by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Despite modern military titles being arguably the hottest genre of the last number of years, the Coast Guard probably isn’t the first branch of the armed forces that pops to mind when you think of video games. Developer Reality Twist is aiming to change that with their seafaring ocean cop mystery game, aptly titled Coast Guard. Unfortunately, Coast Guard probably pushes our boat-riding brothers-in-arms even further from the spotlight than they already were by delivering an experience not so much bad as immediately forgettable.
With all of the action happening to one guy I was going to complain how the game is clearly over-glorifying what someone in the Coast Guard actually does, but I don’t really think that’s an entirely fair criticism given the state of modern military games featuring the army, marines, etc. However, while most of those games make it clear that they’re fictitious, unrealistic exaggerations, Coast Guard does deserve a little flak for the dissonance between it’s serious, fairly realistic presentation and over the top happenings of the campaign.
The voice acting is very poor. I understand the plight of small projects- after all, quality voice actors can be expensive to come by- but given that the attempted solemn gravitas of the story, developer Reality Twist really, really would have benefitted from a more practiced voice actor for their main protagonist and antagonist. From the very opening lines delivery floats between emotionally void and (more commonly) hokey, and faux-dramatic. It takes away any semblance of player engagement, and makes what could have been a nice little whodunnit a borderline comedy of errors- nearly a parody of the very thing it’s trying to be. I came closer to laughing at just how serious it was taking itself than I ever did to being concerned or thrilled, which is obviously not what the game was shooting towards.
It’s not entirely fair to blame the faults of the campaign solely on the voice acting- it’s really a group effort. First, the voice actors were fighting an uphill battle from the start. The lines of dialogue are fairly cringe-inducing, sounding like something a 14-year-old who’s watched too much G.I. Joe might write. Combined with very poor character animations, the story became, at least to me, more of an unintentionally almost-funny B-movie than anything else. The structure of the plot also hurts the experience. It jumps chronologically back and forth between multiple events, and while I really do appreciate the writers attempting something more than just a bunch of simple missions in a row, it isn’t handled well enough to be particularly engaging, interesting, or even, at time, coherent.
Most of the missions have you driving around your Coast Guard boat chasing bad guys, rescuing people, and doing other heroic deeds that a real Coast Guard member may find themselves doing once in a blue moon. No matter the mission, though, they largely boil down to the same thing- navigate your boat through obstacles in the water, search an area for what you’re looking for if necessary, then get close to the objective and hit a button. It’s functionally alright, it just gets very repetitive fairly quickly. Things are mixed up with the first person segments that have you trying to figure out what happened on the boat that’s seemingly been abandoned moments after having a fugitive crew aboard, but, as I said earlier, these don’t always make sense and, even when they do, aren’t much more engaging than you’d expect first person segments in a boat sim to me (though, again, I give the development team credit for the attempt).
What makes the normal boat missions a bit of a drag, in addition to the shoddy voice acting and slight repetitiveness, is that the game doesn’t seem to really know what it wants to be. It’s not action packed or fast paced enough to be entertainly arcade-y, and it’s not nearly complex enough to be a sim. It exists somewhere in the middle- a slower-paced, light arcade experience- that I’m not particularly fond of. Having decided more firmly to go one way or the other would have given the experience a more focused tone, and allowed the game to embrace the pros of each respective genre. It should also be noted that presentation during your boating, particularly during chases, has some issues- particularly with how your boat interacts with the water, and fire.
The chases can be fun, but that fun is combated against when your boat is floating almost entirely out of the water, or starts glitching under waves. When it’s working right the water/boat physics are actually pretty cool, but too often that isn’t the case. Additionally, fire looks terrible. I’m not entirely sure if this is how it was made, but it looks like back in the 90s when it was all the rage to use real photos of something or someone and insert them into a game. The fire looks oddly realistic, but doesn’t blend well with its surroundings. It also seems “floaty,” or doesn’t scale well with the environment as you move, making it hard to judge where exactly it is in order to avoid it.
The instances where Coast Guard works well can be fun, just not fun enough to justify the mediocrity or frustration of the rest of the game. While I do applaud that developer Reality Twist didn’t take the easiest way out and make this a straightforward Coast Guard advertisement with simple, short missions, their intentions are subverted by the fact that their time-bouncing mystery just doesn’t end up being particularly well crafted, engaging, or memorable. Most of the game isn’t bad, per say, it’s just simply okay. With so many great titles either out or soon to be released this year, “okay” isn’t good enough for me to recommend you part with your dollars- even in a largely unsaturated genre.
Attempts an engaging story, some fun boat chases.
Poor voice acting, plot structure doesn’t always work, repetitive missions.