Deadliest Catch is a reality TV series that follows the exploits of a bunch of fishermen who operate out of a town called Dutch Harbour in Alaska. These hardy souls put to sea and attempt to catch king crabs, which are apparently a highly prized delicacy and can be sold for a fortune. With only a few days at sea each year in order to make their fortune, the stakes are high in the race to try and catch a boat load of pincey critters.
If you’ve ever watched it and thought “I can do that!”, then now you can put your money where your crabs are. Yes, Ultimate Games have launched Deadliest Catch: The Game. In the course of this review I will take you through what I have found out in the Bering Sea. Let’s all catch crabs together!
The story of the game is pretty throwaway; being kind. You are a fisherman, you have a boat and go to sea to catch some crabs. It is indeed fortunate that we have a boat already, as I imagine they may be a bit pricey to buy, what with all the gear on board.
What is interesting is that we are a one man band – we have to drive the boat, do the fishing, sort the crabs and everything else in between. In fact about the only thing I’ve not had to do yet is swab the deck.
Things are presented from a first person perspective, and everything that we do is apparently moved by magic; it appears that our character has no hands. The graphics are, being charitable, somewhat basic, and everything we have to interact with at the harbour is done by walking to the correct place, interacting with a menu, and then walking to the next place. Whether it be buying fuel for the boat, fish to use as bait for the crab pots or selling of the crabs you catch, the interactivity of the harbour is very limited.
Basically, you need to ensure you have enough gear and set sail. When we are out on the high seas, things are a little better, and while it isn’t ever going to appear on a list of “Best Looking Games on Xbox”, visually , Deadliest Catch: The Game is passable. The crabs are actually the stars of the show, as they do actually look like crabs, so top marks for crab veracity.
But lets have a look at what we need to do when we are out on the sea. The actual gameplay is pretty challenging, but not because of what we need to do. Sadly, that is more because of the controls – something that may well need a paragraph of its own.
Choosing where to fish is the first order of business, and it appears that king crabs have a laundry list of things that have to be right in order to make them happy. Everything from the type of bottom, to the depth and temperature of the water have to be taken into account. We need to find spots on the map that meet these criteria in order to maximise our return. This is quite often easier said than done, to be honest.
When we arrive at our chosen fishing ground, this is when the fishing has to start. We start by using the crane on deck in order to move a crab pot to the launcher. Now, this is again much trickier than it should be as the view of the crane operation is obscured, shall we say, by the deck above your head.
It doesn’t help that the controls for the crane appear to be somewhat unintuitive. And that is being kind, believe me. You can only pick up or drop a pot when the game decides that you are in the correct position, so while grabbing a pot is fairly easy, getting it into the right place is a real pain in the derriere. Still, once you have managed it, you have to attach a buoy (on the outside preferably, but again this is very tricky because of the camera) and then you have to mince some fish up to use as bait. Grab the bait, sling it in the cage, and then throw the cage into the sea to see what happens. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the pots you want to put out.
But wait, our crab journey is far from over! Once the pots have been in the sea for the requisite amount of time, we have to return to the scene and then fish them out again. This requires us to drive the boat, and while I am certain that steering many tons of metal through heaving seas isn’t easy, it is almost impossible to pilot this with any degree of accuracy. Even the autopilot system is not that bright, as when you ask it to return you to a point in the sea, it kind of gets you near and then gives up. This is an issue as the only way to get the pots back on board is to have them up against the right side of the boat (as you look at the wheelhouse) in a tiny area.
Assuming you manage this, then you have to throw a grappel over the buoy and drag the pot on board. This bit is pretty easy, and the whole “winding the pot in” actions are automated, so no stress. there.
And once you have emptied the pot onto the sorting table, then the next phase begins. You see, only male crabs have any value, and it is actually illegal to bring in females or crabs that are too small. Each crab has to be grabbed, picked up, rotated and then the computer decides if it is a keeper or not. If you get two green ticks, they can be kept and they go on one pile, but anything other than that means they have to be returned to the sea, through a hole in the table. Thrilling this bit isn’t. Once we have enough crabs, return to harbour and sell them, before staring down the bleak prospect of going out and doing it all again.
But let us have a chat about the controls now. I’ve touched on boat and crane controls, and honestly these are the biggest issues. It is unbelievably hard to just get a pot onto the launcher, and the way that the crane controls is so backwards it actually feels like it is working against you. The boat is also incredibly hard to steer, and trying to see out of the windows and steer is ridiculously hard. All in all, the controls do more to make me not want to play Deadliest Catch: The Game than any other part of it. I can deal with the lacklustre graphics and the dull premise, but the controls hamstring the game very effectively.
It pains me me to give a fishing game a low score, but I have no choice here. Deadliest Catch: The Game is dull, hard to operate and looks awful. Most importantly, the way that the controls operate manage to suck what little fun going crabbing has out of the game. The result is a mess that you would do well to avoid.
Unless you love catching crabs, of course…