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     " Had they have added but a little more depth and smoothed the combat out a bit more this would've been one for the ages. "

      Title: Pirates of the Caribbean by Bethesda

      Format: Xbox Pirate Roleplaying Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: In this age of mass marketing cross promotions no summer blockbuster film would be complete without a video game pimping its name. Interestingly, and unusually, in this case rather than hire someone to simply make a walkthrough of the flick in Xbox form, Disney instead signed a game that was already in development and Pirates of the Caribbean was born.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Hands down this is one of the pretty roleplaying games I've seen…well…ever! The characters are sharp and interesting, the ships are highly detailed, the water and weather effects are exceptional, and the ground environments all convey mood and location extremely well. Added to that are some very nice lighting effects and enough ambiance that you will definitely be able to lose yourself in the moment of flying cannonballs and torn out sails. 4 out of 5

      Playability: Anyone reared on horrible movie stereotype games and entering into Pirates expecting yet another platformer swashbuckling affair is in for a shock and a treat-it is in fact a detailed and expansive roleplaying game and makes no bones about it. Originally titled Seadogs II, Pirates began life as a sequel of what was considered by many to be the ultimate pirate simulator/rpg and was sold to Disney earlier this year as a companion to their movie. Thus we see no pain in the ass dramatic moment tie-ins, painful movie based puzzles, or annoying rushed development issues on this particular title.
           What we get instead is a fairly solid and ultimately enjoyable game in which you begin life as a young captain of a small ship and through voyages, random encounters, quests, and trading you work your way up through the ranks to become anything from a respected naval champion of the European colonies or a dreaded pirate of the Caribbean-your choice.
          The entire game is open-ended and has no linear script to worry about, so one of the first things you'll notice is the remarkable flexibility you have in playing styles and opportunities. You can take on contracts as merchant escorts, raid ships at sea, join with the European governments, become a merchant trader, or just dink around in your ship. Even the quests you do undertake tend to have no definite timeline so you can do them at your leisure, filling the "in-between" time with any number of adventures. While some gamers may find this lack of structure disheartening, I found it a fantastic change of pace and really enjoyed the freedom of movement and cause.
          Adding to this freedom is a considerable number of play options as well. In addition to ship-to-ship sea battles (which, of course, are a must in a pirate game), Pirates also includes a third or first person adventure mode in which you can trade with local merchants, explore jungles, caves, towns, and beaches, fight in random encounters, take on new quests, and even board ships at sea for capture. It's an exciting element of play and is fairly seamlessly integrated within the greater game so that both sailing and slogging along on foot feel natural and the range of gameplay keeps the game from growing tired quickly.
          All that's the good news.
          The bad is that, while Pirates incorporates a number of elements, unfortunately none of them are handled particularly well. Ship combat is very sterile, with the impetus for victory simply being to go broadside to broadside and pushing the attack button…only occasionally working to jockey for position or keep your bow to the breeze. Foot combat is even more so with a simple three button attack system that involves little more than "hold block, release block and tap attack quickly, then move back to block as fast as possible, repeat". The addition of a pistol to your arsenal adds a little bit of diversity but really only entails replacing "attack" with "pistol" as it becomes loaded. Trading is always static and eventually becomes a simple matter of strategyless menu checking and random encounters, the bulk of the combat, can be horribly unbalanced as on foot, regardless of your crew size, you are just one man.
           Pirates also tends to be buggy well beyond a fault and at times will frustrate you to such a degree that you will unquestionably find yourself throwing your controller and walking away. There are a number of bugs that take hold, from quests that will not allow themselves to be completed to game crashes and saved game corruption. Not to paint to dire a picture, all of these issues rear their head infrequently (and even less often on the PC version), but they are there and should be anticipated. 3.5 out of 5

      Story and Drama: The idea of a persistent storyline in rpgs has been debated for years. Some players want a master quest to pursue and side quests to embark on from time to time. Some gamers don't want anything governing their day-to-day and only want the quests they take on for themselves. Well, I have no intention of discussing the merits and flaws of each in this review, but will instead simply say this game definitely subscribes to the latter for better or worse. The lack of an "over-quest" means, on the plus side, that there are no restrictions on your actions but on the down side give you no cohesive overall to tie your experience together with. Fortunately, regardless of how you feel about that particular issue, the game is chock full of mini-quests and boasts universal interactions (if you can see a person you can talk to them) so there's plenty of story for those willing to dig for it. The down side, though, is that none of the stories have any real depth and are all related in strictly text interactions. Ugh.
         Also worth note is the story tie ins, or rather, the lack there of, with the movie. The hero of the game shares name with a main movie character, and there are a few skeletons to encounter, and that's it. 3.5 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: The game has no replayability rating since it never ends and, sadly, there is no multiplayer…but it could have been brilliant if present. Either in terms of an on-line persistent world or a co-op mode, having one player to man the guns and another to steer the ship would have been keen and two players fighting side by side would have been even better yet! No Rating.

      The Verdict:

       In the end Pirates becomes the ultimate game that could have been but is still at least an above average game that is. Had they have added but a little more depth and smoothed the combat out a bit more this would've been one for the ages.

      The Good: Beautiful, open ended, has tons of options, and is full of possibilities.

      The Bad: Limited combat and trade engines make the game more repetitive and predictable than should be.

      The Overall Ugly: A good pirate simulator and a fun play to be sure.

      What it's Worth: $40

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