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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End puts in you command of Captain Jack Sparrow, William Turner, Elizabeth Swann, Captain Barbossa and quite a few other characters from the film if you unlock them as extras. The plot is based on the second half of the second film as well as the whole of the third Pirates of the Caribbean films, ultimately ending with an epic battle against Davy Jones.
Many locations and plot elements, as well as the characters are in this game, are taken directly from the films. Sometimes the plot scenes don't really follow each other in a particularly logical way, so a familiarity with the films does help in that regard to know what's supposed to be going on. Even if the cut scenes don't always make all that much sense though, it's always clear enough what you're actually supposed to be doing. This game is a rather simple style of arcade adventure where you explore, do a lot of sword fighting, collect objects, solve the occasional puzzle, complete quests, and do more sword fighting. It doesn't really have much in the way of RPG elements, though as you progress through the game you can collect various objects: food (life points), flintlocks (one-shot, slow but powerful weapons), grenades (fiddly to use but good for attacking groups of enemies), and knives (for a quick throw before your opponent gets near enough to run you through). Each of these items become more effective as you progress through the game. The story mode features 12 locations, each containing a main objective and 4 sub-objectives. Completing the level just involves completing the main objective, but in order to unlock special game features, the sub-objectives need to be completed too. On your first run through the game you're not likely to complete more than one or two sub-objectives per level. Along the way you'll find yourself facing the Navy, Chinese pirates, native cannibals and undead pirates. All in a day's work for Captain Jack Sparrow.
The graphics are decent enough but not outstanding, though the locations are well portrayed. There are no real options for the graphics apart from the resolution, which goes as low as 640x480, so you don't need a very powerful system to run it at a decent frame rate. My system ran it at 1280x1024 with no slow-down (I have a GeForce 7500LE PCI-Express card - a bottom of the range 7xxx series card). The character models are somewhat less impressive - basic, rather skinny and angular models with 2D digitised pictures stretched over a simple 3D head. Still, at least most of the characters did at least resemble their movie counterparts. While the music in the game is taken straight from the film (and is excellent), unfortunately very few of the original cast were here to lend their voices to the game, though notable exceptions are Tom Hollander (Lord Beckett), Mackenzie Crook (Ragetti) and Lee Arenberg (Pintel). Jared Butler, Crispin Freeman and Brian George were pretty convincing as Captain Jack Sparrow, William Turner and Captain Barbossa respectively, but unfortunately Eliza Schneider sounds nothing like Miss Knightly as Elizabeth Swann. The graphics for Swann's character also looked pretty terrible - in particular a really bad job has been done on the graphical modelling of her face.
Fans of Elizabeth Swann are likely to be further disappointed by her dialogue - it's bland, boring or just plain irritating. However the other characters, particularly Sparrow and Barbossa, have some quite funny lines. There's not a great deal of dialogue in the game, most of what there is being generic expressions when you win or lose a fight, but they are quite fun on the whole. There are some proper conversations in the game and you sometimes have a (rather limited) choice as to what your character says. It's really all about the action though, and thankfully this is well handled in the game and the sword fighting is really good fun, if a little repetitive at times. Some characters you encounter can be talked to for more information or possibly sub-quests - look out for the exclamation mark above their heads, it's a dead giveaway! The story mode can be completed quite quickly - I would have thought that most players will complete each level in around half an hour to an hour, with the whole thing taking maybe ten hours altogether. Only the last level set between the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman were a serious challenge, though some of the earlier levels aren't exactly a push-over. When you have been killed the game immediately restarts at a restore point, and you can only save the game between levels.
To add a little a more interest to proceedings there are two mini-games - completing them isn't really necessary in order to complete the story mode, but they are quite fun. The first is Pirate Dice, first seen in the third film when Will Turner tries to win his freedom from Davy Jones. It takes a little while to work out the rules (though they're explained in-game and in the accompanying game manual, it still takes a little working out), but once you do it is really a quite enjoyable distraction. There's also Pirate Poker, which won't take you long to work out if you know any type of poker. This is also quite good and I actually played it quite a bit. But a dice game and a card game... hardly going to have any real staying power for most gamers, is it? Well these aren't just any old dice and card games we're talking about here, because these be pirates, you see (arghh me hearties etc). And pirates, being as they travel the seven seas, encounter all sorts of legendary and mystical objects. (You aren't just given them though - throughout the game you will have chances to obtain them by completing various sub-quests.) There are talismans around that can increase your chances in these games - being able to see the opponents hand, change the game rules, and other devious underhanded tactics. Cheat, in other words. Playing the games is one thing, but playing them when you have uncanny powers is so much more fun...
