As we all know, the boundaries between the worlds of gaming and other media have become much more ambiguous over the years. However, despite the countless advances in technology, innovation in design, and billions of dollars spent, we are still made painfully aware of this boundary on regular occasions. Massive corporations capitalize on the success of a franchise with cheap, lazy conversions in the game world. Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos exemplifies this trend as well as any similar title.
While the original Discovery Series does just manage to deliver on the premise of an exciting Alaskan crabbing outfit, the “Deadliest Catch” name was deemed somewhat inadequate for this title. At the very least, it was necessary to distinguish this title from other games made for the franchise. “Sea of Chaos” is an almost humorous label to offer, though. The rigid presentation, robotic narration, and monotonous gameplay ensure none of the excitement of the TV series leaks through the proverbial cracks.
The game offers a generic stat card of sorts, for each potential worker that can be assigned to your vessel. While hiring more experienced (and therefore expensive) men can prove helpful, their precise arrangement aboard the vessel doesn’t necessarily make or break your success. They do require rest after a hard day’s labor of course, and overworking your boys to the point of exhaustion will come back to bite you in the rear.
Strategic elements are mostly confined to the basic management of resources. Heavily investing your manpower in a new zone that hasn’t been tested is generally not a good idea. Much of the challenge actually lies in steering your vessel through treacherous waters along a guided path, particularly since the 360 controller does little to reinforce that “nautical” feel. The novelty of cumbersome tasks such as offloading and sorting your catch does tend to wear thin rather quickly.
What’s more, the game insists on absurd contrivances to artificially heighten the intensity of the gameplay. Often you’ll be working against the clock, which isn’t too outlandish since plenty of games throw you into a similar rush. However, in the “crab sorting” mode, you have to avoid a crane that swings wildly for no apparent reason. You’d think someone would try to secure such a dangerous piece of machinery on a crabbing boat, but I never saw a “gripe” option to use on my crew.
In churning out a clearly rushed and haphazard product, it seems the development team failed hit on the strongest points of the show: the people. Having crewmates that you care about would add gravitas to the situation, and perhaps induce some genuine worry when you have to rescue men that have fallen overboard. This doesn’t seem like it would require much effort, either. Looking at other games, even highly successful ones, the script is often hollow and cheesy, but is it so much to ask for in a modern video game?
While I’ve no doubt that diehard fans of the series will find enjoyment in Sea of Chaos, I cannot really recommend it to anyone looking for a decent gameplay experience. It’s clunky, repetitive, and looks like it was designed for platforms of the previous generation. If you really want to experience this sort of thing without getting yourself killed, you’re still better off with the TV show.