IGN Review of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End managed to unleash a fury of box office insanity this summer, and while we all expected it, it's still an impressive sight to behold . It may not be the final Pirates movie to reach the big screen (money talks, after all), but people are definitely catching pirate fever once again, and that means big cash in the box office, and a plethora of gaming goodness. On the gaming side of things thus far, Pirates has had a much smaller impact. We got an accompanying game with Curse of the Black Pearl, but with no console-wide game for Dead Man's Chest last year Pirates has left a void that needs to be filled. Little did we know that releasing alongside this year's movie would be a game that combines the final two movies into one package, and though At World's End still doesn't live up to AAA status, it's a fun game to rip through, and a nice accompaniment to the summer movie madness that now ensues. Much like the movie though, be sure to check your brain at the door.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is exactly the type of game you'd expect it to be. Take control of the main cast members in an adventure that parallels the movies, controlling Jack, Will, Elizabeth, and Barbossa in third-person action. The game focuses primarily on combat, with enemies spawning from any and every location, each of which is focused on a main area from the movie. And for the most part it works. Since the game follows both the second and third film, the first third or so is based on Dead Man's Chest, with the final two-thirds resting within the final movie. The game is entirely linear, and tailored specifically for a single player adventure, with multiplayer add-ons for game sharing and multi-cart. As for the main game, it's all about getting from point A to point B, cutting down anyone in your path, and completing mini-objectives to earn more style points and unlock more content.
It's a pretty straightforward design, but when you factor in the added sub-weapons and constant AI-controlled supporting cast there's plenty of diversity to go around; just don't expect the game to change too much from the main mash-fest. During your adventure you'll participate in multiple enemy combat with sword fighting, have access to throwing knives, pistol rounds, and grenades (which the game gives in heavy supply, encouraging players to break up the otherwise-basic sword fighting), and giant roasted turkey breast for retaining health. All sub-weapons are accessed by hitting the D-pad and then using the sub-weapon button; simple, yes?
As you progress through the game you'll happen upon more circumstantial events, having sword-only duels on a fixed, 2D-esque dueling area, or cruising down rapids on a rotating raft. As a quick note, sword fighting in the PSP/PS2 versions of the game is far better than the HD console counterparts, as there's still a somewhat-entertaining combo system. Later in the game you'll need to pull off multi-objective levels, which include protecting certain characters, using basic stealth to navigate enemy-infested areas, or setting up giant chain-reaction sequences through a plethora of mini-missions. As one of the finer points in the game, sword dueling is a blast, as it plays out like a more refined battle strictly between two characters. You'll be able to move left and right only, using a combination of grabs, thrusts, light attacks, and power attacks to take down a rival. Battles take place anywhere from on the city streets of Tortuga to the top mast of a pirate ship, and since it's an on-rails battle it constantly evolves around the arena in a fluid, cinematic way.
Pirates has its fair share of problems as well, but luckily enough none of them are deal-breaking issues. For starters, the game's overall design is still a bit on the basic side, and while there are always new objectives and one-on-one duels to look forward to, the core of the game is still two attack buttons, grabs, and blocking; not too amazingly deep. Both the PS2 and PSP versions each have their downsides as well, as they suffer from button-mashing syndrome. In its transition from PS2 to the pocket-sized PSP game, nothing on the gameplay side was sacrificed, so you'll get the same general experience whether your playstation connects to a TV or fits in your pocket.
One of the finer points of Pirates, though, rests in the sheer amount of cinematic gameplay that peppers the experience from top to bottom. The game is constantly delivering line after line of VO, whether it's mid-battle accompaniment or in-game cut scenes. There seems to be a bit less of it in general on PSP, but it's still a great experience overall. The main cast wasn't available for VC recording, but the sound-alikes are top notch, as Jack Sparrow and Will Turner come alive in the interactive world in a way that few other licensed games are able to deliver. The in-game camera-work - while a bit sketchy at times - is also a very high point to the package, as characters work their way around environments with ease, giving the entire game a more scripted, deliberate feel not in what the player does, but how it looks when it happens. Duels feel like controllable cut-scenes, and actual cut-scenes blend well into the gameplay.
To add a bit more spice to the game, Pirates allows for a ton of multiplayer options as the single player mode is completed. The arcade-like challenge mode has been dropped for PSP, but there are still three games - Poker, Pirate's Dice, and Davey's Hearts - that can be played in their entirety with up to four players using Ad Hoc, or booting off of just one disc for a more simplified game sharing mode. While these three games (each fairly deep in their own regard) aren't up to snuff with the console challenge mode, they still allow for some good time-wasting entertainment while waiting in line at Disneyland or killing time between classes. The added download play is a nice touch, and makes the PSP version for Pirates a comparable experience to the main console endeavors.
On the visual side, Pirates does a decent job of making good with what the game has. The PSP version specifically is missing some of the moving mouths and higher resolution textures, but still feels like PS2-lite, and that's not bad for a pocket console. Little things like ambient lighting and subtle level animations won't be found in general, but the PSP does a decent job of delivering the same essence of the larger productions without all the bells and whistles. If you're on the fence between grabbing the PS2 or PSP version of Pirates, don't let the graphical differences stop you; it's essentially the same offering overall.
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