When the story mode is completed, there is more to do. There are the sub-objectives within the story mode that you didn't manage to complete first time round, and for each of the 12 locations there are three "challenge modes" for you to win in order to get more hidden goodies. There are to gain a certain amount of loot in a given time, defeat a certain number of enemies, or attaining a combo of a certain number of sequential attack moves. These unlock more characters, weapons, and other stuff for you to play with later on. You can visit a location called "Treasure Cove" from the main menu to see exactly what extras you have already managed to unlock, what are still to be unlocked, and where the undiscovered extras can be found.
Another small aspect of the game is "Jackanisms" - in these you have to press the right keys at the right time to complete the sequence in Jack Sparrow's own unique way, like in several dancing games. Failing will not actually stop you from progressing in the story mode part of the game, but you do only get one chance at it every time you play the level. Succeeding increases your notoriety, which makes up your overall score. Certain other sequences in the story mode also require you to press the right key at the right time, but you get unlimited attempts for those (thankfully!).
The other game type you can pursue is duelling. These are unlocked when you have successfully won that particular duel in the story mode. Once you play it as a standalone duel, however, you can select any character you have already unlocked. While the difference is not very great in terms of the difficulty of the game, each character has their own particular stance and style; for instance Will Turner and Elisabeth Swann, being upper class, both use the classical fencing position and technique. On the other hand Captain Barbossa, being more your traditional piratey figure, holds his cutlass somewhat crudely and attacks in a hacking fashion; Jack Sparrow, with delusions of grandeur but without the proper training, is somewhere between the two. The various weapons seem to mainly be different in aesthetic properties rather than action. This duelling can be a little odd in that whatever character you are controlling at the time, the dialogue remains the same as in the story mode - so you are Jack Sparrow, Will Turner etc to your opponent whoever you actually are at the time!
As mentioned before the game is a little simple and repetitive, though the fact that it's not in depth makes it one of those rare games (these days) that can be played for a quick ten minutes rather than having to have sleep-reducing playing sessions. The game would probably only be worth 3 stars, but the addition of a 2-player duelling mode (you will need at least one joystick / controller as only one player can use the keyboard) gives it an extra edge that makes it worthy of 4 stars... just about. It certainly makes the game worth playing long after you've got bored of all the 1-player features.
OS: Windows XP, Vista [not Windows x64] - tested on Vista with no problems
CPU: Pentium 4 / AMD Athlon 1.5GHz or higher (at least 1.8GHz recommended) - tested on a Core Duo 4300
Ram: 256Mb (at least half a gig recommended) - tested on a 1Gb system
HDD space: 1.4Gb
3D card: 64Mb card - 128Mb or higher recommended - compatible with DirectX 9.0C, hardware T&L compatible
Integrated (built-in) graphics cards are not supported.
This game is distributed by Disney and comes with very striking cover art and a helpful manual. I picked it up at Morrison's for £6.99 - at least my unreliable memory keeps coming up with that price. Amazon have it for £7.98 and Play.com have it for... a penny more. It definitely helps if you're a fan of the films, but you should find the game good fun anyway.
(PEGI Rating: 12+ for violence and gambling elements)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is inspired by the events, environments and characters surrounding the second and third instalments of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Players must demonstrate their cunning, swashbuckling creativity and swordsmanship as they encounter all manner of crazed pirated and cursed creatures in treacherous, exotic locations. Play as the eccentric Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann to prevent Jack's dark past catching up with him. Enjoy sword-assisted acrobatics, adaptive combat and classical duelling in unique gameplay. Experience the Pirates of the Caribbean world in never-before-seen detail, going beyond the films' events and storylines to introduce new locations, an extended story, legendary pirates and a unique ending.