Love it or hate it, Valve’s deployment system “Steam” has been a huge success, despite its shaky start. For those of you that haven’t used it, everyone has a unique Steam account that is free to register. From then on in, any game you own, either purchased in a shop or through Steam itself is locked to that username. It never forgets what game you own. Steam itself is a small download, which you can install on as many machines as you like - but you can only be logged in to one at a time.
After logging in, any game that you own is then downloadable and can be run from those machines. For instance, as I tend to play Counter-Strike:Source occasionally, this will generally be installed on all three machines, but I might only have Half-Life 2 installed at home where I have a faster machine. If you happen to have wiped your hard drive, instead of needing a backup or hunting out several DVDs to reinstall, just click the games you want to reinstall and let it do its thing. I’ll take a while, but it’s damned convenient. This is also an excellent way of making sure your games are always up to date, as many users don’t even think about updating their games or drivers. Steam has been so popular that many third-party games developers have decided to use Steam for deployment, as a way of reducing cost – both to them and the end user.
Annoyingly for us, and lucratively for Valve, as new games come out, it constantly reminds you of its existence and even gives you the option to pre-load the game. This means that when it is finally available, the data can be unlocked and you are ready to go. One such game is The Ship. At the minor sum of $19.99, this is cheap enough that many people will just give in to the advertising and buy it. I’d like to say I was one of those people, but I’m lucky enough to have a “special” Steam account that allows me access to every game. So instead, I just had to bide my time until it was available - which don’t get me wrong was an equally annoying issue to deal with.
The Ship is not new. It was originally a mod for Half Life 1, which much like Counter-Strike, eventually found its way to the Source engine. This naturally means the graphics are pretty good. There are no real physics involved, but HDR effects are employed. The X850XT powered machine I was using (which happens to be my office machine) coped fine, excluding the minor issues I initially had (probably due to the rather old install of Windows). Just like Counter-Strike, it’ll run on anything, it’s just a case of how low you want your details to be.
The Ship is a multiplayer game, based on a series of luxurious cruise ships from the early 1900’s, owned by a mysterious “Mr X”. The décor and clothing wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Titanic, and it makes quite a change from camo trousers and balaclavas.
Although you can play in arcade mode, with bots for entertainment, the AI is pretty poor and feels like a bit of a last minute addition to the retail game. Anyone who has just paid for this game is going to want to play it online with real people.
The game itself is actually quite complex and it will take an hour or so before you really get to grips with it. Of all the people on the ship, one of these is your “Quarry” - the person you are targeting to kill. At the same time, you are someone else’s target. Kill or be killed? Quite, but your Quarry is not the same person who is hunting you - so even if you manage to take care of business, you are still in danger, and you have no idea who it is.
When the game starts, you have no weapon. But there are several weapons dotted around the ship and there’s a small amount of time before the Quarries are dished out, so you can find one. The better you know the map, the quicker you’ll be able to get a weapon. There are fire axes in very obvious places - but the score for killing with one of these is lowest. Generally, the blunter the weapon, the more points are available. Weapons vary from golf glubs, rolling pins and pool cues, to revolvers, scalpels and syringes. Just like the clothing, it makes quite a change from M4s and BFGs.