what you’re trading. It’s all like a glorified version of the trading game found in Suikoden 3. If by chance you happen to upset your crew enough there will be a mutiny and the game will end so make sure you pay those scurvy dogs on time, or its game over for ye matey.
The goal of sea fighting is to either take out a ship completely or board it to take control of it, and all of its cargo. I managed to capture one ship through the course of my play through and getting you ship to line up perpendicular to your foes can be quite difficult. And getting in close to them isn’t very easy either, for they will rip your sails and tear your hull a new one, while your ship will manage to be horribly inaccurate. Like I said before, skip the sea fighting unless you’re running in a massive ship. At that point all you’ll be looking to do is steal some cargo for trade later on.
During all this adventuring you’re going to run into a lot of people who’re looking for a fight. And the fighting isn’t that great in this game either. A lot of it boils down to using your gun as much as possible to weaken your enemy enough to stab them once to finish them off. I spent most of my leveling up gaining gun skills so that I wouldn’t have to fight hand to hand. The hand to hand fighting immediately turned me off when my 1’st mate kicked my ass up and down the deck of my own ship, so I decided, “THE GUN IT IS!” Swordplay consists of mashing on buttons hoping you’ll get through and parry at random yet important times. And it is all on one button, there are no combos or any really cool moves to show off to your friends. If the attack style had followed that of say… Way of the Samurai for PS2 I think this game would have rated much higher in my book. The stiff controls do little to help this game in any way too.
Unfortunately the only curse this game suffers from is not that of the Black Pearl, but of being a movie tie in. Had this game been left in development time for even just a month more I’m sure a lot of the rough edges could have been smoothed out. Especially the frame rate which is a huge hang up. What good is a great looking game if it doesn’t run smoothly? Dismal controls and an uninteresting story toss this game in to the rental bin. But give it a shot just to see how nice it looks and perhaps if you fancy yourself as the next Jack Sparrow you may be able to forgive his unfortunate absence.
Sea Dâ€¦ I mean Pirates of the Caribbean suffers from the typical movie license curse. Meaning it has little to do with the movie and was simply rushed to the market as a movie tie in. But the sunsets sure are pretty.