Ahoy landlubbers and welcome to another Guns of the Helghast Friday event!
As might be guessed by the title, Guns of the Helghast dropped anchor last week at Cutthroats: Battle for Black Powder Cove. Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment and released March 28th of last year, the Cove is alive with seedy scalawags and stoic shipmen still blasting beneath their own banner.
From its music, graphics, and sound this space has an abundance of atmosphere. Upon arrival one is greeted with invigorating music that stirs a sense of action, a desire for adventure; it’s like something one might hear in a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. The logo of the space is also shown in large lettering across the screen before it fades away to reveal the Cove. To either side and all around are steel-colored mountains enclosing the enormous environment. The sky overhead is dark and thick with clouds adding to the feeling that while huge, one is still hidden away from the rest of the world by both land and air, locked within an arena of rebellion and revelry. Beneath the boardwalk a murky sea sways slightly setting a superb stage for the skirmishes taking place above it. Cannon-fire and the sound of splintering wood as ships are blown to pieces perfectly accentuate the atmosphere of the area, adding an element of elevated existence akin to a pounding percussion in a musical composition. One does not leap immediately into the action however, but appears on a dock with five useful displays. The first two displays a person will come across are the News Board and the Information Table.
The News Board mainly displays any additions made to the space. Back on September 5th of last year Cutthroats underwent an update to version 2.0 boasting an expanded armory, new clothing items (some of which offer in-game perks), and a slightly revised control scheme so those who haven’t visited this space in a long while may want to sail in for a second glance. The seven screens currently posted to the board detail a few different things, one of which is a new way to come across coin. No longer only a purchasable item, the coins used to buy temporary ship upgrades can now be obtained simply by visiting the space and checking the various displays on a seemingly daily basis; after a few visits one should have a bounty of booty to aid in blasting the opposition. Make no mistake, these ship upgrades can drastically shift the tide of battle with items like:
- The Rum Ball: “Causes Captain and Gunners controller settings to become inverted.*” – Misdirection may seem dishonorable but the high seas have their own moral code, governed most by survival.
- Whistler Balls: “Screams from a long distance! The ball for snipers.” – If ye be lookin’ fer power from afar then this be yer ball. Your enemies will never know what hit ’em. 😉
- Ramming Boost: “Temporarily increase the ship ramming damage.” – For those who like to get up-close and personal there’s nothing like charging headlong into an enemy vessel. Witnessing their fear firsthand as they’re smashed and sunk sends shivers of exhilaration through the veins of any daring enough to attempt such a maneuver.
Instructions are also given on how to effectively toggle between upgraded armaments, steer the ship, and fire her cannons. Similar to the News Board, the Information Table is also composed of several screens.
The Information Table contains more static information along with reports impacted directly by the user and community at large. There are leader-boards to see how one stacks up against their mates. There’s a stat-tracker screen dedicated to measuring one’s accuracy, coin, kills, and experience (by which one may also level-up gaining site-specific rewards). A preferences page turns the Gunner’s aim marker on or off, adjusts music and sound effect volume separately, and allows the input of customizable messages to display when aboard ship. Game information is also listed presenting the main knowledge-source on how to acquire ammunition, collect coin, gain experience, and sail the ship. Finally, there’s a list of fine folks who worked on this space in the form of a credits screen. After passing these first two pier placements the dock stretches wide to reveal three more.
Front and center sets the gateway to the star of the show, the briny Billboard from which the game is launched. There are six ships one may serve upon, each color-coded to aid in telling friend from foe. Each ship can contain a crew of one Captain and up to three Gunners, this means Cutthroats can support up to 24 active players at once. For a free-to-play game that’s really quite impressive, but more on the actual play experience later. To the left of the Billboard is a small storefront to the Armory. From the Armory one can directly purchase ammunition, damage-boosters, an increase to ramming damage, repair tools, speed boosts, and if feeling particularly sneaky, a ship teleporter of six charges. To the right side of the Billboard is another storefront leading into the Outfitters. Offering all the traditional apparel one might expect a pirate to wear from hats and eye-patches to cloaks and hook-hands, many options are available. If one wants to be known as a true master of the seven seas then it helps to look the part. With all displays discussed the main attraction can finally be addressed, the game itself.
Operation of the game isn’t too complex and after a few moments of study and a little playtime it should come as second-nature. Both Captain and Gunner share some common controls.
- Pressing Up on the D-Pad grants quick-store access for immediate purchases with which to pummel the present opposition.
- Pressing Left on the D-Pad brings up the leader-boards allowing the checking of rank on-the-fly.
- Pressing Right on the D-Pad shows a screen of instructions in case a brief refresher is needed with the controls.
- Pressing Down on the D-Pad allows quick-chat consisting of a few quick commands along with any custom messages typed-up earlier.
- The Right Analog Stick rotates the camera allowing a 360-degree view of the surroundings.
- L2 displays a radial menu displaying appropriate upgrades dependent on one’s current role as either Captain or Gunner.
