Review by sfcalimari
Too many problems add up to an unsatisfying game
First of all, please note that I have never given any game less than a score of 7/10. I generally only review games that I like and want to promote a bit, but I found this game to be such a dud that I felt I had to write it up. I don't give this game a score of 4/10 lightly.
I gave this game a try because I do like quite a few hack and slash games, such as God of War, Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance, and especially Dynasty Warriors 4 Empires. Also I gave the game a try because it seemed to have fairly positive reviews. Hey, everyone on gamefaqs mostly gave it scores around 8 or 9, and gamespot gave it a score over 7, so it has to be okay, right? Well unfortunately after playing this game a bit I realized that the hype was quite off.
So, you're some Spartan guy, and at the beginning of the game you have to fight off the Romans. Okay. The novelty of this game is that it pits you against huge groups of foes all at once. This could have been cool, but the controls and gameplay are so bad that it just ends up being annoying. As you might imagine, the gameplay is pretty much mainly hack and slash. You have a standard slash with square, and a wider slice with circle. The combos from these sword attacks are pretty dull, and a somewhat major problem (for me) is that when you start to hack at one enemy, you get "locked on" to him and start only hacking at him to the exclusion of the 50 other guys surrounding you, and you start moving in his direction rather than standing in one place. The problem is that you can't really hack at large groups of enemies, you can only really focus on one, and yet this is a game where you are constantly being attacked by huge swarms of enemies. It would be better to be able to hack at multiple enemies at once. Also often the "lock on" gets buggy and when I am trying to attack one enemy, I suddenly switch direction and start hacking at some other guy nearby. Pretty soon I am surrounded by enemies and pretty soon after that I am dead.
So while you are being assaulted by huge groups of enemies, you are usually also given little tasks like "press square to pull the lever and open the door" or "press square to use the giant crossbow." These get a bit frustrating because you have to figure out on your own where these levers and whatnot are located, and until you do you are going to get a lot of "you died" screens. Also there are several "escort" missions where you have to protect someone or another, and as in many games these tasks are pretty frustrating because often you have no idea if the person you are trying to protect is being attacked or not.
Another major annoyance is that when you are thrown into a huge battle between your allies and the enemy, you can barely distinguish the enemies from allies. Sure the Romans have kind of a red outfit, but they (like everything else) look quite washed out, and are very small on the screen due to the camera, which frequently hovers high above the playing field. Needless to say, it's a bit annoying to be in a huge chaotic battle and be unable to tell who your targets are.
So, overall, we have uninteresting gameplay that overwhelmingly trends towards being frustrating, glitchy, and repetitive, with several dull chores thrown in. But let's move on.
The controls are okay. Your character's movement is pretty responsive, but he has a tendency to fall off walls. You can control the camera, but it isn't terribly responsive unfortunately. As I mentioned above, when hacking at enemies you tend to get "locked-on" to one enemy, which is just pointless when you are attacking multiple enemies. Dynasty Warriors 4 had a similar annoying system, which made you feel like you weren't in complete control of your character, but by Dynasty Warriors 4 Empires they had taken this "lock-on" aspect out and the gameplay improved quite a bit.
Let me mention that I am not one of those guys who only cares about graphics. I can't believe I am saying this about a ps2 game that came out in late 2005 but...the graphics for this game are almost on par with a psOne game. They are blocky, grainy, washed-out...basically any word for bad graphics you can come up with. I didn't really notice until I rescued a large group of prisoners who looked like refugees from Metal Gear Solid One.
The sound isn't necessarily bad, but the music and sound effects used really deflate any atmosphere this game could have had. First of all, as many reviewers have noted, the music is weird techno dance-style music. It has absolutely no place in a game about ancient Greece, and it doesn't even sound good. It sounds like background music from a Super Nintendo game. Another sound effect that really deflates the game is a weird voice that barks phrases at you from time to time during battle. Kill some enemies, and you'll hear an extremely annoying, deep, growling voice barking "WHAT A RUSH. FEELS GOOD DOESN'T IT. WHAT A RUSH." Yeah, heard that the first time. I guess it is some god of war or god of strife or something giving you commands, but combined with the corny techno music, it goes a long way towards making the game feel more like an eighties exercise video. Pretty soon after I figured out that the growling voice was saying "what a rush" over and over again I knew this game was not for me. Kratos never needed the disembodied demonic voice of Richard Simmons to tell him to have a good time.
So, yeah, you've probably realized by now that I was pretty unimpressed with this game. It frustrated, bored, and disappointed me. Considering that I generally like mindless hack and slash games, I was pretty surprised to see how this game fell so flat. I am not the biggest fan of God of War, but this game makes God of War (which was released quite a bit before Spartan, mind you) look pretty good. At least God of War had great graphics, creative levels, and fun combat. Spartan has none of the above.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
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