Rating : 3/10
It is estimated that fishing could have begun almost 500,000 years ago, with fossils from around this time — the period of the Homo erectus — suggesting that these primitive humans were capturing the underwater dwellers for nourishment. But it wasn’t until depictions of fishing from Egypt from around 3,500 BCE that we can see evidence of tools being used to catch them, such as with spears, nets and rods. There are some suggestions in the times since that recreational fishing was undertaken, but it only became more widespread after the English Civil War in the 17th Century, at least in England. Reserved for nobility at first – they did own much of the land, after all – it trickled down the class structure over time, bringing us to today where we have videogames to catch fish, rather than needing to visit any body of water at all. Enter Ultimate Fishing Simulator.
I did have high hopes for this, but the first thing I must say is that I played this on Xbox One. A One S, for that matter, just in case there is a possibility that the One X performs better…because, unfortunately, the very first thing I noticed was just how poor the performance is. There’s really no excuse either, as each fishery you visit isn’t particularly large, with what feels like no anti-aliasing at all (if it is present, it must be very weak). Jagged edges everywhere and constant dips below 30FPS even though it is targeting 60FPS. Even FreeSync enabled isn’t enough to smooth out these awful dips, which even persist into the menus.
Poor performance could be somewhat excusable if the game had a good art style, at the very least, or high quality textures. But the maps in Ultimate Fishing Simulator look like they’ve taken 10 minutes to design (and take almost an entire minute each time just to load!). Plonk some rocks there, a tree or two there, and fill in that hole with water. Grass looks awful, distant textures morph in your view when you move closer and further away, objects don’t cast shadows so nothing looks grounded, in fact on stages where there are windows or anything else to reflect your body, instead of casting a reflection, it instead reproduces the Sun!? Assets are far too bright so for a game that’s supposed to embody some kind of realism, so your attention is constantly focused on just how fake the entire presentation is.
It’s also clear that Bit Golem has simply lifted and shifted this game straight onto Xbox with minimal optimisations. The interface is absolutely horrendous, requiring you to control a pointer with the controller’s analogue sticks — but it’s so sensitive, making it pull your hair out in utter frustration. Want to turn the music down? Oh God help me. Trust me, you will want to turn that music down, or off, because it just does not suit fishing at all. Why is some dance shit playing whilst I’m concentrating on a big catch?
And bugs. So many bugs. And I don’t mean mealworms to help you catch varying species of trout. After catching a few fish, I then had a bug where every subsequent one I caught wasn’t held up correctly after reeling the bad boy in. I thought nothing of it and continued playing, only upon quitting and going back in did I realise that it hadn’t saved any of my progress as I had unlocked a new stage, levelled up, and caught some fish. Perhaps I should have noticed when achievements weren’t popping when I did land a fish I hadn’t already caught.
Upon starting the game, you’ll only have one fishery to visit. OK, can’t be that difficult to unlock subsequent ones. But no, because levelling up isn’t enough. You need to spend money to buy a license. The second stage is just the first stage but with white textures to make it look like it’s winter. But, the water is frozen, so you have to buy an Auger. That’s not good enough either, because you also need to upgrade your character so you can actually use it, spending a skill point in the process. Next stage? $300, and considering each fish averaged ears you probably $15, you can imagine how long it will take grinding to unlock everything. And that’s if you even sell the fish — you can choose to only take enhanced XP, but then you’re locking yourself to these crap stages for even longer.
If you’re still bothering to read this review, then there is one good thing. The gameplay, even given how shoddily optimised the rest of the game is, is actually pretty good. It’s simply and doesn’t take long to get used to, although eventually I found that most fish are pretty much the same. Just on some of the bigger ones, you do have to be careful when reeling in not to snap the line, so carefully does it. Some maps even feature boats you can drive out to hopefully land some more exotic species.
That’s not enough to save this game though. The damage has been done everywhere else. No amount of depth in buying different rods, lines, tackle, whatever can elevate this downright awful experience in fishing. I’d rather go back to 500,000 BCE and catch fish with my bare hands.
There’s not really many ways of sugar coating it; this game is a mess on Xbox One and isn’t worth your time. Surely any other fishing game would be worth considering if you have that urge.
IT technician by trade. Probably running around turning everything on and off again.