There have been several Pirates of the Caribbean games; last year there were two to tie in with the second film and Bestheda even tried their hand at a Pirates game back in 2003. At World's End is set to be one of the biggest films of the year and Disney Interactive Studios has prepared a game tie in on no less than six platforms. Captain Jack Sparrow and co make their next generation debut on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 but does the game suffer from its own curse or have we discovered a genuine treasure chest?
At World's End may be titled after the third film but the game contains elements of the second and third film. The game is essentially a hack and slash title. You'll begin in the boots of Jack Sparrow but eventually have the chance to battle as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. The game takes you through the locations from the second and third film so you're able to relive events you've seen and events that shall be in the third film. Whilst the main objective for every level is to survive and defeat all the enemies there are a few distractions in the levels. For every area you visit there are hidden objects, such as periwigs, skulls and dice. For everything you collect Jack's notoriety will increase, the higher his notoriety; the more the enemies are after his head.
Unfortunately, whilst At World's End begins well, the gameplay is really where the game's problems shine through. Admittedly it is a lot of fun staggering around as Jack Sparrow but on the whole At World's End ends up feeling far too restrictive. The combat is basic; you can attack and punch your enemies and pull off a few finishing moves but that's essentially all you can do, which can result in some very repetitive combat. The game seems to recognise these faults as even though you can be surrounded by around ten enemies they very rarely attack at the same time. Generally the enemies will just sit back until you've disposed of their accomplices and then they'll make their move. Sometimes the enemies will just keep regenerating until you defeat one specific enemy. How do you identify which enemy to attack? Well often you'll be left guessing.
The stupidity of the AI doesn't stop there. Pedestrians in the street just stand there, if, on the oft chance you decide to act devious like a pirate and kick a pedestrian your leg will just go straight through the characters. Occasionally characters will walk around in the levels, but when they reach a door they'll just disappear, rather than open the door and enter a room. The camera can be a downright pain as well, just when you're feeling on the brink of frustration you'll realise Jack can't swim (falling into the water kills our mighty pirates) and even though there is a run button you're unfortunately not able to run and attack at the same time.
To break up the hacking and slashing in the game Eurocom have added duels and puzzles to the mix. Duels are fights where you'll need to defend a sword attack and attack the enemy. With the duels you need to press either up or down on the analog stick to block the attack. When you've blocked an attack you're then free to make your own attack. Whilst the duels do break up the combat they're just not that exciting. At times during the game you'll have to fight several duels in a row which can become very frustrating. The puzzles in the game are basic (such as navigating through a maze full of skull heads that shoot poison arrows) but can be decent distraction
Something else that lets At World's End down is the linear progression. There is generally only ever one correct way of advancing through a level. So, if you jump to the wrong cliff or look for a shortcut you're actually just wasting the time. The only real reason to come back to a level is if you want to improve your notoriety. At certain parts during the game you'll need to control more than one character. You can use the directional pad to switch characters on the fly, which works well. It can be a little bit difficult juggling characters as you'll have to keep all of the characters alive to keep your mission going but controlling the characters on the fly works well and you can even combine attacks with these characters.
On the subject of notoriety you can upload your notoriety score to the XBox Live marketplace. It's a handy feature but you're probably not likely to replay a level just to improve your notoriety. As you progress through the game you'll unlock finishing moves for Jack, Will and Elizabeth. The achievements aren't a walk in the park and awarded for collecting all the hidden objects in a level and for unlocking finishing moves.
Visually Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is a beautiful looking game. The amount of detail in the environments (and there is a large variety of them) is simply awe-inspiring at times. The character models are great and the characters all look like their film counterparts. At World's End really is a game that shows the visual capabilities of the XBox 360. The voices in the game are provided by soundalikes but you will not be able to tell. More speech should have been included, as Jack Sparrow is a little bit too quiet at times. The soundtrack is epic and even though it hasn't been lifted directly out of the films it sounds like it has been.
At World's End is a well presented game that looks great and sounds good. Unfortunately though the gameplay isn't quite up to scratch. At World's End has a few gameplay flaws which bring down the enjoyability of the game considerably, but at times you can't help but feel the game is a little bit of a guilty pleasure. At World's End is definitely not quite pirates gold but it's not a completely cursed game either.