The Ship

By: Craig Lager

Published: August 23, 2010 Posted in: Review

What the hell is wrong with you people, why are none of you playing The Ship? It’s the most interesting multiplayer I’ve dropped into in a long time and while I might be a long 4 years late to the game, I can’t understand why it’s quite so dead in the water (sorry) as it is.

theShip - MR X

The idea is nifty: everyone on board a 1930′s Steam Liner is given a target to murder for cold hard cash. The target will be, obviously, one of the fellow passengers which leaves each person someone to kill and someone trying to kill them, only the catch is that no one can go murdering in plain sight. The proverbial Ship is lined with security guards and cameras; drawing a weapon in front of any of these will see you thrown into the brig and fined for any weapons they discover on you and when the goal is to acquire as much money as possible, this is best avoided. Plus the prison food is horrible, probably.

Matters are both complicated and enhanced by a few systems thrown in to make sure games stay fresh and without people resorting to the same tactics over and over. Weapons, for example, are assigned a value at the start of each round based on how recently they were last used for a kill, so if someone has plugged somebody with a Tommy Gun in the last couple of minutes it will be assigned the minimum amount of cash reward. On the other hand if no one has used a humble knitting needle at all, while it will be difficult and tantamount to ridiculous to use it, there will be a hefty reward for doing so.

Murdering then is taken away from just lining up a crosshair with someone’s head. Instead you stalk passengers through art-deco corridors with a frying pan ready to strike. You can’t make it obvious you’re following them of course; you have to look casual, as if you’re going somewhere else, looking for another passenger. If they stop, you have to be seamless in your disguise; try to double back, pretend to search some rooms; anything so that they don’t twig and bolt for security. You have to be smart right up until the last moment then CLANG! Frying pan around the head – pure Tom and Jerry.

Then, rather uniquely there is also a needs system here which is just like in the Sims – as you walk around you will steadily need to eat, drink, sleep, pee, shower, read (?) and so on. Punishments for not doing these range from death by disintegration to clouds of flies buzzing around your head, so it’s important that you do. Mostly they act as a way of getting people to move around – you can’t just stay hidden in a secure area because eventually you are going to need to sleep or urgently and bewilderingly read a book. I don’t know what happens if your “haven’t read in a while” meter maxes out, hopefully it’s something dramatic like all your limbs spontaneously flying off, but probably not.

All of this culminates in a game of extreme paranoia peppered with brutal but cartoonish violence. Take the time I was being followed by what looked like two people, I was sure my killer must be one of them but I couldn’t figure out which, or why the other would be following me. I ended up in a security room next to the brig which has a security guard and a camera looking over the place so should leave me safe. Both people followed me in; one was a female in a big hat, dress, and sunglasses; the other a guy with a Top Hat and suspenders. The woman sat down, staring blankly at a wall as the guy flitted around the room jumping on whatever he could, if I was anywhere else I would be sure that death was seconds away but I should be safe enough with all this security.

theShip - a bar

Suddenly another woman popped up at the back of the room – she had just been released from the brig. She made her way past these two weirdos to the door and then everything happened at once. The first woman in the big hat chased after the freshly released inmate – she must have coincidentally been on the way to the brig to find the woman who just escaped. Now she’s on fire. Top Hat Guy had jumped to a place underneath the camera and out of sight of the security guard, then shot a flare at me but the Big Hat woman had got in the way while dashing out. I got up and ran into a place I could hide and changed into some new clothes, put on a dapper hat, and swap my glasses for an eyepatch before heading back out.

Ships are big, so to avoid people wandering aimlessly The Ship gives hunters a little help in tracking down their marks. You are updated with their position every twenty seconds or so and when you find them you get an image of how they look permanently on your HUD which makes moving around and changing your outfit now and again a must for staying alive, and an excuse for searching out the most exquisite hats and eye wear – all of which fits into a gorgeous, cartoon ’30s aesthetic – it’s like TF2 on the Titanic, and with a greater emphasis on monocles.

And actually, a very specific bit of TF2 is what The Ship reminds me of most. Playing The Spy holds a lot of similarities here – both are based on constant deception with bursts of quick violence while no one’s looking. The Ship might be slower paced than every other shooter out there, it might not have iron sights, an unlock tree, or indeed RPG elements, but it’s precisely this that means it deserves better than it got and I hope I can spark some sort of renaissance for it. The Ship is unique and interesting, you should play it.

Craig Lager
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