Name: Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm
Genre: Fishing simulator
Platform: Xbox 360, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
For the first time ever, the excitement and thrill of captaining your own crab-fishing boat has made its way onto consoles with the release of Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm. Right off the bat I want to tell you that I am not a fan of the Discovery Channel hit show Deadliest Catch. Although I tend to watch a fair amount of television, for the most part, I like cartoons. The idea of watching a bunch of hardened fisherman fighting the elements and each other for a chance at that elusive “Red Gold of the Bering Sea” just doesn’t really sound like my cup of seawater. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t know that I am the target audience for this game. But having spent a few hours slogging through it, I can also tell you I have no idea who exactly the target audience for a title like this would be. There are so many problems with this game that it would be hard to imagine anyone really digging their teeth into it.
You start off in tutorial mode, where the game’s various control elements are explained to you by the show’s star, Captain Sig Hansen. Essentially the game is broken into four sections: planning your fishing trip, maintaining your boat, hiring crew members, and the fishing itself. The tutorials themselves are presented in a way that would be familiar to any owner of the Sega CD system; with horrible SD video laid directly overtop the game action. So after you learn where the throttle controls are, rather than actually getting right into adjusting your boat’s speed, you instead watch a horribly lit Captain Hansen explain at a volume half that of the rest of the game what the use of throttle is. Does that sound fascinating? Yeah, it’s not.
After you finish your tutorial missions, you’re ready to purchase your new boat and to outfit it with fishing equipment and a crew. Recruit your staff from twenty real-life fishermen (or fisherwomen) who are rated on various skill levels (stamina, experience, leadership, first aid, hook throwing, etc). The more evenly balanced they are in these areas, the larger the percentage of the catch they demand. Crew members are then assigned roles on your ship; you must name a deck boss, bait boy, engineer, cook, and a medic. While you’re out to sea, you must assign tasks to your people in order to keep your vessel afloat and filled with crabs. You can have them drop or retrieve your crab pots, chip at the ice that forms on your deck, or rest. That’s the extent of the game’s action. You watch characters do stuff. Sometimes.
Next it’s time to plot a course to lay your pots. Call up the Plotter map screen, and look for the areas known for collections of the delicious shellfish. You can then enter “Fast Time” to get to the fishing grounds sooner (or, if you’re a fan of long sea voyages, you can watch in real time). Then it’s a race against the clock to set up your string of pots before you run out of fuel or the Boring Bering Sea kills your crew. Head back to the dock, repair your boat, and in a few days head back out to check your traps. More crabs lead to more money, which in turn leads to better boats and crews, and so on.
And that’s essentially it. There are several on-line modes, which range from having to make the most money in a ranked match, to having to make the most money in an unranked match, to racing crab boats. Did I mention the leaderboards? But you can rest assured that no matter which on-line mode you end up playing, if you’re lucky enough to find anyone else playing (in seven attempts, I found three games) you’re in for a lag-fest of a time!
The problem with Deadliest Catch is that from top to bottom, it just doesn’t work as a fun gaming experience. The graphical presentation is decidedly last-gen, the control scheme is needlessly complicated, the gameplay mechanic has all the depth of a bowl of crab bisque, and it is quite simply boring. Again, maybe there I missed out on something by not being a fan of the show, but as a game, this one is better off confined to Davy Jones’ Locker.