Spartan: Total Warrior PS2 Review

Famed for their best selling PC strategy series – Total War, this marks Creative Assembly’s first assault on console gaming. Blending Greek Mythology with bits of Science fiction, Creative Assembly has come up with a very enjoyable title that could leave you aching for a long time after you have played it. The story follows the efforts of the Spartan army in trying to save their homeland “Sparta” from the evil Roman Empire, who have taken over the rest of Greece. You will be in places such as Athens, Rome and the great city of Troy on your adventure, and battle creatures from Greek mythology such as the Hydra, Medusa and the Minotaur. The main adventure is split into three acts, with each act containing multiple chapters. You play the role of Spartan, one of the greatest warriors in Sparta. Along with your fellow Spartan warriors Castor and Pollux, it is up to you to stop the might of the Roman Empire.

Graphics

When you first look at the graphics in this game, they probably won’t blow you a way, sure, they are decent, but most textures are fuzzy and some are a little blocky. As soon as you start fighting, you will understand the reason for the lack of graphical flare. The game engine in Spartan: Total Warrior is a very beautiful thing indeed, the sheer number of things it can render at once is wonderful. There will times when over 100 enemies appear on screen at the same time, and the frame rate barely stutters. There are sometimes when the frame rate might dip slightly, but it is certainly not enough to disrupt your enjoyment.

The main character, Spartan does look very good though, it is easy to see that Creative Assembly spent time making sure he looked the part. There are some very nice effects in the game when battling, for example performing a rage attack when surrounded by enemies will result in litres of blood splashing everywhere, and it certainly gives you a nice feeling to be able to create so much carnage. For the most part, the environments are well designed though some can look a bit samey, but the opening levels do look particularly sweet, especially one gigantic enemy in particular, I’m not going to spoil it but suffice to say you will be very impressed. Some of the boss fights in the game are incredibly detailed. It is nice to see the developers doing this because you are fighting famous enemies from Greek mythology, so it is nice to see them represent what they stand for.

The game also has some nice cut scenes which are a mix of rendered scenes using the in game engine, and the odd FMV sequence. I really cannot say enough about how good the game engine is, for the amount of enemies it can support on screen, you really would expect for it to chug and the frame rate to drop, but this is not the case. It runs along beautifully and only occasionally stumbles in tight areas. It is a bit of a shame that some of the graphical flare had to be sacrificed for the engine, but it is understandable, the game’s graphics are not bad by any stretch of the imagination, the bosses are beautiful to look at. It is just average Joe enemies and some areas that look dated by nowadays standards. All the animations are spot on, with some of Spartan’s rage moves in particular looking sweet, I particularly liked the animation of the bow. Its all fluid, the movement of Spartan’s arm and the release of the bow all look very realistic. There are also some nice effects used when Spartan summons his power moves, for example when equipped with Medusa’s shield, performing a magic attack will see a bright light flash all over the screen, turning all enemies on screen into stone, again a nice little effect that all adds to the game.

Gameplay

The controls in Spartan: Total Warrior consists of using the left analogue stick to move Spartan around and the right analogue stick for camera control. The “X” button will always perform a centred attack on one opponent no matter what combination it is used in, on the other hand, the “O” button will always perform a sweeping attack that is able to take out countless enemies at once, something that is particularly useful during the game. The triangle button is used for jumping and the square button will perform context sensitive moves, such as opening doors. The L1 button will draw your bow, and alloy you to fire some arrows; L2 will use your shield to block incoming attacks. R1 is used to perform a rage move in conjunction with either “X” or “O”, R2 will allow Spartan to charge up his power, in order to unleash a power move. Spartan has three level of attack, the basic sweeping and direct attacks, the rage sweeping and direct attacks and power moves. Rage attacks build up as you defeat enemies, you will know you are ready for one when you weapon starts to glow red. This attack is very good for clearing areas if combined with “O” or defeating one enemy if used with “X”. Later on in the game Spartan will acquire power moves, dubbed “power of the gods”.

These moves are very useful in the later stages for defeating large amounts of enemies. Spartan has two circular gauges that fill up when defeating enemies, however this takes a very long time, the main way to get magic attacks charged up is to use the magic shrines dotted throughout levels. These shrines are limited per level and only equal one power move each, so you can only use these moves a certain amount of times. The power moves change depending on which weapon you have at the time, using the blades of Athena will allow you to expel electricity, while using the shield of Medusa will allow you to turn people to stone. Each level always starts with a narrative and then a short cut scene. Through out each level, Spartan has a set of main objectives that need to be completed in order to pass the level. There are also some optional objectives that can be done, for example, one of the levels sees you defacing posters in order to pass the task, doing so grants you more tokens in which to level Spartan up. After each mission, you are able to level up the stats of Spartan using the tokens you achieved during the missions; each token is equivalent to one bar on the stat meter. To begin with, you can update Spartan’s health and his damage, but as the game progresses, you can level up other stats aswell.

