Coast Guard is another one of those games that I knew nothing about until I received an email from one of my awesome PR contacts who told me a bit about the game and offered a review code for me to give it a bit of coverage. Of course, I don’t keep abreast on every latest game, and so it’s normal for some to fall between the cracks, but overall it’s a good thing sometimes – I like finding surprise gems to try out. Add to this the fact that the game claims to be about the “coast guard,” and I really wanted to give it a go.
Right off the bat, I should say that the game really isn’t about the Coast Guard as most of us would think about it. From what I can gather after having played a bit of the game, this “coast guard” seems more like a civilian auxilliary at best, or maybe a privatized maritime security group operating at the behest of some fictional country or another. The flag, while at first glance appearing to be a U.S. flag, is actually just an orange and black striped flag. And there’s other incidental evidence that says that they’re not a military group. So, this disappointed me a bit.
This game also isn’t a “simulator” of any kind, really. To be honest, I’d classify it as a narrative action-adventure, which revolves around Finn Asdair and his crew and cohorts as they venture into the waters to stop smugglers and traffickers. It’s really a mixture of different gameplay types. At times, you’ll be navigating the waters on a clipper, rescuing victims out at sea. Sometimes you’ll be delivering someone to a destination or using the boat to board another vessel or location. Other times, you may be putting out fires with the hoses on your main vessel or interrogating a suspect in a maritime criminal operation.
The story is a bit confusing at first with how it drops you into things, but it starts making sense pretty quickly. Essentially, in the “present day,” Finn is trapped aboard a “ghost ship” and is trying to figure out why he’s there and how he can get off of it. There’s some basic exploration and simple puzzle-solving that needs to happen during this phase of the game, but as he discovers clues, the game will send the player into flashbacks that tell the backstory of Finn and his operations and how he got to his present predicament.
The game’s story is pretty interesting, at least to me, and I definitely find that it has a pretty good soundtrack. The gameplay itself is decent enough, despite some bugginess and frustrating controls at times (particularly during the rescue mode on the clipper), but I was able to power through that enough to not totally detract from this game’s score.
The game is good in places, yet flawed in others. The graphics (particularly on the character models) need work in places, and the controls can be frustratingly buggy in the maritime segments. The voice acting is very hit and miss. Some of it sounds like it was recorded during a 2:00 AM Skype call when people needed to try not to wake their family members up, and other parts simply have no emotion behind them. Yet, some of the actors (most likely people on the dev team or their friends/family) did a decent enough job and carried their parts well. It’s too bad that Finn himself is so unemotional and boring, though.
I question little things like why the “Director of Coast Guard Operations” would need to be manning a small clipper on his own to rescue victims out at sea, rather than on some large vessel or at an operations center on the mainland. Even if this coast guard is a para-military group that’s a privatized security company, someone of that level/rank wouldn’t need to be out in the field.
Yet, in the end, Coast Guard does deliver in its mission to tell a good narrative story. It presents some interesting gameplay features (I like the different modes of play during your maritime operations, all the camera views, etc.), even if some of the execution is very poor or extremely flawed in places. It’s ultimately the story, the ideas, and the soundtrack that save this game and give it the score I’m giving it.
It’s borderline, though, so beware…whether this one is worth getting or not depends on your personal tastes. Me? I’d only pick it up if you get it during a good Steam sale or as part of a bundle.
From me, this game gets a cautious: