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Pirates of the Caribbean - XB - Preview 2

The light ripples on the soft top of the ocean, slipping beneath the hull of the ship that cuts through the wind. The ship lumbers to the port side, going broadside on the enemy frigate, and the lets loose a volley of cannon fire.

Holes tear through the sails, a mast explodes in a splintering cascade and the vessel’s motion slows to a crawl.

Sounds like the makings of a decent sea-battle game, but Bethesda Softworks Pirates of the Caribbean is many things, and only a side of that is the well-rendered sea battle aspect. This game, which will be released later this month on the Xbox and PC, is a sweeping tale that encompasses swashbuckling role-play along with some strategic sea battle elements.

The game is inspired by the movie of the same name which releases July 9th.

Features of the game include the ability to hire and dismiss officers and crew to find that optimum fighting force, a non-linear exploration element whereby players can sail to any part of the world within the game, sword play and pistol duels, naval battles, and realistic weather conditions.

To further the aspect of the role play, your avatar - a ship’s captain - can earn reputation points for either good or ill. If you commit crimes or kill innocents, your reputation will diminish and you might find it harder to work a merchant trade, or get shopkeepers to deal with you. You might even be attacked on sight by garrison troops.

GameZone.com was invited to set sail on the Xbox preview version of the game and delightfully hoisted anchor for a sail on the winds of adventure around the Caribbean.

The setting is the 1600s. It is a time when piracy was running its course and made all the easier by the tensions between the British and the French in the area.

When the game is first launched, you are in the captain’s cabin. A first mate will give you some quick lessons in the art of sword play, how to use your pistol, as well as how to use your inventory, equip and unequip items, and level up your character through the character screen and skill and ability points.

Your first stop is a tiny port to offload leather and chocolate, buy some supplies, make repairs to your ship and then replenish your crew. With all that done, and your quest log updated, you are ready to set said.

The wonderful voice of Keira Knightley, one of the stars of the film, narrates the story line that underscores this game and creates the perfect ambience for the adventure that follows. You can choose to sail your ship in either an arcade mode or take on the intricacies of the chore. In either case, if you see a ship on the mapboard overview, sailing to intercept you, prepare for trouble.

There is also a lot to explore within a port town. You will talk, or run, about the place, interact with the locals, collect news and information, solve minor puzzles, and try to get into a little trouble with the prospect of financial reward at the end and experience points.

The Xbox control elements on this game are somewhat simple, but you should figure on a learning curve of perhaps 20 minutes to get comfortable enough to wend your way through the world.

The sound of Pirates is rich and wonderful. The musical score is excellent, and the vocal characterizations are superb. This is a game in which attention was given to the audio track and it shows, even in the little things like the effects of sailing.

Graphically there were a few minor clipping problems, and some of the details which stand out so amazingly in some places (weather effects and the ocean moods are exquisite) are a little overlooked in others. Shadows and lighting are very well done, but the way the ocean looks almost makes some of the land environments look bland.

The character animations are well done, but the fighting sequences of the avatar seem a little stiff. If compared to the title character of Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat, the lead in Pirates of the Caribbean is wooden.

However, that notwithstanding, the overall look and sound of this game is superb. The richness of this non-linear world, an intriguing and evolving storyline that enables players to affect the world’s response to them through their actions, as well as a host of challenges along the way, all combine for a game that will likely drop anchor on the shelves of a lot of adventure gamers.

Gw
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