Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Review
So with the Spider-Man 3 and Shrek 3 videogames coming out dreadfully boring, and highly cumbersome, now it's time to see how the last Pirates game stacks up. In the last of the movie-based videogame trilogies, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End actually fares better than the aforementioned two, although still falls way short of being worth the price of admission. This summer of licensed videogames has actually left me a little surprised, seeing as how all three videogames based on the most high profile movies came out below average. I was expecting at least one of the three to be decent.
Alas, the quick buck must be earned and movie games are always on the strictest of schedules. You can't delay a movie-based game, seeing as how it absolutely must coincide with the release of the film no matter the circumstances. Pirates is one of those games where the developer didn't care about its circumstances. Though shockingly enough, Pirates 3 on the PSP is actually a marginally better game than the the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, mostly thanks to a decent framerate. A ghastly framerate practically destroys the entire experience, rendering Pirates 3 nearly unplayable on the PS3 and barely tolerable on the Xbox 360. The PSP version, while not great by any stretch, still manages to be more enjoyable. It is also, more or less, just a downsized version of the PS2 game.
With the hardware limitations of the PSP, Pirates 3 doesn't quite capture the look of the movie as well as the next-gen versions do, or even the PS2 version. But the game is still visually acceptable for the Sony portable. The sword fighting, unlike in the next-gen version is really boring and can drag on too long. If you're ambushed by a bunch of enemies, not only will you be attacked from every direction, but you'll have to engage in a host of too-long-for-their-own-good sword fights that'll leave you wanting to do one thing: turn off the game. And because the sword fights are so common, the end result is an unpolished game that was rushed with mediocre puzzles and challenges. In the game you'll take control of three different characters, Jack, Will, and Elizabeth.
During climactic moments, you'll engage in duels that'll require some careful timing as opposed to just button mashing. But there isn't anything special about the dueling, so it's not even worth the thought. There are a few mini-games and a multi-player mode, but all of that just seems like filler in contrast to the lacking main game. There are some distinct gameplay differences between the next-gen versions and the PS2, PSP and Wii games. So if you really liked the idea of Pirates 3 on the PS3 or X360, but couldn't stomach its framerate, try the PC version - because the other versions are noticeably different. Besides, the PC version is also a lot cheaper (a mere $30).
A lot of the game seems very dated, as it can feel like a collect-a-thon a lot of times. You run around, solve some puzzles, collect some stuff, and move on. It's a formula that would've been passable back in the late 90s, but today, with our storage mediums at 40GB per disc, we need a more expansive title. Pirates 3 doesn't offer much of anything that's interesting, and that is unfortunate seeing as how the license is ideal for a massive and engrossing game (a'la Oblivion).
Character detail is pretty ok, at best, as is the texture detail. You'll see some good spots of lighting every now and then, and there's often many enemies on screen at once. As mentioned before, the PSP version is more playable than the next-gen titles, simply because it has a framerate that's able to keep up most of the time. That doesn't mean much, though, as Pirates 3 still isn't a good game, no matter which console. The story unravels with in-game cut-scenes, as opposed to the highly stylized cut-scenes of the next-gen versions.
It's sort of a status quo to have movie-based games feature their respective actors commit to their virtual recreations. Pirates 3 does just that, and its execution in voice acting is leagues ahead of what we heard in Shrek 3 and Spider-Man 3. Shrek 3's biggest problem was that the characters weren't voiced by the actual cast of the movie. While Spider-Man 3's dialogue was just plain ol' bad and tiresome, Pirates 3 falls somewhere in between being good and average. The voice-acting during the cut-scenes is well done, but much of what's outside of that isn't anything spectacular. The tunes are very reminiscent of the movie, but unlike Spider-Man 3's one monotonous theme, Pirates 3 offers more for the ears.
In the end, the Pirates 3 game comes out being the best of the movie-game trilogies, but that isn't saying much. Where as Shrek the Third and Spider-Man 3 were downright bad, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is bordering on the edge of mediocrity. With a bit more polish, and a slightly more engaging experience, this could've gone down as being one of the best movie-games in a long time. Unfortunately, At World's End cannot pull through on the strength of its pretty visuals and nice audio alone. There simply isn't much to see that's worth the $40 ticket. If you're really curious, rent it first.
6/24/2007 Arnold Katayev