Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds EndESRB:
Developer – Eurocom Ent.
Publisher – Disney Interactive Studios
After seeing the final chapter to the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy on the big screen I was interested to see how yet another movie based videogame would fare. Disney Interactive was kind enough to send us the PS3 version of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End to review. After some high definition playtime with the game I would have to say that the game looks, and even sounds, like the movies it portrays, but its path to greatness is impeded by some average gameplay experiences.
The visuals in Pirates of the Caribbean are arguably one of the highlights of the game. The characters are spot on in relation to their real life big screen counterparts. I was somewhat amazed to see how everyone looked so movie like right down to each of their movements. Take a close look at everything from Captain Jack’s swagger to his Davy Jones’ tentacles, each move very fluidly and looks exactly like it does in the actual movie. Beyond the characters the movies locales are well represented in the game too. Environments mirror those of the movie as they are clean, colorful and well rendered. Of course anyone who knows the movies knows that there is a lot of seafaring adventure to be had, and this too is well translated to the videogame version of Pirates. Both the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman are very well rendered and they are quite detailed. Everything from flowing sails to the individual rope rigging is uncannily recreated. And the oceans that these ships traverse are pretty good looking too. If there is any negative in the visual area that should be mentioned it is that there is an occasional bout of choppiness to the framerate now and then. I found that this didn’t occur all the time, but when it did it was noticeable and somewhat puzzling to me. Bottomline, developer Eurocom really managed to visually nail the characters, the environments and the ships from Pirates of the Caribbean, and these all add up to making the game look and feel more like the movie it represents.
The audio in Pirates of the Caribbean is pretty solid and pretty much compliments the visuals in the game. Interestingly the voices in the game are not those of their real life counterparts, so don’t expect to be hearing Johnny Depp, Kiera Knightly or Orlando Bloom. I don’t know if the lack of authentic voices was due to money or time, but regardless it was somewhat disappointing to have to listen to sound-alike’s. That being said though I did find that the sound-alike’s did seem to have a pretty close sound to those actors I watched in the movie so it was not a total loss. The in-game soundtrack is also pretty good too and it manages to mimic the movies orchestral feel. The music fades in and out depending on what the on-screen situation calls for. The music really matched the on-screen action and was very competent in making for a somewhat more immersive gameplay experience. As for the rest of the sound effects they manage to get the job done quite well too, with solid explosions, convincing body shots very life-like clanging of swords.
This game is a combination of both the second and third titles that have been said wrap up the Pirate trilogy. During the first half of the game you will find yourself following the story Dead Man’s Chest where you focus on Jack Sparrow’s attempt to recover the heart of Davy Jones in his effort to avoid becoming a member of his crew and spending an eternity on the Flying Dutchman. This part of the game reaches its climax the same way the movie did as Jack faces the Kraken aboard the Black Pearl. The latter half of the game picks up where the third movie does, with Captain Jack and his mix-matched crew joining together to battle Lord Beckett in an effort to defend the pirate way. Of course Jack is still trying to obtain Davy Jones’ locker and heart all over again too in an effort to gain immortality. Anyone who has seen the movies will recognize many scenes from both major motion pictures which take the form of cutscenes. Unfortunately those who have not seen any of the movies may have a hard time following the events portrayed in the game as they are somewhat disjointed and don’t seem to flow as well as the movie. Nonetheless the story does get told and matches the overall stories of both movies the game represents.
Controls in the game are pretty basic and upon making my way through the adventure I found that the controls were almost too simple as they eventually became an effortless button pressing affair. Swordplay is assigned to only one button for swinging. It becomes such an affair that you will find yourself coming up to the AI enemies and hit the single button until you finish them off. As you face the lower level baddies there is an attack meter that slowly fills up and once it is full you are able to perform a pretty cool looking finishing move. This is important to have because you will come across some tougher character class of enemies that can only be killed with a special move. You are able to punch and kick enemies as well, the latter only being able to be done when you do not have a sword equipped. Enemies can be grabbed and tossed into other enemies too or you can toss them over the edges of buildings, docks and other areas in the game. Finally, there are a smattering of weapons found in the game that are at your disposal, such as guns, knives and grenades. Although this sounds real cool I found that using some of these was quite difficult, especially the grenades and knives. Maybe it was just me, but for the life of me I could not aim these weapons that effectively. Maybe you will have better luck, but trust me I tried the best I could and I was not as accurate as I had hoped. There is also a feature as you venture through the game that has you making attempts at raising your notoriety by mixing up your moves. I found there was no reason to really focus on this aspect of Pirates as it didn’t really help me finish the game any easier.
Most of the gameplay is spent as the famed Captain Jack Sparrow. You’ll get some brief time with a few others, like Will and Elizabeth, however most of the game is played as the scoundrel Captain Jack. Developer Eurocom did try to mix things up a bit by allowing you to fight as all three players at the same time, but this did not pan out too well because the other two characters do a pretty bad job of defending themselves. You will find yourself, as I did, having to switch between all three on a very constant basis in an effort just to keep each alive, let alone to fight with them. The idea was great in concept, and did add a somewhat frantic feel to these parts of the game, however it was pretty tough to manage and felt out of place in someway. Adding to the frustration of these three person battles is that if you die you are forced to start with the same amount of health every time. Now if you die at a point when you had lots of health that is ok, but should you have started the battle with a small amount of health be prepared to fight over and over again until you finally get lucky and kill all the baddies on screen.
The majority of the game is all about fighting, but you will also spend some of your time running, jumping and climbing through the various locales that are reminiscent of the movie. You will look for people to talk to as well and you will also search for lost items in the levels too. I briefly touched on the controls earlier on in this section, specifically in regards to combat, but there is also some Sixaxis support that I think needs to be commented on. Pirates of the Caribbean has been released on every console currently available on the market today, and the PS3 is the only one to support motion control via the Sixaxis controller. Support for the Sixaxis comes in the form of being able to tilt the controller left or right to keep your balance when traversing across narrow beams. This feels somewhat tacked on, but at least the developers did try to implement something of this nature to separate this version from all the others.
There is also some multiplayer support in Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End. There is split screen co-op as well as some competitive play that allows you and a friend to take on swarms of enemies in timed challenges, and you can also challenge your friend to a dual. I found these multiplayer aspects somewhat disappointing as they just didn’t seem to add that much more the game for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see the addition of such, but I honestly think it could have been so much more.
At the end of the day Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End does what it should for a movie based game as it visually represents the movie to a tee and follows the story pretty closely. The biggest issue with the value of this game is that the overall gameplay is not as inspiring as the visuals or the sound. I would suggest that if you are looking for an adventure title that is over the top you should look elsewhere, but if you are expecting to play a game that represents what the Pirates of the Caribbean story is, then you really can’t go wrong with this title.