Reviewed: August 8, 2007
Released: June 25, 2007
I’ll do my best to finish my review for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End without any gratuitous “Aarggs” or “Avasts” or any other pirate clichés that you may have already been exposed to in the movie or reading any other reviews for this latest installment in the Pirates franchise.
First off, don’t believe all the crap you’ve been reading in most of the other reviews. Then again, you probably don’t have any reason to believe me either, except that when I tell you that At World’s End is a great game it’s true, and anybody who didn’t like it just didn’t take the time to learn and appreciate it.
Eurocom totally nailed the look and feel and swashbuckling action of not only the movies, but also what it must have been like to be a pirate. The designers had unprecedented access to the assets from the film including artist renderings as well as 3D models and designs for all the undead pirates. When you see these characters in action in the game you’ll have trouble telling where the film ends and the game begins.
This next-gen Pirates title is packed with double the action and double the content. Even though it carries the name of the third film, the game actually begins with the second movie where Jack is escaping from the Prison Fortress. From there you’ll head to Port Royal, Tortuga, Isla Cruces, as well as locations from the third movie like Singapore and an extended adventure in the white sands of Davy Jones’ Locker. You’ll get to explore the Shipwreck City, escape the Flying Dutchman and battle the Kraken.
Eurocom has done an amazing job of not only recreating the environments and situations from the films but also expanding upon them, telling new subplots and giving you backstage access to parts of the scenery we only dreamed of seeing in the film. And it all flows together with perfect style and presentation in classic Disney style.
Pirates is divided into 11 chapters, most of which are considerably lengthy and feature plenty of combat and a bit of exploration and treasure questing. You’ll also be given a set of objectives that further the story. Not everything is mandatory, like collecting 7 of any of several level-specific items, or finding the elusive Calypso Piece. These are more for personal satisfaction and achievement points, and since these collectibles are usually hidden off the beaten path, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to find them.
Almost everything you need to know to be a pirate is learned in the opening level which doubles as a tutorial. Here, you will learn to run, climb, shimmy, wall hug, push boxes, carry kegs, slide on zip lines, and balance on narrow beams. Of course that is just navigating these complex levels. You then have to master the art of combat, which comes at you in full-on against-the-odds battles as well as one on one sword duels.
Normal combat is a mix of using your sword, punching, kicking, and possibly unloading your flintlock as ammo permits. You only have one button for swinging your sword, but you can mix that with jumps, punches, and grapples to mix things up. As you create combos you will fill your Swordsmanship meter and once filled you can execute a devastating finishing move. These moves are required for defeating the sub-bosses found in most combat waves.
Since you are usually outnumbered you’ll need to master the art of evasion and counters. As enemies surround you the one about to attack will display a red circle. This gives you a few seconds to face that enemy and press grapple or attack and if timed correctly, you’ll get a flamboyant counterattack such as tripping or flipping that enemy as he rushes you.
Dueling is reserved for the bigger bosses and is much more personal. You’ll square off in a quasi 2D view then watch the three indicators on the enemy’s side of the screen that indicate their next attack, either high, low, or thrust. You must match that attack with a parry by pushing the stick up down or toward the enemy. If you block the attack you can follow through with your own attacks. As this continues you will slowly force the enemy back, or vice versa as health is slowly chipped away from your meter. Interestingly enough, most duels don’t end in death, but rather some comical climax or surrender.
Notoriety is an important part of being a pirate and everything you do earns you some sort of notoriety. The more pirate-like actions you can pull off the greater your fame. This can be as simple as grabbing and flinging one enemy into three others or cutting a rope to trap some enemies under a giant bell or under a boat. There are all sorts of these swashbuckling moments hidden throughout the game and they are extremely rewarding when you find and perform them.
In addition to Jack you’ll also get to play as Will and Elizabeth, who each have their own combat styles and own unlockable finishing moves. While they controls are pretty much the same, there are some slightly adjustments you’ll need to make when playing these other characters. Most of all, this game is NOT a button masher as other reviews have indicated. They just didn’t take the time to learn the combat system. When you figure out how it works it is very exciting and rewarding.
