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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PC, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Eurocom
Release Date: May 22, 2007 (US), May 25, 2007 (EU)

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PS3/X360 Review - 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 7, 2007 @ 1:43 a.m. PDT

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End invites players to "live and die by the sword" as they venture to the worlds of the films and beyond while playing as Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End takes players through a modified version of the movie's events, focusing a bit more on Jack Sparrow than the film did. Jack and his fellow pirates, Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner, are forced to travel across the seven seas, seeking a way to stop Davy Jones, a legendary man-turned-monster, who is seeking to take Jack to Davy Jones' Locker as part of an unfortunate deal Jack made a long time ago. Unfortunately, the three get mixed up in a plot involving voodoo, the East India Trading Company, the Pirate Lords who rule all the buccaneers on the sea and countless other terrible creatures.

As far as a movie game goes, At World's End does a fairly good job of bringing across the basic film's plot without spoiling it for those who've yet to venture to their local movie theaters. Unfortunately, everything feels rather bland and dull. There are a few humorous cut scenes, but Jack lacks most of his trademark wit and style. Curiously, although this title is based on the most recent movie, over half of the game is spent on the events of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." This isn't overly surprising, as the only games based on "Dead Man's Chest" were released for portable systems, but it is a bit odd that they didn't choose to rename it to match this double-length plotline.

The actual gameplay has players traveling from Port Royale to the Far East in your attempts to save Jack and all of Piratekind. Unfortunately, the actual adventure is far less exciting than the plot makes it sound. Instead, Jack and his friends are forced into a seemingly endless series of clichéd and boring quests, with most quests boiling down to the same thing: find something or someone. Once you do, you either get into a fight or are sent to find something else. Repeat nearly endlessly.

These quests are occasionally broken up by some interesting Prince of Persia-inspired platforming segments. These segments control quite well, although they do lack the natural ease of movement found in Prince of Persia. These segments are few and far between and generally involve shimmying across a wall. It was fun the first couple of times, but gets tiring later, especially since you have to watch every movement in case the stone you are walking on crumbles — which it does often. Luckily, avoiding a fall is a simple matter of pressing the Right Trigger when prompted. The only other thing to do in Pirates is fight, and you'll be doing far too much of that.

Most of your combat in At World's End pits Jack, Will or Elizabeth against endless swarms of identical foes. Combat is very simple, with the "A" button controlling your sword. Repeated sword attacks cause an enemy to become stunned, at which point they can usually be finished off by another slash. Certain stronger enemies require you to use Finishing Moves to defeat them instead, but all that does is require holding the Left Trigger and then pressing a button when the enemy is stunned.

Every battle plays out roughly the same way: parry, stun, win, parry, stun, and win. It's fun the first 10 or 20 times, but you'll do it hundreds of times before the game is out. If enemies get around to attacking, most don't even offer a real challenge. When an enemy is about to attack, it is surrounded by a bright red circle. If you move toward that enemy and press "A" at the same time, you perform an instant counter that does massive damage to the enemy. Not only is this attack ridiculously powerful, but the window of opportunity is so wide that getting hit is a rarity.

To be fair, the game offers a few different combat options, although they're not particularly more effective than the generic attack. Players can grab enemies and toss them off buildings or into traps for an instant kill. Likewise, Jack has access to "Jackanism," which allows him to blast all nearby enemies with voodoo power and enchant his sword to kill enemies in one hit and steal their souls. You can even get flintlock pistols and throwing knives. The problem is that all of these are just more frustrating and less effective than simply sword fighting with an enemy. Throwing knives and the like are difficult to aim, voodoo magic should be saved to open specific chests, and trying to grab enemies is one of the few ways you can get hurt. Occasionally, you even have an AI partner fighting alongside you, but these partners are fairly dim, so you'll have to save them from themselves. Thankfully, the d-pad is used to switch between characters in these cases, so that isn't an overly difficult task.

