June 7, 2007

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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (PC/360/PS3)
Eurocom, 2007
By Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

Developer Eurocom proves that there is actually one thing worse than a budget-bloated lucre-hungy cash-in sequel (or two): its inevitable video game adaptation.

I don’t want to sound like I hated Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, ’cause I genuinely enjoyed it. The third installment of the mega-blockbuster Disney ride-turned-film franchise was a wonderful spectacle. Johnny Depp was funny as all get-out and the special effects were quite special indeed.

But the thought of recreating that for your 360? We should all be cynically cautious. When has a movie tie-in been even half as good as the film (Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butchers Bay being the one stellar, notable exception to this rule)? Never. And yet avast. Here she blows.

Let’s start with the swashbuckling. Combat in POCAWE suffers from sluggish, unresponsive saber slashing and from hordes of enemies that don’t offer much in the way of swordplay. The one-on-one boss fights take a different tack with semi-scripted dueling. Even though those fights satisfy with their often chuckle-worthy climaxes a la Depp the mechanics are a simple block block block strike waiting game.

And the sword dueling is something that POCAWE should have gotten right. If you had made a third-person adventure title with good enemy lock on (oops noticably absent here!) you could build a great sword dueling system rather than a simple timing challenege.

The rest of the game is a crib sheet of by-the-numbers adventure tropes. Climbing, balance beam-running, rope swinging and the like fulfill the Prince of Persia clone angle. Other stages will have you rummaging through the environment searching for bottles or trial and error probing your way out of Davey Jones’ Locker.

But at least there’s Johnny Depp, right? Nope, sorry, you get a digital Jack Sparrow but without the sleazy charm or Mr. Depp voicing him.

You’ve seen all this before in a million other games (some even with quite similar pirate themes). Eurocom, why not add some great ship-to-ship combat? Why can’t I blow the crap out of the Flying Dutchman? Huh? I have pirate dreams, you know, and you are failing to deliver.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’s nothing but another dip of Mickey’s glove into your wallet, but this time he’s taking fifty-plus dollars and a stinking D+ out — Glenn Given