Another interesting addition is the element of voodoo. Along the way you’ll find and collect shrunken heads. These allow you to execute a special attack called a Jackanism, whereby you thrust your sword into the ground sending out a sinister green shockwave killing most normal enemies, destroys boxes, detonates explosive barrels and even lights cannons. You’ll then have several seconds where your sword is glowing green and you can perform one-hit kills and absorb the soul of your fallen enemies. There are also special chests in each level that require you to collect three shrunken heads and perform the Jackanism combo on the chest to open it.
If it weren’t for numerous camera glitches this game would have gotten a perfect score for graphics. It just doesn’t get much better than this. First of all the characters look freakishly realistic, a fact that you’ll realize when you see Davy Jones swaggering up behind the title screen. But once you start playing the game and seeing the detailed mo-cap work that was performed, including some of the best Johnny-Depp drunken swagger imitation ever, you’ll feel like you are controlling a movie.
The levels are excellently diverse ranging from the dank depths of the prison to the lush tropical islands and sinister bowls of the Flying Dutchman, complete with corpses lurching out from the walls. One of the best levels features an ongoing multi-part battle with the Kraken that might just go down in history as one of the most fun levels of 2007. I still go back and just play that one level over and over when friends want to see the game. It truly represents the graphics and gameplay of the rest of the game.
Textures pop off the screen with high-resolution detail and bump mapping, and the lighting and shadow effects are stunning. There is also a great fire effect for torches, explosions, and even lighting your sword on fire to inflict more damage or just light a cannon fuse.
While you do retain control of the camera with the left stick, there are times when the environments can get in the way. It seldom causes serious gameplay issues but I did die a few times because of a bad jump in Shipwreck City. Oh yeah – apparently pirates can’t swim.
Eurocom spared no expense to bring the epic soundtrack from the movie into the game. A full orchestra was assembled to give this game the adventure flavor it so richly deserves. The music swells with the action and dynamically changes to synch with the action of the moment or the location you are currently exploring.
The voice acting is flawless for all of the characters, stars and supporting cast alike. Elizabeth has that sexy defiance and Jack has his trademark drunken slur. The only voice that totally threw me was the Indian, Sri Sumbhajee who spoke in a shrill girlie voice.
The sound effects are mostly the sounds of swords clashing and the thuds of physical combat. There are plenty of environmental sounds, wood splintering, explosions, cannon fire, and when you are actually on land, birds, wind, flowing water, swooshing poison darts, grinding stone, etc. The Dolby Digital mix surrounds you in all these epic sounds.
Most adventurous gamers can finish off At World’s End in 12-15 hours. Most levels are 30-60 minutes long and checkpoint frequently so even when you die you don’t have to replay too much of the level. There are a few incentives to replay the game including obtaining any of the missing treasures you might have missed. There is also one Jackanism chest located in the first level that is impossible to unlock until you replay that level after first acquiring three shrunken heads in one of the later levels.
There are 30 Achievements and with the exception of the Prison Fortress Treasure most all of them can be earned in the first pass through the game. Most involve collecting the 7 items in each level and finding the Calypso piece on each map. The rest are just earned through progression through the story and advancing your characters.
My one and only complaint with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was the ridiculously difficult final level that pretty much had me give up the game. This final level forces you to fight with all three main characters simultaneously, switching back and forth as you fend off multiple waves of enemies and three sub-bosses, and that’s before you even get into the exploration part of the level.
I hate not finishing a game, especially when I’m this close, and I’ll likely go back and finish it someday if I can, but this shouldn’t discourage anyone from rushing out and getting a copy of this latest Pirates game. Whether you are on land, sea, or the white sands of Davy Jones Locker, there isn’t a more swashbuckling time to be had and Jack Sparrow is the quintessential pirate hero.