If there's one thing you can usually bank on over the slow summer months, it's a good handful of substandard movie licensed video games. Spider-Man 3 started things off pretty well, but Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End has arrived to restore the balance. Yes, while this swashbuckling adventure looks the part, it's movie licensed video game fodder through and through.
At World's End is a pretty simple action adventure game at heart, with the combat being the biggest problem. Put bluntly, it's repetitive and simple in the extreme. The majority of enemies can be downed by repeatedly hammering the attack button, with enemies even turning around to take their punishment. Trickier enemies require you to perform a finishing move, which itself is simple enough, although these can only be triggered once you've got a certain amount of swordsmanship (represented via an on-screen meter).
Significant enemies from the movies (although the name suggests otherwise, At World's End also covers Dead Man's Chest) are tackled in a slightly different fashion, with beat-'em-up-style duels pitting you in one on one fights. These could have been interesting, had it not been for the dull control system. You use the left analogue stick to parry attacks (with your direction having to match that of a marker on the attacker's side of the screen) and then perform similar gestures with the left stick to attack yourself. Again, it's far too simple and rarely do you need to use the special attacks you earn.
As expected, you get to play as many of the main characters from the movies, including Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan, but each character only really differs in appearance. Your move set remains the same no matter who you play as, so the only reason to change characters (which is only an option at certain points) is to save them from dying. When left to fend for themselves they'll die pretty quickly, so you'll constantly have to switch from one to another throughout the larger battles.
Other than an awful lot of fighting, At World's End throws in far too many fetch quests. You're always on the look out for items that need picking up, and these rarely seem to tie in with the story - not that you'd be able to follow what's going on unless you've already seen the movies. A few puzzles crop up from time to time, but they're never too taxing and you'll soon be back hacking and slashing.
If there's one redeeming quality to At World's End, it's the visuals. Although some of the combat animations are a tad clunky, it's unquestionably a next-gen title. All the characters are modelled superbly and the many environments from the movie all look great. As much as games shouldn't be all about the visuals, if you're a fan of the movies the visuals will make At World's End pretty enjoyable. It's a shame that the voice acting isn't up the same standard, with characters barely even speaking.
A throwaway notoriety feature is included for players who want to earn high scores, but unless you can compare them with other players (which you can't outside of the Xbox 360 version) it's a pretty pointless addition to the game. The money you collect and enemies you slay all help tally up this score, but you'll probably just become annoyed at the large numbers that frequently appear on the screen.
A passer-by who saw someone playing At World's End could be forgiven for thinking the game is worth a look, but beneath its next-gen gloss lies nothing more than a basic action game. If you want nothing more than a fancy looking title to show off your new HD TV, look no further, but don't expect too many great memories.