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Eric Campbell

Review: Ship Simulator Extremes is Extremely "Blah".

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Simulator games are a double-edged sword. On one hand you have the hat-tipping, nail-biting realism that is a credit to their genre. An example? The Silent Hunter series. No other submarine simulator will make you clinch your cheeks as tightly as a game that shows you what it’s like to be chased down by a pissed off Yūgumo-class destroyer that’s dropping a few tons of depth charges on your head while you plummet to crush depth. But then you have the other half of the blade: the side of the blade that makes you beat your head into the wall after sitting idle for almost an hour while trying to accomplish whatever task the game has set before you. What is this element that corrupts a good simulator?

The realism.

So it is, that simulator games are not for everyone. They usually demand a little more imagination on the part of the player, and – being an old school gamer with a love for the ocean – I was excited when I got handed the review for Ship Simulator Extremes. I mean, how could they go wrong? I’m the kinda guy who doesn’t always need to smash a Covenant Elite in the face, that doesn’t always need a life bar in my fighting games (Bushido Blade, I salute you still). I enjoy the hell out of games that make it real and visceral. Sure, some games can do that with good pacing, excellent storytelling and mind-blowing multiplayer. But there’s just something special about the simulators. So with all this game already had going for it when I sat down to play it, I figured my one challenge was going to be remaining impartial and open minded to its flaws in order to give it a fair review. Well I was wrong. The biggest challenge was learning how the damn game worked.

Maybe the folks over at VSTEP assumed the only people who would play this game would be versed in how the hell all things nautical work? The instruction manual skims the surface in order to get you moving and that’s about it. If you want a tutorial, you have to go into downloadable content and get it. This boggled my mind as I have never had to get a tutorial as bonus content. Maybe they should have made it an unlockable achievement. If you can play the game on bare bones explanation for thirty minutes without smashing your face into your monitor as the monotony of floating in video game limbo finally crushes your mind...ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Tutorial! Limbo is being generous however. True to form, this Sim has no soundtrack while you play. So the first hour of trying to figure out how the hell to make my cruise liner move forward without drifting into the dock could charitably be described as purgatory. Of course, not everything is going to be scored like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and after all, this is about the experience of captaining a sailing vessel. Still…PURGATORY.

Once you do get the hang of how the game works, however, the game takes off and my impressions were immediately that the game was fun and relaxing. Slowly though, things began to nag at me. For example, the sound of your ship’s horn is akin to a soft electronic cough. When I am barreling out of San Francisco Bay in a cruise liner, I wanna hear that thing blast and echo. While it did sound authentic, the horn cuts abruptly after you let the button go, like it started choking on a meatball. Aw, come on! This is a game that’s supposed to offer a realistic experience! As someone who lives in sight of a bay and watches (and hears) oil tankers come and go, I shake my fist at this oversight. But let’s back up a bit.

When starting the game you have the option of doing missions which you can download (after a lengthy registration process), Free Roaming in case you just wanna kill hours of your day rather than do the dishes, or Campaign mode. I started out with Free Roaming at first, because I figured this would be a safe place to learn how to play since the game obviously wasn’t going to tell me. You get a nice selection of authentic craft including some licensed Greenpeace vessels in case you want to take all those hard-earned dollars that are haggled out of people in front of super markets and throw them away in a spectacular at-sea collision….which will never actually happen since you can’t have at sea collisions in this game. While I acknowledge this game will be aimed at the less Grand-Theft Auto-minded people in the world, I don’t think it’s out of line to expect your ship to crunch, smash and sink after you slam into the side of a another vessel at ramming speed. Especially when you consider the amount of frustration you are going to experience after sitting in the aforementioned purgatory.

Example: After I tooled around a bit I started up a mission that I downloaded from the site in which my job was to photograph Japanese whalers in the Arctic in order to expose their practices for conservation efforts. Basically it was Whale Wars, except instead of captaining a retired patrol boat that is occasionally on the verge of falling apart, you captain a U.S. Coast Guard patrol ship complete with a deck gun!

…That you can’t use.

It was actually pretty enjoyable at first – cruising through the waves, hunting these whale-killing bastards, armed with a few hundred tons of steel impotence and a camera. I needed four pictures, and one of them had to be of the whalers actually making a kill. The first pictures weren’t tough at all. In fact, I seemed to catch the whalers with their pants down as two vessels floated inactively like a stunned boxer after a sucker punch. I was so thrilled at my initial success I sounded my ships fog hor-

After this I spent the next hour and a half (not joking) running in circles chasing the remaining vessels around icebergs so I could get the shot I needed. It would make for an exciting real life retelling: “We chased those whalers down in the frigid seas of the south and snapped a shot just in time to see them dragging a great whale from the water…” Sadly, in the video game world, the retelling is going to sound like this: “I got some laundry done, came back, checked my email, noticed I was still playing this freaking game…” In the end, I managed to snap a shot of them hauling a whale onto the side of their vessel – which I am sure would have had more of an impact on me if I hadn’t just wasted my afternoon chasing them all over the South Pole. So in order to take back the hour or so I just burned I rammed them at full speed. Nothing. Just a polite bump at 30 knots and a sudden stop. I swear it looked like the ships were pausing to say “I’m sorry” to each other.

I wouldn’t say this game was “bad”, but I wouldn’t exactly trumpet it either. I think an enthusiast of the genre might get a kick out of this title. The graphics are crisp and real, the water physics make you reach for your Dramamine and the ship models are well constructed. For the most part, the game does fulfill its parameters: it’s a ship Sim and it can occasionally be extreme (hurricanes, dodging icebergs etc.). Otherwise the only thing extreme about it is the extreme overstatement of its title.

I give it 2 ½ out of 5 Disappointed Dolphins.

Eric Campbell
Contributing Writer

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Updated 15-09-10 at 06:46 by SteveSawyer



  1. GameGavel's Avatar
    This actually sounds like a good premise for a game, however, I am a sailor. The graphics do look great! I might have to think about getting this one regardless of the 2 1/2 dolphins

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