Loose lips sink ships!
Such is the watchword of GTE Entertainment's new historically accurate multimedia title, Titanic. Attempting to be a faithful graphical recreation of the world's largest and most legendary ship, the product comes on two CD's in the form of a guided graphical tour or a mystery adventure game that takes place during the time of the Titanic's voyage.
The 'game' begins with the anonymous player placed in a tiny London apartment in the middle of World War II. Some amount of looking around at articles and letters lying stray in the room reveals the opening premise of the game, i.e. the player is a recently unemployed Secret Service agent who apparently botched his mission on the Titanic, of which he is one of the survivors. Obviously, a story as tragic as such cannot go unresolved. So, a short nazi 'buzz' bomb later, some wishful thinking, and a good bump on the head, takes the player back in time onto the Titanic, giving you a second chance at a failed mission. Although the premise is weak and highly unbelievable, the subsequent setting is thankfully stunning.
The game is played through first-person interface (similar to Myst. The player navigates through a fully rendered, high-res model of the interior of the Titanic. The player moves around the ship on set 'tracks' of motion (he can only follow certain pre-determined paths along the ship). While this may seem restrictive, it is implemented effectively and with enough range, as to give the game a feeling of almost free flowing movement. It also allows the player to move around in a lush environment with minimal graphics compromise, a definite plus. Anyone familiar to Under a Killing Moon or other such Tex Murphy titles, will understand this kind of 3D interface.
|Mac Minimum System Requirements|
|68040 or PowerPC|
|8 MB RAM|
During his investigations, the player character must interact with a host of passengers by conversing and extracting information, or accomplishing tasks. When a player decides to speak to a person, a graphical caricature of the character being addressed appears on the screen as a series of dialogue choices allow a specific route for the conversation to follow. The person's caricature responds aurally accompanied by a host of facial expressions and well synchronized lip-flapping in an attempt to convey a believable performance. The only problem with this system is that the caricature is a stone cold 2D photograph of the person being addressed, the only signs of motion are the few changes in facial expressions that convey any sense of mood above and beyond the voice acting. Such a flaw makes the characters look fake, and hard to take seriously, a major detriment to a game that tries to take itself so seriously. Thankfully though, there is other eye candy present to forgive this little bit of silliness.
Which brings me to the highlight of the game, the Titanic. The game reproduces all decks from Top-deck to Gdeck. All the rooms, furnishings, decorations and other such things have been replicated with the most painstaking care and detail in high resolution 3D. Even the painted designs on the plates in the cafeteria have been recreated to produce the finest touch of reality. Such detail is a fitting tribute to a legend of such stature; a mammoth tribute to a mammoth ship. The splendid reality of the environment creates a feeling of eerie fright, reminiscent of walking through a cemetery, albeit a wonderfully detailed, high-res, well-furnished, luxury one at that. If anything, it's this gorgeous graphical marvel that forces the player's attention to the game. The faithful sights and sounds all work wonderfully in immersing one in the feeling and lore of the time and is the sole driving force that keeps one coming back to play and finish the game.
Titanic is a game of nostalgia. It brings to life all that was spectacular about the legend of the greatest ship that ever sailed the seas and resurrects all our curious fifth grade fantasies of the ghouls and goblins that haunt the corpse of the ship. Sadly though, along with such wonderfully old memories come horribly old frustrations. As mentioned, the game comes on two CD's, the first carries the tour mode of the ship and the second carries the game. The problem with such a system arises with the fact that in order to load the game, the player has to load the main menu up with the first CD and then swap CD's in order to play where one left off. While it doesn't seem so bad in the description, for people who are play the game over a number of sessions, it gets old fast, like the disk-swapping days of the old XT computers. Smoother on the Macintosh than it is on the PC, the high graphical payload of the game also makes for major CD access time as the player moves from one section of the ship to another; a minor mention but one that bears noticing.
Aside from the weak plot and cast of silly characters, this title deserves a look at. As a game it offers very, very little, however, as a historical reproduction of the most legendary cruise ship that sank in the seven seas, this a triumph. This game appeals to a highly limited audience, and is primarily recommended to ye Titanic aficionados who want a great historic walk through the annals of ship and legend. To these people the 'game' will be a bonus.