Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Wii Review

Rum. Nowadays, fuel of drunken teenagers, fighting on street corners. In the days of yore, fuel of drunken pirates, fighting on…street corners. Okay, so not much has changed. Rum (and pirates) shot to the forefront of the public consciousness when Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl was released in 2003. Johhny Depp stole the scene in the role of amiable anti-hero, and his performance alone guaranteed the two sequels that followed (and also guaranteed Disney a whole pile of cash in the process).

Surfing the wave of the final film’s success, Disney has released Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End on pretty much every platform available. Unsurprisingly, the Wii is the only console to feature motion controls, promising to put the player into the swashbuckling shoes of Sparrow and co. Unfortunately, the game is less than up to the task of recreating the bluster and fun of the films, delivering a substandard experience of pirate times.

Having watched the films, it would be hard not to be impressed by the sheer quality of the special effects on display. Disney certainly didn’t skimp on the CGI budget, with massive sea-battles and worryingly life-like mutated underwater pirates brought screaming onto the big screen. Anyone expecting similar from the Wii game should look away now. The Wii isn’t the most graphically intense system available, compared to the raw power of the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. However, the graphics in At World’s End are ugly, bland and boring. It looks like it would fit in with the titles released at the launch of the PS2, not in the era of “next-gen” gaming. The character models are blocky and featureless, whilst the locations are low in detail, murky and uninspiring. Often, the graphical touches that should make the game spring to life seem lazy in the extreme – if a ship is sailing in a tropical paradise, one would expect the sea to rise and fall even a little. In At World’s End, the sea is completely flat, and textured something akin to a blue-on-blue patchwork duvet. In the rare cutscenes that feature the sea, the ships merely slide about, looking for all the world like sofas on castors. Even during the recreation of dramatic film scenes, the graphics are shoddy. When characters speak, their mouths flap around, bearing little relation to what’s actually being said. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually feel sorry for Kiera Knightly. Her in-game model is so supremely ugly that it bears more resemblance to an animated scarecrow to the internationally-renowned starlet of stage and screen.

Even worse than that is the voice-acting. Orlando Bloom isn’t the greatest actor ever to appear on the silver screen, but even at his wooden best he could have done a better job that whichever stilted plank they employed to impersonate him. The in-game dialogue is so poor that at times the temptation to play with the TV on mute was too strong to resist. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just that one actor who struggled with the task of recreating believable pirate dialogue. Every line in-game stretches credibility. The majority of the generic pirates and wenches to be found in the game’s locations all sound the same, and most of them are camp beyond belief.

The actual gameplay revolves solely around sword-fighting, be it against pirates, soldiers or sea-monsters. There is no attempt to recreate the epic sea battles. The player must lurch from location to location, defeating neigh-on identical enemies with only the occasional interactive cutscene to break up the monotony (the so-called “Jackanisms” that supposedly recreate Sparrow’s more maniac moments). It would be a different matter if the swordplay were any way interesting. Unfortunately, the extent of the combat is restricted to alternating frantic swinging of the Wiimote with holding down the Z button to block. There is little in the way of skill or timing involved in executing killer moves. Don’t expect the Wii to recreate your swashbuckling actions directly to the screen – those expecting the first sword-play simulator for the Wii should look elsewhere. Furthermore, the game is often unreasonably unclear with what the player is supposed to be doing at any given time. Objectives are often presented with little or no instructions, with only a countdown to provide the player with information. The timer can either mean “stay alive for this length of time” or “get to this point before the time runs out”. The game rarely lets the player know what it expects them to achieve within these timed sections, requiring trial and error until the section is passed. Also, the interactive cutscenes, which require the player to press buttons in time to commands on-screen appear without warning, which leads to these sections promptly being failed. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter, as the game allows players to restart instantly. The forgiving nature of all the combat means that there is no difficulty of note, making the game easy to complete and pointless to replay.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is a disappointment from start to finish. Whether the player is a hardcore gamer or a fan of the films looking for a nice jaunt through the world of Captain Jack Sparrow, they will find it difficult to enjoy this experience. Poor graphics, terrible voice-acting and boring gameplay soon dull the excitement of the pirate world. One to miss.