reviews\ Mar 1, 2000 at 7:00 pm

21st Century Sailing Simulator 2.0 - PC - Review

Competitive sailing is a sport that has seen its (warning: really bad pun alert) ups and downs over the years. Whether it was CNN mogul Ted Turner winning in 1977, Australia upsetting the 132-year-old US champs for the first time ever, or the fact that Team New Zealand has been dominating the event since 1995, one thing is sure: the America's Cup and its various pre-qualifying races have captured the attention of millions of wanna-be

sailors the world over.


It would make perfect sense then to lock down the virtual mains, hoist the simulated sail and crank the pixilated ballast to the deck in a computer simulation of these fast and furious races. But in "Sailing Simulator 2.0" from Australian developer 21st Century Office, what you actually get is a tedious exercise in controlling a 2D animated boat over a static, never-changing background.


Meaning, it doesn't feel a thing like real sailing. This might come as a surprise to sailing fans, who are not exactly a selective bunch. In fact, to them, ANY simulation of sailing would be a good thing I suppose. But, unfortunately, Sailing Simulator suffers from a poorly conceived game model, unimpressive gameplay, and a defective multiplayer component.



Gameplay = 1

First off, this is not a simulation of sailing. You can't configure the boat or any other options except a few half-baked tactical settings, and once you actually do start racing, the vintage 1992 2D animations feel more like a screensaver than an immersing reality based experience. Turning your boat causes the 2D animation to tilt a little more on screen. Ooh boy. Try crashing into another boat: nothing happens - no sound, no change in the animation.


Okay, so you can hoist the sail and make some tactical decisions. Actually, hoisting the sail has a sound effect but absolutely no visual change. An incomprehensible set of icons (some that require you to hold them down to complete an operation) do nothing to add to the excitement of sailing. Imagine gameplay in a flight simulator where all you can do is start and stop the engine, set wind directions, and pan around your 2D animated aircraft. Fun, huh?


Graphics = 1

Welcome to 1992. What is described as "3D photo-realistic" graphics is another way of saying they took some pictures and pasted them into the program. The static picture of the boat is completely impervious to such things as dynamic light changes, water, or other physical effects (such as, say, movement). All the other boats (and crew) look exactly alike. The ocean setting never changes. Ouch.


Sound = 1

The wind snaps against the sail, distant seagulls cackle on the shore, and the rushing surge of water crashes against the side of the real sailing. In this simulation, you hear something that sounds remotely like wind and, once in a while, a crew member makes an incomprehensible and unrelated comment about the race. But mostly the sounds you hear will be your mouse clicks searching for the quit button and your CD-ROM drive ejecting the disc.


Difficulty = 2

I had difficulty understanding the interface, and a hard time comprehending what I was even supposed to do in the game. So in terms of difficulty, this is a tough one to learn. In terms of how easy it is to actually play the game once you learn it, since there isn't that much to do besides steer the boat, it is relatively easy to actually race - although I never actually won any races.


Concept = 3

There was potential with the concept, mostly because this kind of simulation has never been attempted to my knowledge. Other sailing games like Age of Sail focus on combat or just sailing, but not racing. Still, while other reality-based games allow you to land a Boeing 747 or roll a BMW, the idea of steering a boat does not translate well to the computer screen. Options for configuring the boat, or rendering the open sea in a true 3D environment, would have helped the concept tremendously.


Overall = 2

The fact that this is the only sailing simulation in existence is at least some cause for interest among sailing fans. Given the difficult interface, poorly implemented game model, dated graphics, and uninteresting sound, the whole adds up to nothing more than a beached whale.



Installation was easy and bug-free. De-installation was equally fast and simple. Which is a good thing.



As the name indicates, this was supposed to be a multiplayer game. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to work. I tried six times through a two-day period. Every other multiplayer game I own (Unreal Tournament, Everquest, etc.) all worked immediately without a hitch. So what's up? To find out, I checked with 21 Century Office tech support, who denied having a feature that could search for servers. This is when I gave up trying.


Buy the Game?

I would recommend this game to anyone who has been stuck in an isolation chamber for the last fifteen years and wants to ease into modern day game design and graphics. Also, I recommend it those who must absolutely own a sailing simulator and can overlook its countless gameplay problems and still somehow find enjoyment in merely owning the only sailing simulator available (even if they never play it).


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