The Ship

The Ship Review – 2006

Where is the best place to murder somebody?  Now I was pondering this very question myself the other day.  In a crowded city for instance, it might be too easy, as you could use short or long range with relative ease, and then use the interminable crowds to facilitate your escape.  On deserted moorland would be trickier, as you would be more noticeable to your quarry, who may try to run for it.  In a junkyard would be really cool, and sport a lot of environmental aids to make your task more elaborate.  I was contemplating these thoughts, as you do, considering which would offer the most efficiency, and which would be most fun.  Hey, why are you looking at me like that…?

Now a ship.  Ah, a ship would be an idealThe Ship choice.  Firstly, it is a contained location, so nobody can enter or flee the crime scene.  Then you have the standard security personnel and equipment on a ship which would add tension and planning to the act.  Plus of course, owing to the unpredictable movements of your quarry, and also other passengers who might see the crime, you cannot rely on just one murder method; you have to be prepared to do the deed in a variety of sly and surreptitious ways.  Yes, you can see why a ship is a perfect setting for a murder-fest.

The question though does remain as to precisely why you would want to murder someone at all, unless of course you happen to be some insatiable serial murderer with a penchant for surmounting challenges.  Well, aren’t we all?  Aren’t we?  Oh.  Sorry.  Well, anyway the basis for these water-bound murders is quite simple.  A mysterious Mr X has taken the ship to uncharted waters, and has started a lethal game of cat and mouse, where the only way you can survive is by assassinating your randomly designated target.  Plus, you have to keep an eye on your own back at the same time, because you are also on the hit list of one other person aboard.  All the time Mr X sits behind the scenes and gloats over the bloodshed whilst polishing his exotic barbed syringe collection.

So, your first move would obviously be to find a weapon.  Now this is the best bit, as each ship has a variety of different methods to smear your quarry’s brains over the floor.  You could go with a standard axe or knife, which are effective, but don’t earn you much cash from Mr X.  Alternatively you could go for a more unique method of dispatch, such as a lethal injection, a dropped lifeboat, or perhaps a flare gun to send them down in a screaming wreath of flames.  You could even head down the path of humiliation, batter them to death with a brolly if you wanted, or perhaps show them the wrong side of a candlestick.  Not the most obvious tools for murder, but certainly makes a nice change from the usual.  The methods of murder are all quite sadistic really, but still plenty of fun.  And in the game…

There is a single player game which takes you round various missions on Mr X’s ship to try and save your sorry hide, but this is just an introduction really, a taster to prepare you for the main course, which is online play.  Multiplayer is joyful reunion of like-minded sickos who compete in Mr X’s game for cash, glory, and of course the obvious thrill of gruesome murder.

In concept this should work extremely well, and to a certain extent it does.  But the atmosphere is somewhat not quite as you had imagined, with suspense, horror, and a thrilling hunt.  Instead it slopes into a melee of players sprinting about the ship in a tearing hurry to find their victims first.  The public chat channels are spammed with discourteous requests to ‘get out of the [fulminating] way’, and ‘where the [bludgeoning] hell are you?’, which sadly unveils the dignified models of the players into their coarse teenage realities.  Of course that is a rather agist generalisation, but one that holds true throughout the majority of online play.  Typically as well you have griefers.  The players who slaughter everything in their path, regardless of whether they are the assigned quarry or not, and these do ruin the game for many.

On a more technical note, the game’s construction does not hold up well under scrutiny.  For instance, being spotted by a security guard or camera will get you arrested if you have a weapon in your hand.  But there are some places, such as in a lift, where by standing close to the wall, you can be spotted by the security camera in the next room.  Also, the music that is played on the radios around the ship, although full of period character, does not react as sound should react.  When walking away from one radio, instead of fading out as you approach the next radio, instead it just completely cuts between the two.  So in one single step you can basically switch radio stations.

Most of the weapon placements are seemingly random as well, meaning the first to search the cabins get the best shooters and blatterers, whilst you are frequently running about with little more than a pencil sharpener.  And don’t get me started on those awful doors which only ever open one way, sometimes swinging out towards you and unthoughtfully trapping you in some random plant pot or solid wall.  These and a few other similar issues can serve to further ruin the immersion of the setting.

Graphics are in shipshape condition, fresh and clean, although rather generic and unexceptional.  The environments and characters look fine, but not jaw-droppingly so.  As regards the quality of the sound, this is an example of a plan gone wrong.  Sound effects were intended to be deliberately over-the-top in an attempt at light-heartedness and humour.  So if you send you character to the toilet, you will hear copious amounts of wet spurting and plopping as they unleash their putrid innards in a sickening soundfest of gratuitous overkill.  Then when your character needs to sleep, you hear the kind of teeth-grating, wet, billowy snores that have caused many a divorce.  And when eating or drinking, your character’s complete disregard for even the slightest form of etiquette results in a grotesque quagmire of chomping, slurping, snorting and spitting that simply makes you want to smash their scrawny little faces in.  The sound is possibly the weakest and most annoying part of the entire game.

The Ship first saw life as a multiplayer mod for Half Life, and a lot of people still play that mod.  But you just have to question whether it is worth your cash to invest in this mod-remake, when the free version is still plenty of fun.  Also, at the time of going to press, the number of available servers to play The Ship on could be counted on fingers and toes.  Well if you are 7-fingered and 7-toed anyway.  There are usually opponents to play against, but most servers are still occupied primarily by bots.

The Ship does work, but only just.  We can see what the developers had in mind when they designed the concept, and on paper it was a glorious scheme.  But in practise it does start to tear at the seams, and soon becomes a rather forgettable experience.  But then, even forgettable experiences are still quite enjoyable sometimes.  Plus, there can be few better ways to release your psychopathic desires to slay innocent humans.