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Review – The Ship

posted on July 24th, 2006 by golden jew

This game is 50% murder, 50% fashion.

Wander over to the video game design laboratory, and mix together a bizarre concoction of FPS, the Sims, and old school board game Clue, and you’ve got yourself The Ship Online, a Steam based game developed by Outer Limits. Originally a mod for Half-Life, The Ship followed in Counters Strike’s footsteps of selling out. In this fun filled game, you run around a 1930’s luxury cruise ship, being hunted by other passengers while seeking your own quarry to cruelly execute through any number of bizarre ways.

Ordinarily, I couldn’t care less about a game’s back story, but in The Ship’s case it’s helpful to explain the game’s bizarre premise and how it plays out. For whatever reason, you are on board a Cruise liner courtesy of a Mr. X. Mr. X, as some rich people do, enjoys the sport of human on human hunting, and accordingly has bribed/cajoled/threatened you onto his boat, where you will take place in his sport. Personally, if I were rich, I’d blow my money on freebase cocaine and hookers, but to each his own.

The Ship functions from an FPS perspective, but it’s not the sort of twitch gaming FPS you have with Unreal. When you join a game, you spawn as a random passenger, with a name and a cabin (although there’s not much privacy to be had with cabins). Every round, you’re assigned another player as your quarry, and someone is assigned to hunt you down. Your goal, in each round (60-120 seconds, server dependant), is identify your target, evade security or pesky witnesses, brutally murder your target, and evade or kill your own hunter. Successful murders are rewarded via cash, which is used as both a scoring mechanism and to purchase things on board (food, drink, etc). One thing to stress: the gameplay is not “fast,” in that you can only sprint for short periods of time, and you can’t hop around like in Unreal style games. The Ship focuses more about strategy than reflexes: stalking your prey and catching them unaware and out of sight of witnesses before they know you’re onto them, rather than hopping around like a monkey.

She can murder me any day. Wait, that wasn’t a sexual euphemism at all.

Of course, there are a few extra things to make the game interesting. First off, the “Sims” aspect is that your character has a number of needs: food, drink, fun, sleeping, pee, poo, to name a few. These needs slowly increase (and play off each other: fun makes you tired, food makes you gotta crap). So, periodically, you are forced to take a nap, play pool, whatever. Some of these activities can be done safely in an area with security cameras or security guards. Others cannot. This means you can stalk your quarry into the crapper and murder them while they shit their brains out, or you can murder them Psycho style in the shower. One of my favorite kills was clubbing someone over the head with a frying pan while they washed their hands in a bathroom. Whenever your character is attending to a need, s/he cannot break out of it until the action is complete, making you vulnerable. On the one hand, this is annoying, on the other, it’s fun. It all depends on what end of the knife you are.

Lastly, to make things entertaining, Mr. X gets bored if people are killed the same way over and over again. So your financial reward for using a boring an effective weapon (the fire axe being a common one) is extremely limited–whereas using creative items (pool cues, flare guns, locking people in a sauna) can net large financial rewards. The most common game style, “Hunt” is over when you collect a certain amount of cash, so you have a large incentive to be creative. Weapons are found all over the ship; the most interesting things can be found in people’s luggage, which randomly spawns, but you also can grab things you’d expect to find around a ship: fire axes, flare guns, kitchen knives. Additionally, there are “environmental” kills such as locking people in meat lockers, saunas, or dropping lifeboats on their heads.

A few things I have observed: like any FPS, there is a steep learning curve on maps to figure out where the proper weapons can be found. Another thing is that certain weapons, specifically the firearms, are very unbalancing to gameplay. When someone gets their hands on a pistol or a tommy gun, there’s not much you can do about it. Fortunately, the firearm spawns are relatively limited, so it plays out relatively fairly. And, true to life, obviously, someone on a murder filled boat who gets their hand on a gun is probably going to have an easier time than everyone else.

The sun set reflects beautifully off that weapon.

Graphics and sound aren’t really my thing, but they are up to the task at hand. I was very impressed with the engine and the graphics based on an encounter I had in one game the other night. I was hiding in a luxury cabin, and had my hunter come at me with a handgun, shooting through the window. The window shattered, spraying glass everywhere as bullets streaked by (I did in fact die, my knife wasn’t quite the proper weapon to respond with). The sound and music are actually very well themed, with some ships having live performers, as well as old school 30’s music blaring from radios and in the lounges. Also funny are the rather graphic sound effects when your character takes a dump. Farts are funny.

If you’re looking for fast paced slaughtering action, The Ship isn’t the game for you. But if you’re looking for a more cerebral FPS, an elaborate game of cat and mouse (with knives, guns, and the need to have your character carry out bodily functions), consider picking up The Ship. As an additional bonus, the game is a mere $20, and available via download at Steam’s website, making the game relatively low investment to try out. The price is well worth it to act out your sublimated desire to murder people on a luxury liner.

1 Comments

  1. Dan Bruchey said on October 9, 2010:

    i love your post hope you write more of them come back soon.

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