Review: Carrier Deck15 Jun 2017 0
Review: Carrier Deck
Released 15 Jun 2017
Carrier Deck is a somewhat simple game, but boy, is it fun. Built around the premise of controlling the flight deck of an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, studio Every Single Soldier’s title is an engaging and extremely hectic simulator that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
With no plot to speak of, Carrier Deck puts the player in the boots of a flight officer stationed on the CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan, tasked with overseeing the launch, landing, and preparation of all aircrafts in the ship. Quickly and efficiently coordinating the various vehicles on the carrier is the sole way to victory, as you must plan and execute military sorties while dealing with constant cargo deliveries and incoming traffic. It is a fast-paced title, requiring split-second decision-making and constant strategical planning to succeed.
As a military warship in hostile waters, the Ronald Reagan is under constant threat of military interception. The carrier’s sensors have a limited range that allows little time for maneuvering, requiring patrol flights in order to gather intel on enemy movements. Recon missions act as an early warning system, detecting enemy contacts much farther away and giving you more time to scramble an intercept. It’s an interesting system that constantly juggles reaction time with logistical planning, making sure orders are planned in advance and executed properly in order to ensure the constant survival of the ship.
Due to the large amount of traffic in the area -- both hostile and friendly -- the key to success is to always think two steps ahead. Planes and helicopters need to be refueled, repaired, and sent on missions, and once their patrol is over, they need to land. Failing to clear the flight deck or the runway can cause collisions and accidents, destroying aircrafts and damaging the carrier in the process. Enemies that get past the net also damage the carrier, creating an atmosphere of constant awareness -- the damage caused to the carrier is fairly balanced and it takes a few hits for it to sink, but a 5-star rating requires the ship’s health to be intact.
Carrier Deck has surprisingly nice graphics for a niche game, and something I wish more developers strived for. All vehicles and personnel have proper 3D models that move around, and missions take place in different times of day, creating nice variations of gameplay scenarios. Unfortunately, the carrier is a bit lifeless -- crews are all stationary for 95% of the time, acting more like scenario objects than individuals on a flight deck. The underlying hangar deck is even worse, being completely devoid of life at all times and looking like an abandoned warehouse. Adding a bit of movement and cosmetic activity would help make the carrier look like a real thing instead of a facsimile of a virtual ship.
Technically, the title could use a another QA pass. The music is maddening, featuring literally one single “hard rock” track for the entirety of the game. I love rock music, but hearing the same tune for over five hours made me want to punch a random pinscher in the mouth. The camera is also incredibly restrictive at all times, unable to move more than a few meters from the carrier; it would be great to pan and orbit all around the carrier, zooming out to see the whole fleet or zooming in all the way to the flight deck and seeing people work. While the lack of movement didn’t affect gameplay most of the time, I had a few instances where I couldn’t press a button or select an aircraft properly due to the unnecessarily shallow camera angles.
Furthermore, a few of the most important screen buttons are frustrating to use. Elevator buttons provide no feedback over hovering, making it a bit hard to make sure you are clicking the correct direction. The “speed-up time” button is huge and obnoxious, and constantly gets on top of other gameplay elements. As the buttons don’t stop working even when overlapping, I would often click on a helicopter on the edge of the screen and accidentally speed up time -- a potentially catastrophic consequence in a time-management title where one single mistake means losing a couple of aircrafts. Similarly, the game is in dire need of a slowdown button, or at the very least, a difficulty setting; while I completed Carrier Deck's campaign and dabbled in its skirmish and survival modes, the difficulty spikes are untenable -- in order to reach a wider player base, the game needs to be a bit less demanding and provide more time-management options.
I also ran into a few problems that hampered the flow of gameplay. Crafts bump into each other and furiously revert back to their previous positions instead of finding a way around or smartly giving priority, meaning you often order two crafts somewhere at the same time and come back 10 seconds later to find them both in their original positions. The hangar deck is especially vexing, and I often needed to babysit the crafts into the elevators, or risk finding half of them back in their berths.
Craft selection is also slightly iffy at times, especially when they overlap in the helipad section of the aircraft carrier. It was a bit hard to use one of the helipads and the launching strip at the same time, effectively denying use of one of them at all times. While that may have been the intention, I often could use both by a stroke of luck if an airplane was already stationed in the strip; while they clearly clipped into each other, there were no adverse effects. That bottom area needs a slight revisiting to make the design useful.
In the end, Carrier Deck is a very fun and solid effort. It’s few flaws, while substantial, are fixable and don’t overwhelm the good aspects of the title. Offering a unique premise and execution and featuring a surprisingly deep yet simple gameplay, Carrier Deck is a definite recommendation.