5 ways Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned is avoiding the movie-licensed shitstorm

4. Serious combat
Among the many, many (many) reasons games based on movies are loathed the world over is the persistently mindless action and interactions. Every hero tends to move with the all the grace of a boneless, lubricated Ratchet, and comes equipped with meaningless button mashing. Well, judging by what we saw of Capt. Sterling in action, that certainly isn’t the case here,. He’s a swarthy pirate, not a weightless ninja. The character has heft (even more so, if you go Dreaded) and a clip we saw of him climbing and shimmying along a ledge resembled all the carefully detailed interaction you’d find in something like Assassin’s Creed.

Best of all, Capt. Sterling can throw down! The combat is by no means limited to single-button spam, yet the developers also made it a point not to delve too deep into convoluted combos, similar to God of War or Bayonetta. You’ve got blocks, parries, face buttons that can be assigned to abilities, and even a little gun play.

Enemies can also be cursed, offering various dizzying dmage effects. Not only does it momentarily get them off your ass, but it opens them up to even more elaborate brutality. Face buttons can be assigned to abilities, but what we found most impressive was the special attacks that come after landing a few successful blows.

Playing on the Legendary side, Sterling tossed a bottle in the air, then shot it from behind his back and sent sending down a rain of flaming booze on multiple enemies. Conversely, the Sith-like Dreaded Sterling used a rusty anchor to hook enemies in the face, and also slammed it into the ground to create an earth-shattering watery explosion that sends enemies flying. However, nothing’s a guaranteed finisher. Armada’s RPG sensibilities should allow you to improve as you progress, plus you can even watch your evolution over time since enemies display an ATB meter over their head that’ll show you the difference between the cuddly and the critical.

5. It feels like a Pirates of the Caribbean game
This is an important note, and one not to be downplayed. Think for a second about what made the PotC films so popular with damn near everybody on the globe? They managed to find a thin line between dizzying levels of over-the-top violence and family friendly entertainment, and you can bet it’s one that Armada of the Damned will walk right into a T for Teen rating. By the looks of things, the game has spectacularly preserved the spirit of the films, and they’ve done it without parasitically clinging to moments you’ve already seen on the big screen.

More importantly, Pirates has a level of comedic timing that most movies rarely achieve, and since we saw it retained in Armada, it can’t be solely attributed to Johnny Depp. True to the PotC’s essence, the characters all come with a foolhardy flaws that make them prone to miscellaneous buffoonery. For us, it seemed like a welcome departure from the super serious (and often cornball) cinematics we see in game after game, even when witnessed in some of the preliminary work. Some of Captain Sterling’s animations are wonderfully, often intentionally, cartoonish, and even the power hungry conquistador villain managed to bring a laugh out of us. Seriously, do you have any idea how rare that is?!

Oddly enough, we’re now looking forward to Armada of the Damned more than the 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie (which over half the cast isn’t even signed on to appear in?) It’s still a ways off, but we should be seeing more of Armada E3 very soon.

May 13, 2010