Ice chunks form on all sides of your ship, commanding all the attention of your crew for the task at hand. The quota has to be filled, but your boat also needs to stay afloat, so your crew is safe from your wrath – for now. After the ice has been cleared from the boat, you and your crew get to the real task at hand: fishing for crabs. Don’t get too excited, but don’t get too cynical either.
It’s hard to sell a game about crab-fishing to groups of gamers that are used to action-packed games like Halo 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4. At first glance it seems akin to offering vegetables to a child. Why would a testosterone-fueled 18-34 male want a game about fishing? Short answer is that Mr. 18-34 probably doesn’t. But a deeper look into the game reveals surprising depth for gamers out there that want to step back from action and have a more chilled experience.
After a lengthy tutorial gets you acclimated to controlling the boats, you’re not ready to set sail for the Bering Sea quite yet. Crew members must be hired and provisions (bait, gas, fishing pots) must be purchased. With fresh supplies and an experienced crew, you plan out your fishing strategy. Checking your plotter, a device that allows you to check crab population, you map out your strategies to hit areas with the highest density. Marking your map with your planned strings (swaths of sea where you drop your pots, or crab traps, to "soak"), you and your crew make haste for that location. Once there, your crew gets to work, as do you.
Not soon after, one of your workers makes an error, resulting in a steel pot being dropped from a crane and onto a fellow employee. The aftermath is not good – the injured employee was your deck boss and your most trusted and experienced crew member., who is now out for the season.The effect is much like a weigh scale. On one hand, you have the need to meet the quota, and then on the other, the need to protect the safety of your crew. Finding the right balance is the challenge.
As you’re about to finish picking up the last of your ill-fated pots, something happens. Everything stands still. You figure it’s just a temporary lock-up. Tapping the guide button multiple times proves fruitless, so you reluctantly turn off your 360. It’s just bad luck, and hey, you saved just before the freeze, so everything’s kosher. Minutes later, it happens again. And again, ad nauseum. Progressing through a complete season of crab fishing seems impossible up to a certain point because of the technical difficulties that continue to muck up your experience.
Glancing at screenshots of the game, shrugging it off as a quick, sloppy cash-in on the TV show would be an easy conclusion. Nothing looks particularly good and there is plenty that looks bad. Hauling in your catch of crab, the detail on the fish passes scrutiny while in the pot. But when dumped into the catching tray for your crew to sort, it becomes this amalgamation of brown slime and gunk that looks laughably bad. Re-creations of the different boats seen on the show are faithful, but technical prowess is something Deadliest Catch does not have.
Graphical limitations aside, Deadliest Catch is surprisingly competent. In so far as games are vehicles for excitement and action, the game falls on its face. Where it finds its footing is in its unique setup that is unlike anything else on the market. Unique might not mean great or even good, but you could rent much worse.