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Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons Review

Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons pack shot
Developer:VSTEP
Publisher:Lighthouse Interactive
Genre:Simulation
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://www.shipsim.com/...
Release Date:April 4th, 2008 (UK)
Reviewer:Craig laycock (Cragtek)
 

You may remember I reviewed Ship Simulator 2008 when it came out. I was glowing with praise for it. You might remember lines like: "Too damn sedate", "lack of things to do" and "doesn't have much to offer the casual gamer". I also bemoaned the lack of multiplayer.

Ok, so perhaps not glowing. But nevertheless, Ship Sim 2008 was a reasonably fun jaunt on the open seas. It was easy to control, but a little lacking in variety - and the fact that it was so accessible made me wonder who exactly would play it? Certainly not a hardcore simulation fan. Probably dads.

Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 1 Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 2 Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 3 Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 4

And yes, dads probably did enjoy it - but not for much longer than a few minutes at a time I'll wager. But all that's set to change with the release of Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons - the addon pack. Or at least that was the plan.

I'm going to bring my first gripe into the open nice and early - multiplayer. This could have been the saving grace for this review, pumping the score up into the lower-respectable range, but the way that developers VSTEP have gone about implementing it inspires me to raid their offices and snip off their nethers with scissors.

Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 5 Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 6 Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 7 Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 8

Once you've spent an hour faffing about installing the game and have typed in various keys you would think that getting online would be a simple case of hitting the multiplayer button. But no, heaven forbid that the dads have it so easy. They must first create a new gamer profile which has a certain box ticked allowing it to be used online. Great, box ticked. But wait, that hasn't actually done anything. What's this about a forum?

In a bizarre and ridiculous move - presumably built-in to bring traffic to VSTEP's appallingly ill-populated messageboards - you have to register a forum username and password just to be able to play online. This smacks of desperation and is incredibly frustrating as a gamer. What if I don't want to register for the forums? I'd rather not, to be honest. The fact that my hand was forced was far more annoying (it actually provoked rage) to me than the tediousness of having to actually register. Why make things difficult for the gamer? Sort it out VSTEP.

Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 9 Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 10 Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 11 Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons screenshot 12

I was wrong, by the way, about a possible multiplayer option being a benefit to the game. Having sailed the seven seas online (I encountered ONE other player), I can confirm that it is just as tedious as playing offline, only the ship that was before controlled by the AI (I say "controlled", they just go in a straight line not avoiding players) now is trying to ram into the side of you in a desperate attempt to create a bit of fun and hi-jinks. It's sea-based dodgems - ten minutes of fun at the most.

The new ships aren't really anything to crow about - a few new generic vessels that are too dull to even commit to 'paper'. The interiors are still bland and lifeless, and there still doesn't seem to be a crew on board. Silent Hunter 3 might have been a lonely experience, but at least I could see Hans, Jeff and Fritz busy at work. It was a comfort that is totally lacking in the soulless experience that is Ship Simulator 2008.

Ok, so some of this review is just going back and having a pop at the original game again. I can't help myself: It's a washout, a sinking ship, a disaster of Titanic proportions.

Time's taken its toll too. There are no revamps to the graphics engine as far as I can tell in this iteration and it's starting to look very dated. The weather engine remains a beacon of hope, but the rest of the game is pretty poorly rendered by the standards of some other titles out there. Far Cry looks a lot better, and the boats are more fun. And in GTA4 at least you can shoot people off the back of them - in Ship Sim you're just forced to sit there singing sea shanties and pretending to be Popeye. It's not a nice place to be.

Summary

I think if you're committed to the game and can get past the ridiculously simplistic control system you can probably get a thing or two out of Ship Simulator 2008: New Horizons. But for the casual gamer, I'd advise you steer well clear. Things get very samey very quickly and the lack of a time acceleration option (I told them to put it in there last time!) remains a serious bone of contention that will test the patience of even the most ardent of sailors. Who wants to spend an hour sailing out of a harbour before the real mission starts?

Ship Sim is sadly generic, bland and dull. It was mildly fun the first time round, but now it's just getting daft. The frustrating thing is there is probably a good game in there somewhere - I just don't know where. And on this evidence, I'm not sure VSTEP do either.

The bottom line
5.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Online is finally a reality
  • Nice interface
  • Weather engine remains impressive

Not so good stuff

  • Ludicrous online registration system
  • Gets dull very quickly
  • Doesn't offer enough added value on top of SS 2008
  • Kill-me-now-super-slow-gameplay


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