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The Ship Review

The Ship pack shot
Genre:First Person Shooter/Murder Mystery
Official Site:http://www.theshiponline.com/
Release Date:July 12, 2006 (Steam) / September 29, 2006 (UK Box)
Reviewer:Grant Wilson (Midnight)
Buy now at Amazon.co.uk

Having never played the original Half-Life 1 mod of The Ship, I was happy to get to play the source engine powered release. Like most FPS fans I've been growing increasing sick of bland repetitive game design ideas and this did seem like something that little bit different.

Jumping straight into a multiplayer game was probably a bad idea though, I had no real grasp of what I was supposed to be doing and with many servers running a 90 second round limit I didn't get much chance to learn anything before the round was over. After a brief stint of messing around offline on my own server with a much longer time limit, I had learnt enough to get back online and face some real players.

The basic idea of The Ship is to stalk your victim and dispatch them without anyone seeing. At the start of every round you are given a character's name, this character will then become your target to assassinate. Of course, every other player is also given a target, so you have to watch your back too as someone is also after you. Every 30 seconds you are updated with your targets last position on the ship, be it different rooms or certain corridors. Player's characters are also named for them upon connecting to a server. This stops people running around with things like "1337 hax0r" written above them and that can only be a good thing. Real player names are limited to the scoreboard which helps to keep the authenticity. Although most servers are running this game mode, there are 3 more alternatives. These fair from your standard death-match to last man standing. None of these game styles are how the ship is intended to be played and as such you'll only find the occasional server running anything but the default setting.

The Ship screenshot 1 The Ship screenshot 2 The Ship screenshot 4 The Ship screenshot 4

To aid you in dispatching your target, there are many weapons hidden around The Ships, from fire axes to rolling pins. Anything that you can get your hands on can be used as a weapon. The sharper more obvious weapons such as the axe give less money than something that's less obvious, so hunting out the more unique weapons gives you a bonus when you finally make the killing blow. Once your crime has been committed you can then deposit your money into some of the ATM machines onboard the ships. As well as weapons you can also disguise yourself in many of the wigs and outfits you'll find laying around to try and throw your assassin off the trail a bit.

To make things harder still, there are guards and security cameras littered around the rooms. If you get caught committing a murder or even brandishing one of your weapons then you are sent to jail and lose any funds that you may be carrying around with you. The more weapons that you are carrying, the more time you are locked away for. Whilst this adds a tactical element to the gameplay, I found it highly annoying to have your target in sight and they just camp near one of the guards even when they've not seen that you are stalking them.

Another thing that you have to worry about - on top of the guards - is the call of nature. That's right, occasionally your character will have the urge to go to the toilet, take a nap, or get something to eat or drink. An Icon will pop up showing you which thing you are in need of and roughly how long you have left until you either soil yourself or fall over from exhaustion. These callings of nature are also linked, so if you drink too much you'll need the toilet pretty quickly afterwards. You can tell that this idea was put into place to try and slow down the pace of the gameplay and make it more tactical, but I found it frustrating to have to run off and take a crap when I know my target is right around the corner from me. Add to this the fact that you can only sprint for about five seconds before being forced to walk around everywhere and it becomes even more frustrating getting back to your target again.

The Ship screenshot 5 The Ship screenshot 6 The Ship screenshot 7 The Ship screenshot 8

Unfortunately, the amount of times that I felt like screaming at the screen because I was in the middle of taking a crap or getting a drink, while someone crept up behind me to stab me isn't even worth mentioning. If you're in the middle of one of these processes (which can go on for a few seconds) you are unable to stand or move, even if you can see someone coming right at you. If someone was threatening to stab me in the face with an axe while I was taking a dump, I know I'd rather have the stains on my trousers than having my face hacked off any day. Still, it's fairly obvious that that skill here is to catch your prey in such situations and not vice versa, that didn't stop it annoying me though.

The graphics in The Ship are basic at most. While the level designs and the names of the shops scattered around the levels are all authentically done, I found the textures to be quite bland. The ship theme extends to the games menus too, with icons labelled appropriately for example : quit is named as "abandon ship" The lighting also leaves a lot to be desired, with rooms being totally bright. It just looked a bit weird to me, with the lack of shadows that you would expect. The designs of the ships themselves are quite well done, with numerous rooms to hide in and often three floor levels deep. Rooms range from hospitals to normal bedrooms each with quite a few items placed around. Again though, I was never overwhelmed with the texture quality and at times it felt like looking at a very old game. I also found it was quite strange to be using an ATM machine to deposit cash when everything else in the game is all in theme. Maybe they could have used a bank in the ship instead?

The sound in the ship is also basic, although it does have a worryingly too realistic noise when you take a crap. One of the most annoying things with the sound that I found is that you can never hear anyone's footsteps. This applies weather they're walking on carpet, wooden floors, tiled floors or pretty much anything. You can never hear anyone coming up behind you which often results in you having to constantly spin around just to make sure no-one's there. On the upper deck of the ships the sounds take on a different problem. Up here you are usually away from guards and a lot more weapons are used, especially guns as the areas are more open. When firing a gun up on deck though, it sounds as if people are miles away, when in fact they could easily be stood right next to you. The guns produce a sort of muffled noise that is really hard to pinpoint properly, making running for cover harder too.

While The Ship has an original idea, which is rare in FPS games as of late, I felt that it was missing a certain spark that it needed to keep me playing constantly. A lot of the problems come down to the community as always. Whilst there are methods of stopping people from misbehaving too much, like jail, there are always people who will join the server just to kill everyone they see. Although servers are usually set up to auto kick this type of behaviour, I found that finding a decent server was very hard, and I generally had to play later at night in order to play with more 'mature' players. Of course this only really applies to the standard gameplay types as there is always a straight out death-match mode, it's just a shame that players seem to get the two confused.


The Ship is definitely not for the hardcore FPS gamer, it takes on a more casual relaxed approach, and while fun for the odd game or so I don't think I shall be returning to it too often. It does show promise though, and if you're bored of the bog standard death-match in most FPS games then it's probably worth checking out. Just don't go expecting it to replace your hardcore FPS needs or it could end up going down like the Titanic.

The bottom line
5.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Original ideas
  • Authentic level and character designs
  • Fun selection of weapons
  • Different from all other FPS games out there

Not so good stuff

  • Annoying sims style gameplay sections
  • Strange sound effects
  • Griefing players
  • Not a very large community yet
  • Graphics are outdated in many ways

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