Virtual Skipper 4 Review (PC)

This has to be one of the easiest games I've ever had to review in my life. I'm no sailing buff or anything, in-fact to be honest I find sailing quite tedious. But reading the back of the box, this game makes no claims beyond that of being the best damn regatta simulator ever made for computers; and frankly is it just that - outstanding graphics and inspiring detail for such a niche game.

The ocean rendering is just phenomenal

I still don't get how those clouds are really 3d rendered

It's a shock to find out that people are making sailing games for the PC, and it's even more of a shock that at least 3 others have already been made. But I've no doubt there's some sailing fans out there who desperately love this series, and my primary purpose here is to inform them that they should grab a copy of this game without a doubt in their minds.


Let us focus on the graphics for a moment. I don't think I've ever seen such fantastic mapping of the ocean movement in a game before. These are the standard of graphics one might expect from a first rate first person shooter and I can't help mentioning again how impressed I am that such a minority area game has graphics developed to this quality. The same applies to the clouds, weather and day/night rendering. Actually, the clouds are allegedly 3d mapped objects. I couldn't confirm this because boats can't get close enough to clouds to remove my sprite-like doubts, but I'm willing to believe Nadeo on this one because they've been pristinely honest about everything else. Anyway, they look good regardless.

The boat models are professionally designed and I've no doubt they look just like the real thing, although I'm not entirely certain what the real thing looks like. To quote Digital Jesters: "Take the helm of ACC, Melges 24, Offshore Racer and Open 60 boats." I'm sure all that nonsense means something to someone.

Not too sure about the dodgy buildings in the background

But they certainly look fine at night

Although it does seem as though Nadeo wimped out a bit on the collision side of things. I'm sure this'll cause the real fans to roll their eyes at me, but hey, I'm looking for my entertainment and when I have a head-on collision with a big cruiser I expect to sink at the very least. Instead you get pushed to one side and experience no damage whatsoever.

The game has all the kind of options you'd imagine: multiplayer, a racing season campaign, arcade mode racing, and a track editor. I have to say for me - a non-sailing fan - the track editor was about the most enjoyable aspect. The editor allows quite advanced editing and creation of tracks including the placement of traffic such as helicopters and other boats, and the designing of landscape. Although I'm sure for the right person, the campaign would be excellent. VS4 has accurately mapped tracks from all over the world including all the 'major circuits' (whatever they might be) and some nice tropical locations.

The game allows full control of the boat's rudder and sails, with a helpful bar of information at the bottom of the screen telling you your speed, orientation, and so on. The game engine is very tight and seems very stable. Important racing rules such as the concept of right of way (defined by the virtual umpire) are included within the gameplay.

How romantic…

Note again - the reflections in the sea…

A final nugget, the game allows the creation of your own films in-game. So you can impress all your racing mates with your incredible virtual sailing skills. Without a doubt this is the best sailing game ever made, and undoubtedly it will remain so until Virtual Skipper 5. To non-sailing fans I have to say you may have a bit of trouble getting in to the right frame of mind to enjoy a prolonged campaign in this game. But for the right person this is a right gem. Now, I want to know when Nadeo are going to start mapping the ocean for first person shooters.

Top Gaming Moment: For me, designing my own tracks. For sailors, probably the campaign which is designed and integrated on a par with any top-notch road rally game.


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