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Sid Meier's Pirates! Xbox

Published by 2K Games
Developed by Firaxis Games
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Sid Meier's Pirates!, an introduction.

Whilst most game remakes usually end up being disappointing, last year's remake of Sid Meier's Pirates! was excellent and hugely entertaining. Thankfully Firaxis Games saw fit to release an Xbox version of the game. The reason I say this is because although consoles have games from many different genres, there isn't really a game quite like Sid Meier's Pirates! on any console.

What's the game about?

The game begins with a family celebration that goes horribly wrong. The cause for the celebration is that the family have long owed money to the Marquis Montalban and they've received news that their fleet is arriving shortly with money to pay off the Marquis. However, the celebration is interrupted by the Marquis who informs them that their fleet has been lost at sea. The Marquis has had enough of waiting for his money and he decides to seize their belongings. He also takes the family members as slaves. Only the young boy in the family escapes. The young boy is determined to get revenge for what has happened to his family and the game begins 10 years later, with the boy now a man. After this introduction you'll have to give this young man a name, choose your difficulty level (there are five on offer), skill (you can either choose to be skilled at fencing, gunnery, navigation, medicine or simply have wit and charm) and start date (1600, 1620, 1640, 1660 and 1680). Finally you'll have to decide which nation you'll want to sail to the America's and begin the game as allies with. The choices on offer are the English, Dutch, Spanish and French. On the journey to the America's the crew are treated harshly and a mutiny takes place, with you now becoming captain of the ship. From here on in it's up to you to play the game as you see fit but not forgetting that your character will age and you won't have forever to exact your revenge.

What's good about the game?

Everything that made Sid Meier's Pirates! enjoyable has been retained for this Xbox version. On top of this Firaxis has polished up certain areas of the game and created a control system that feels at home on the Xbox. What's so enjoyable about Pirates! though is that the game is completely open-ended with plenty of replay value. As we highlighted in the above paragraph, simply setting up a new game offers you many choices and all of these choices affect how each game plays. On top of this once you're playing the game you can do anything you want. The game's story sets the scene and gives you a focus but if you want to simply become the best pirate in the Caribbean and plunder ships until your character is too old to continue, you can. You'll also have to deal with storms and crew morale. After all you want a crew that's fully committed so it's best to pacify them by keeping them well fed and sharing the loot with them on a regular basis.

Pirates! is made up of different elements and they have all been done really well. Top of the bill has to be the sea battles. You only control one ship in a battle (even if you have more than one ship), although the ship you control (your flagship) represents your whole fleet. This keeps the battles uncomplicated and allows you to enjoy them rather than having to change between different ships all the time. You have 3 different types of cannon ammunition, round shot, chain shot and grape shot which can be changed at any time. You can even board the enemy vessels and engage in swordfights. It's also worth mentioning that you get to control different ships throughout the game and there are a variety of upgrades that will help make ships perform better in battles.

From time to time you'll engage in swordfights, for one reason or another, and before you start you'll have a choice of 3 swords. There's the light and quick rapier, the sturdier and defensive cutlass and the more balanced longsword. The choice is up to you but on the easier difficulty settings it's just a case of going with the rapier and button mashing, although on the more challenging difficulty levels it's not quite so simple.

You'll also get to dance with the governor's daughter (where you have to press the buttons in the correct sequence to correctly perform the dance moves), engage in land battles with enemy towns (which is carried out by a turn-based mini-game), trade goods between towns of your choice, sneak into enemy towns for various reasons and go on treasure hunts amongst other things. You're also given various quests throughout the game that you can pursue if you're interested. Essentially then there's a lot to do and no limitations on how you do it. This Xbox version of Pirates! also has a 4-player ship battle mode that you can play off or online if you wish and it works very nicely.

What's not so good about the game?

Whilst the game as a whole is great, it can become repetitive after a while. Sword fights are scripted and only have a few different scenes and once you've danced with one governor's daughter you've danced with them all. Still this in not a major issue as the game is so addictive that you'll put up with these repetitive elements. It would have been great if you could have customised the look of your character though. I'm sure female gamers would have also liked to have been able to create a female character but sadly this isn't possible. Again this is a minor complaint and it doesn't take anything away from what is an enjoyable game.

How does it look?

Naturally when a game that was originally released on a PC comes to a console there's always the expectation that the graphics will take a dive in terms of quality. Thankfully this isn't so with Pirates! and the game looks just as good on the Xbox as it does on the PC. The character models look quite impressive but the highlight of the game has to be the way the ships animate. The battles in particular really look very good with the sails being ravaged by enemy fire, visible damage being taken to the hull, along with smoke coming from the cannons. As you sail around the oceans you'll come across storms and other natural phenomenon that looks quite impressive. The only real disappointment here is that it can be a little jerky whilst you're sailing around for some reason. This is only a minor issue though and doesn't spoil the game in any way.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Deaf gamers will have no problems with Sid Meier's Pirates! The speech in the game is a stylised gibberish so subtitles have had to be included which means deaf gamers will have no problems in following the game's events. The subtitles are nice and large and are clearly visible so if you sit a good distance away from the TV (or have a small TV) you still have no problems reading the text. All other information is shown in text and is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. The manual has been well written and covers the different game elements quite nicely so you'll have no problems in figuring out how to do the different parts of the game (the game is pretty intuitive though).

Final thoughts.

Firaxis have done a great job with Sid Meier's Pirates! for the Xbox. The game feels like it was created for the Xbox and there is nothing about the game that feels awkward or out of place. As we said at the top of the review, there isn't anything quite like this on any of the consoles which makes the game all the more appealing. The variety of things to do and the complete open-ended feel to the game means it's a game you won't tire of anytime soon. Those of you looking for some pirate flavoured gaming on your Xbox simply must own Sid Meier's Pirates!.


Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification

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Firaxis have made a great job of bringing Sid Meier's Pirates to the Xbox and it's a must own for all who have even the slightest interest in pirate based games.