Monday, 6 January 2014

Ryse: Son of Rome

Back in 2005 when the Xbox 360 was being released, it had a reasonably good enough list of launch titles. One of the more anticipated games was Perfect Dark Zero, the sequel to the excellent Nintendo 64 first-person shooter Perfect Dark, developed by Goldeneye 64 geniuses Rare. And while Perfect Dark Zero was indeed a good game, something seemed off.

It took a long time for me to figure what it was, but it stank of Rare trying to use every aspect of the Xbox 360's power. And while I completely welcome a developer trying to get the best out of a console, Rare used this newly developed console as a platform to merely show off all the bells and whistles it had over the previous Xbox. This resulted in visuals that looked garish, a physics engine that wasn't properly implemented and a motion blur effect that would turn any gamers stomach. But back then this went over my head mainly because I was fixated on playing something- anything- on a next gen console. Fast forward almost a decade on, and I can see similarities taking place. No, Ryse isn't an awful game at all, but it's painfully clear that it's a classic example of a game simply made to show off the power of a new console.

Developed by Crytek, the guys who also brought us the original Far Cry and most recently the Crysis series, Ryse: Son and Rome puts the player in the shoes of Marius Titus, a respected Roman general. However, the game takes place over much of Marius' life, and begins with him as a young soldier serving in the 2nd Legion. After most of his family is murdered by a Barbarian invasion Marius' vows to seek out and exact revenge on those who are responsible. However, this means that Marius needs to work his way up the ranks of the Roman army, a task that will take him and the player through various exciting battles and gorgeous locations.

Ryse: Son of Rome can't really be faulted on visuals and presentation. Yes, I still stand by saying it's pretty much a Perfect Dark Zero affair, but Ryse does look pretty slick, that much is undeniable. Boasting wonderfully realised battles that bring forward scenes from films such as Gladiator, 300 and The 13th Warrior, the scope, scale and impending feeling of pre-battle tension is palpable here. In fact, what it achieves in depicting large battles in which entire cities and being invaded, it also achieves in the smaller moments, which are just as expertly executed. Up close the action is terrifyingly real, with every swing of your sword feeling visceral and utterly deadly. This detail even extends to character and enemy faces, and it's the kind of visual clarity not seen on a console title to date.

However, when it comes to gameplay Ryse is frustratingly linear at times. It could best be described as a hack-and-slash title with a tiny bit of strategy thrown in. As Marius the player will need to fight their way through various linear levels, often ending with a powerful boss character. It's a formula that has work perfectly countless time before, but I expected something more from a next gen title. The player can also upgrade certain statistics of Marius' too, in the form of Health, Focus, Gain and Combat. However, at it’s heart Ryse is about the combat, and despite the combat mechanic being pretty much like every other hack-and-slash title to date, it's deliciously bloody, violent and unrelenting when it comes to executions, something the player will constantly work to pull off.

While Ryse is both beautiful and bloody, it's still a painfully linear game. Once it's all over you'll wish Crytek tried something ballsier with it, considering they're the same developers who made Crysis. That said, as it stands right now Ryse is a fun enough adventure into the world of Ancient Rome, an adventure that pulls no punches with a realistically grisly take on Roman warfare.

Ryse: Son of Rome holds formation with a solid 6.5/10.

Denis Murphy

Ryse: Son of Rome at CeX

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