The main gameplay in the game consist of hack and slash, kicking the crap out of as many enemies as you can. Every level has this at its core, though Creative Assembly have tried to spice up the levels by adding in some other tasks as well, to save from things getting to repetitive. For example, in one mission you have to save Archimedes from Roman spies while he is giving a speech, then you have to escort him through the town to the safe house, other such missions see you rescuing prisoners. I thought this was very much needed, as sometimes the battles can overwhelm you and it is a nice break to do something different. Although the bulk of the game consists of the story mode, the game also posses something called “Arena Challenge”. This pits you as a Spartan warrior in an arena against various enemies, the more rounds you survive the higher your score, with the rounds getting progressively tougher. A neat feature about this is that you can unlock items and arenas for this mode in the single player adventure, giving it more replay value. There is also an option to replay individual levels once you have unlocked them; you unlock them by completing the level in single player. Overall, I found the single player adventure very enjoyable indeed, with just the right amount of fighting, especially the boss fights, some of the other tasks can be a bit too easy, but puzzle’s are not at the core of this game, so it does not really matter.

One gripe I did have with the game concerned the health points. These consist of shrines littered throughout levels in which you would pray at to restore some health. The problem being that when you are praying you are vulnerable to attack, and a lot of times when praying I would be attacked. Therefore, as I am trying to get some health back I am losing it at the same time, this is hugely frustrating and can make some of the later stages particularly difficult. Also I found the A.I of your team mates pretty poor, there were a lot of occasions that I would go into battle with plenty troops on my side, but still end up killing the majority of enemies myself. Another niggling annoyance I have is that fact that your team mates like to repeat the same thing over and over again, its gets very irritating as you are trying to defeat enemies in your way and Pollux repeats for the 11th time “kill those enemies”.

Sound

One of the things I found quite fun when playing this game was when Ares – God of War, belches out little statements as you fight, say you;re not killing a lot of enemies, he will say things like, “I need more blood”. If you are rampantly, destroying all that stands in your way then he will shout things like “Send their souls to me”; he does this in a voice, which is probably the lowest I have ever heard. Then, the sound effects used in the game are very good indeed, you can even hear the individual weapon clashes when you block an attempted attack. Spartan likes to moan, the odd grunt from time to time, which gives a nice effect that he is trying; after all, it is not easy defeating hundreds of enemies single handedly.

The voice acting is also quality, though for some reason the Spartans all have American accents and the Romans all have English, some of it is perhaps a little cheesy, but who doesn’t like the odd bit of cheese. There is also a nicely spoken narrative full of emotion at the start of each level, that brings you up to date with what is happening and what you are going to be doing next. The soundtrack is also good, containing a mix of rocking tunes and softer songs, it’s nice the way the soundtrack changes mood depending on what is happening on screen. For example, you could be walking though what appears to be an empty building to a soft relaxing tune, then all of a sudden some enemies attack and the rock out starts, it is not something that is going to decide your opinion on the game, but it is nice all the same.

Lifespan

This is a game that could easily last you 15 hours, although the missions are not too long, it may take you many goes to complete each level, especially the harder ones. Even after completing the game, there is still the option to replay it in order to try and unlock more options for the Arena Challenge mode. If you are not into unlockables, then this is a game that you will only play through once. It is a shame that more things could not have been added to entice you to play the game again, as a few extras in the Arena Challenge mode are not going to persuade the majority of gamers to replay the whole campaign mode for. The Arena Challenge is another mode that could last you a while, again it all comes down to how much you enjoy doing it, if you cant get enough of slashing enemies then its something that you can keep playing in order to better you score. Of course, if there are certain missions you loved playing and would like to replay but cannot be bothered doing the campaign again, then you can always select an individual level from the main menu to play.

Overall

Spartan: Total Warrior is a game I had immense fun playing. Being a big fan of Greek mythology, I loved facing some of the interesting creatures in battles. Fans of hack and slash games will be right at home here, as the game backs up the gameplay with a good story. Although the graphics do look a bit dated, the game engine is a joy, you might wish it was not though, as it can put so many damn enemies on screen at once. The single player game is easily a 10-hour blast at the very least and the Arena Challenge will keep you occupied for a while. I think this game deserves to succeed as it does a lot right, it is a shame though that there are a few niggling problems that stop it from becoming a truly great game. The very annoying health shrines will severely test you patients, especially when facing a boss. The A.I of you team mates is questionable at the best of times, and the endless repeating of you obvious tasks is unnecessary. I have no problems in recommending this title to anyone, who would ever think that decapitating Romans could be so fun?

8.3 out of 10

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