- The Triangle Button toggles one’s role between either Captain or Gunner. It’s easy enough for a Captain to become a Gunner, but for a Gunner to become Captain a Mutiny must be called for. This traitorous act is committed with the same button and all other Gunners must agree as well.
Now here’s where the controls differ with the Captain having only one additional option.
- For the Captain, the Left Analog Stick is used to drive and steer the ship.
The Gunner gets six additional control options.
- L1 displays a radial menu displaying premium ammunition, along with standard cannon balls, to toggle between when firing at foes.
- The Square Button slowly repairs the ship by tapping the button. When the hulls hp dips low it’s suggested for all Gunners to spam Square for speedy repairs.
- The Circle Button sequentially switches cannons with a tap or allows one to specify a specific cannon if held down. As there are six cannons per ship, a Gunner almost always has a cannon to either ship-side available.
- The X Button refills and repairs the cannons one at a time. It’s always a good idea to make sure all cannons are fully loaded and fixed during down-time to deal with inevitable encounters.
- The Left Analog Stick is used to aim the trajectory of the cannon. Remember to account ship movement and the time it’ll take for the ball to travel that distance.
- R1 fires the cannon itself.
So how does the game actually feel? Fun and natural. Steering the ship as Captain may feel a bit sluggish at first but it is to be remembered that ships on sea do not respond the same as cars on tarmac; one must get used to the slower pace and learn to move in anticipation of their opponent’s movements. While it is fun piloting the ship one may prefer the Gunner’s position. Blowing things up is always fun and that’s what’s to be done as a Gunner. Taking quick and steady aim, watching the cannon ball sail smoothly through the air, then witnessing it slam into the opponent’s ship is quite satisfying. When a shot is landed the name of whom landed the shot is listed atop the screen for all to see and when a ship is sunk he or she whom dealt the killing blow will appear in a different color to highlight their success. No doubt the enemy’s defeat was a group effort but it’s always nice to have a little extra recognition once in a while. The elements of this space, the music, sound effects, and graphics all work well with the actual game to heighten the overall intensity of combat at sea. Considering you needn’t spend a cent to engage in this activity I’d say it’s more than worth the cost, with many apparently agreeing as multiple other pirates were witnessed firing premium cannonballs and adorned in the spaces apparel. For Guns of the Helghast, though, we decided to remain with the spaces default supplies this time around as our strategic advantage came not from firepower but numbers.
But before we go in-depth with our chronicle of conflict, let us first focus on the events leading up to that point.
I, General Orpheo of 3rd Division, lead the nights outing. Our night began by docking along the harbor to see what makes this place so special. We’d heard stories of great naval battles here and where there’s a challenge to be conquered you’re bound to eventually run across us, Guns of the Helghast. Upon arrival we noticed we were among a mischievous and motley mob of pirates. We could handle ourselves though, we’re Helghast after all. Hah, naval battles.. what a bunch scabrous wretches lie here, filthy, lazy, and undisciplined; one would hardly think they could effectively steer a ship to victory in a sea skirmish. Secure in our survival we made our way to the port-side of the pier for a photograph. Yet another memento of our many adventures here at Guns of the Helghast. From there we split roughly into our divisions and commandeered three pirate ships moored along the harbor. 1st Division took point aboard the Black Death, 2nd Division followed closely on the Bloody Crow, and in tow was 3rd Division sailing upon the Ghost Skull. We wanted to see how these ships handled and were pleasantly surprised. The ships sail mightily enough with good control for a seafaring vessel and the cannons thunderous boom excites the heart with its old-school destructive power. It wasn’t long before we noticed pirates in pursuit of their purloined property. Pirates, terrors of the high-seas they say, we put their reputations to the test. Armed only with what was aboard the ships at our onset we engaged the enemy head-on. I must admit the fighting was fierce as we gave each other a run for our doubloons. On the enemy’s side was superior firepower as they hailed our ships from afar with fireballs, lightning, rum balls, and more. The damage caused by their weapons was horrific but no causalities to report. On our side, we had numbers and cooperation. While each enemy seemed to act independently of one another we tried to focus our forces as a unit, boxing-in and outflanking our foes; such measures met with success more than once. Once off the ships and back aboard the pier we remained a bit to chat, but not too long ‘lest we draw more attention than was wise. We loaded back into our Helghast craft and headed for home, secure in our accomplishments. I’d say the pirates deserve their terror-ific titles but we proved a match against their many munitions with our trained military might. Consider us even, for now. We’ll be back one day and when we arrive “we will strike without warning and without mercy, fighting as one hand, one heart, one soul. We will shatter their dreams and haunt their nightmares, […] and they will know: [Cutthroats] belongs to the Helghast (‘Killzone 2’ intro speech segment).”
What land shall our magic compass point to next? Come back next Monday to find out. Fight well me hearties, yo-ho. 😉
* All direct quotes taken directly from the Cutthroats public space within PlayStation HOME.