Ship Simulator Extremes' biggest problem is the incredible lack of polish, resulting in a game which feels rushed and unfinished. The menu system is incredibly sparse, with graphical options proving especially threadbare.
Thankfully, the game wasn't particularly difficult to run with a GeForce GTX 280 and stock-speed Core i7-920 proving more than capable of handling maximum settings at 1,920x 1,080. Sadly this didn't translate into splendid visuals - in fact, the game didn't look any better than we remembered Ship Simulator 2008 looking.
The water effects at least aren't terrible, with swirling waves and spray meaning the ocean is more than just an infinite plane, but it still isn't overly impressive. Landmasses look extremely basic and while ships are recognisable, they aren't exactly flush with details - there are no reflections, for example. It becomes even worse though - there's no anti-aliasing and the game was unresponsive to our attempt to force it on in the driver settings.
A perfect storm while we're rolling home to dear old England
As a result, most objects look terrible and boats especially are awash with jaggies. Sunsets, instead being a glow of sun reflected in the sea, are just large blocks of totally unconvincing colour - we've seen better in four-year-old first-person shooters. One of Extremes' newest features is the ability to walk inside vessels. However, cabins and bridges all look like they were rendered eight years ago in an outdated engine. Most are just large blocks of flat colour, devoid of reflections or shadows.
This is compounded by the fact that there are numerous graphical glitches throughout the game. These manifest themselves in birds hovering oddly above ships with their wings still folded, to container carriers flickering between locations, apparently disobeying physics. We had more than our fair share of crashes too, though at least that provided relief from boring sound effects - which oddly rarely involves the sea. It's all a bit of a mess, if we're honest.
Controlling the basic movement of ships is relatively easy, although you can't access any of the games' menus while you're in a mission so you're unable to check or change key assignments as you go, making things tedious to say the least. Navigational tools such as radar are very unconvincing too, with other ships appearing as generic round blobs rather than discernible shapes. They appear to be far too large too and as a result, some missions that rely heavily on radar become extremely difficult.
The bridge - some things work, some things don't
Time is a big problem too - you'd better have lots of it as there's no time compression. Without a way to speed things up when you're just sailing along, most of the time the game is incredibly dull.
By far the most disappointing aspect of the game is the lack of depth and realism, which is unforgivable for a simulator. There are a selection of controllable navigation lights, but only a fraction of what would be required on a real ship - plus there's no one telling you off for using the wrong ones anyway. The radar and chart displays are dire and have next to no functions other than basic visual display. The instructions claim that the radar is only for orientation, ignoring other roles and avoiding the need to add in other features.
In contrast, Flight Simulator X has fully functional radios and GPS that behave in much the same way as the real things. Combined with fairly convincing air traffic control, they make for some attention-grabbing and often quite challenging situations, as well as offering plenty to learn and adding massive depth.
Ship Simulator Extremes has none of this, meaning there isn't enough realism for hardcore players in the same way that there's too little support for casual ones. It's buggy, ugly, boring and at odds with its audience. In a thread entitled 'What's positive about Ship Simulator Extremes' in Ship Simulator's own forums, someone replied 'It didn't take long to download from Steam'. However, we'd say that this is due to the Internet connection rather than the game.