You're relaxing on a cruise when suddenly a mysterious figure known as Mr. X appears, informing passengers he is in control of the ship. For his pleasure, he provides an ultimatum: kill or be killed. However, unlike most first-person action titles, The Ship doesn't provide excessively powerful weapons with which to go on a rampage. In fact, you are not allowed to just kill anyone you want in the game's main mode of play, known as Hunt. Hunt provides players with one target a piece, each round. The objective: take out your target while staying alive until the round ends.
In order to win, a player must attain a preset amount of money. One of the many elements of strategy found in The Ship revolves around which weapon to use to kill your target. Mr. X will pay you per kill based on the weapon you use, though the values are always changing so you will have to play close attention to the money list. While standard guns and knives are available in the game, part of the fun is hunting down your target with one of the more unusual objects. There are cue sticks, boat paddles, frying pans, and even purses that explode. Flare guns set your target ablaze, while poison syringes will have enemies puking heavily as they attempt to make their way to sickbay for treatment. Traps are built into each level as well, but are much more difficult to utilize since experienced players will avoid them.
Survival is key because when you die, you lose everything in your inventory. Players do not begin a game with any weapons, and finding weapons becomes increasingly difficult with each passing round. Other objects you can add to your inventory include additional outfits, food, books, sleeping pills, and -- believe it or not -- portable urination bags. The reason for many of these items is that each character in the game has the same basic needs as a real human being. As in The Sims, players must manage their characters' typical daily activities: going to the bathroom, showering, eating, drinking, sleeping, socializing, and being entertained. If players ignore these needs, their characters may eventually take their own lives.
While the needs can be frustrating to manage at times, they are a key element to the game and add a bit of strategy. You will need to know when and where it is safe to satisfy your needs. For example, instead of sleeping in a passenger cabin, you can sleep in a chair that has a security camera or a guard nearby. Guards can be bribed, though, and it is possible to use a ranged weapon to avoid ever being in view of a guard or camera. If players do draw a weapon at an inopportune time they will be arrested instantly. Going to the brig is usually a bad thing but it offers hidden benefits. The brig is one of the safest places on the ship, and you can address most of your needs there.
The Ship's Hunt mode of play can be intense and exciting with the right players. There is a short single-player game and the ability to play with computer-controlled passengers, but the game is primarily geared toward online play. Even on the hard difficulty setting, the computer will not provide a sufficient challenge. Computer-controlled opponents can easily kill you when they get near you, but they will do a number of stupid things, like sleeping in unsafe places, getting stuck behind open doors, and not changing weapons between kills, and will therefore never earn enough money to defeat you.
Other modes of play include Deathmatch, Duel, and Elimination. Deathmatch is just as one would expect; you can kill any passenger you want. Duel is a little like Hunt, with the main difference being that your target also has you as their target. In Duel you will always know who is hunting you, which eliminates much of the suspicion and tension found in Hunt. Elimination is a good alternative to Hunt, if you have the patience to wait for a game to end when you are eliminated early on. It's a last-man-standing mode that plays out like Hunt, except that players who are killed do not re-spawn.
One problem with the game is that any jerk can join a server and ruin a game with ease. Players can kill any passenger they want to; there is a penalty, but for someone who has no interest in winning, this doesn't matter. And although you keep all of your items when killed by someone who you are not a target of, someone who keeps killing anyone they see greatly interrupts the flow of the game. Another negative is a double-edged sword. The game is called The Ship and its whole basis is that it takes place on a ship. All eight of the levels are well designed and provide a satisfying atmosphere; you do feel as if you are on a ship. At the same time you are always on a ship and that does lead to repetition; you will see many of the same locations repeated on each level.
There is repetition, and management of player needs can annoy even while adding a layer of strategy. Still, despite the aforementioned issues, the game tries to and succeeds at being different. Offline content isn't entertaining enough, though, so you have to enjoy playing online. When played with the right people The Ship is an interesting and refreshing game; a welcome alternative to standard first-person action titles.
Graphics: There isn't a lot of variety, with every level being set on a ship, but the graphics do look solid.
Sound: Characters only speak gibberish, not unlike in The Sims. The background music helps set the mood aboard each cruise ship.
Enjoyment: The Hunt mode is best part of the game and it needs to be played online. A good server can provide some tense and exciting games.
Replay Value: Single-player can be completed in two or three hours, but the game is built for online play. As long as there are servers with players on them, there should be a good time to be had.
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