The second kind of combat you'll face in At World's End are duels. Usually fought against a major foe, these duels are completely different from regular fights. These one-on-one fights rely more on countering and parrying than the simple button-mashing that makes up most of the action in the game. The camera is switched to a side-scrolling view focused on the two duelists, with one attacking and the other defending. When you're on the defense, three "pulse meters" appear next to the player's enemy. When one of these meters lights up, you have to press your analog stick in the correct direction to parry the foe's assault. Make enough parries, and you get to go on the offensive.

Alternately, multiple successful parries build up your character's special meter. If you have enough of your pulse meter after blocking an attack, you can choose to counter instead of allowing the enemy to continue, instantly putting you on the offensive. Now the movements of your analog stick choose where you attack. Pressing up aims for the enemy's head, down aims for his legs, and pressing forward unleashes a powerful thrust that is difficult to combo.

In all honesty, these duels are not very challenging. Countering and parrying enemy attacks requires a minimal amount of effort, and even the most unskilled gamer should have no problem cruising through these fights. With that said, they're a lot more fun to watch and play than regular combat. The animations are well done and interesting to watch, and it's just a lot faster and more intense, despite the ease. Even if there is no real risk of losing, parrying and avoiding the enemy's sword is a lot more fun than mashing buttons.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, since our protagonists are pirates, most of your time is spent collecting loot. Random letters or wanted posters of Will Turner or gold bars and various other trinkets are among the items that are scattered across the levels. Collecting loot is fun for those looking for Achievement Points, and valuables also improve your notoriety, which functions as a basic score measurement. At the end of each stage, you are assessed a name based on this attribute; unless you have a problem with being called a "landlubber," the only reason to bother with your notoriety score is for the Xbox Live Leaderboard, which records the high scores of various players. In addition to the random loot, players can find Jackanism chests and Calypso pieces scattered throughout the stages. Jackanism chests unlock special features, and the Calypso pieces tell players about the storm of Davy Jones and Calypso, Goddess of the Sea. The latter is sure to be a big treat to those die-hard fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean mythos.

One element of At World's End that works particularly well is the graphics. Although they are not the best ever, they do their job particularly well. The backgrounds are detailed and well designed and do a fantastic job of bringing the feel of the movie to your X360. The character models are top-notch, although most of their faces look just a bit odd when seen up-close. The animations are smooth and flow well from one to another, although some of the "hit" animations for combos seem jerky. The biggest problem the game suffers from is model repetition. Most enemies have two or three models apiece, and some have even fewer! You'll fight the same British soldier over and over and over, and thanks to the boring combat system, you'll quickly grow tired of smashing them over and over. It comes as a relief when a movie character appears, if just because you know that there is only one of them.

Borrowing from the movie's soundtrack, At World's End has pretty background music. It's not exactly epic and memorable, but it gets the job done and never gets tiresome. The dearth of voice acting is a little off-putting. The enemies chatter up a storm while fighting, but Jack, Elizabeth and Will are oddly silent. Considering the witty banter that makes Jack Sparrow such a lovable character, this is a bizarre omission. Admittedly, I wasn't looking forward to hearing Jack repeat the same catchphrase over and over, but having him be silent isn't much better, as it takes away a lot of what makes him so likeable. When the protagonists do talk, their voices are quite well done. Although the actors from the movies do not reprise their roles here, their sound doubles manage to pull off fairly convinced mimicry. However, their voice roles are so few in number that it feels almost pointless to have hired talented actors in this case.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End isn't that bad. It does a few things quite well and few things poorly. It is perhaps the very definition of mediocre. Combat is repetitive and boring, but not particularly flawed in any way, except perhaps for the weak AI. If you're a big Pirates fan, you'll probably have a fun time with it, but it will end up gathering dust on the shelf after a single playthrough. Otherwise, it's best to pass on this game until it reaches the bargain bin. For a $60 adventure, At World's End just doesn't have what it takes to bring home the gold.

Score: 5.8/10


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