Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: Take Two Interactive
ESRB Rating: Teen
Haven't had a good duel lately? Wanna go sailing the high seas for adventure and profit? Wanna jack a Spanish Main Sail ship and become a terror of the high seas?
Well, get your fill of virtua-pirate fun as Sid Meier's Pirates finally drops on the X-Box.
Or sort of. Okay, not really.
See, you don't really get to be a completely badass pirate -- or even the cool Johnny Depp version for that matter.
Actually, you end up being a lot like Orlando Bloom -- you're out to avenge your fam from the likes a Spanish nobleman.
Now you CAN choose the dark side and thumb you your nose at all authority, but then you can't get your ship repaired, as you have no safe ports or hideouts. Actually behaving like a pirate ends the game in roughly fifteen minutes. So -- ultimately -- you have to be the pirate with a big softy heart. You can't make people walk the plank (not even an option in the game), and other than the fact that you occationally rob the Spanish ships, you're an okay, swell kind of guy.
So, you'll simply have to settle for being an overdressed nancy boy with a swor- *AHEM* dashing rogue. If you only play the Single Player mode, that is. The Mulitplayer mode is where you really get to make people eat those nancy boy jokes. You can take on four players in ship-to-ship battle throwdowns.
This is clearly made to be a safer, more lighthearted alternative to the brutal, ultraviolent world of the Grand Theft Auto games -- complete with mission-based minigames, RPG elements, rhythm-based dance/sword dueling modes, and quirky characterizations made to play up the more romantic elements of the pirate life. However, trying to shoehorn a classic game into that safer alternative removes the freeform nature you really should have in a game like this. Choosing to go full-on evil pirate in single player mode should make the game tougher, yes, but not impossible to the point of not having any safe harbors (including your home port). The Multiplayer mode goes far to redeem the single player's shortcomings--but not by much, with its lack of Xbox Live capability for the Mulitplayer (the game IS XBLive "aware," meaning you can download additional ports and missions or an add-on to design your own flag).
In the end, it IS a well meaning and quirky safer alternative to GTA. If you're a parent, you'll be a bit concerned about all the pirates overdoing it on the rum and of course the whole theft thing, but that's about it. If you are a fan of the skull and crossbones set, you probably already have this title, and if you're not completely out to loot and plunder, then you'll enjoy the drinking songs, the ship battles and swordfighting. If you want full frontal GTA-style Pirate action, you might find the game a little boring. But it may be worth a rental to you for the change of pace.