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Spartan: Total Warrior

I personally was let down by this game. It looked great in the store aswell as having some good reviews and word of mouth, but then when it came down to actually playing Spartan: Total Warrior I wasn't impressed. There were a number of things which I feel let this title down and although it's quite playable, it's certainly nothing too special. I think it's a case of the negative aspects just outweighing the positive ones. Even though I can't say I played it to completion, I do think I experienced enough of it to judge the game in a fair light. So, where to start?

Well, to begin with, it's not at all like the Total War series on the PC and I can't quite see what made them carry the suffix across other than for advertising purposes. In Spartan: Total Warrior you play as a single Spartan warrior during a tense battle between Sparta and Rome (I guess it is mildly educational). The gameplay is very simplistic, the levels are very linear as is the storyline. This didn't go down well with me as I prefer more options and variety, not just fighting through a level which can only be done one way and only offers one path. The only influence I felt I had on the game other than progressing through it was on the character himself. After each level you can allocate points to various attributes which effect his performance during battle (i.e. speed, power, defence, etc), however even this customisation falls short of what I'd hoped for from such an anticipated game.

Leaving my expectations aside, the gameplay is fairly enjoyable; easy controls, impressive moves and huge numbers of troops to dispose of all add up to give it a distinctly arcade feel. In some situations you can button mash, whilst in others you have to be more precise. Efficient use of your shield can be very rewarding and in some levels is absolutely required should you wish to survive. You can, and need to, take full advantage of an overdrive-like function which becomes available as you kill more soldiers (displayed in the form of a bar on screen) in order to faster deplete their numbers in style. During the levels you are given objectives which must be completed, one at a time, in order to progress further. Herein lies the real problem I had - you are really bound by the objectives, which adds to the linear value and lowers any attempt at realism - there's no skipping from A to C, you've GOT to do B first (access to certain areas of the level rely solely on this principle). I was hoping for more of a Dynasty Warriors-style game in which you could run around a huge map with hundreds of warriors and pick them off as you please - a little over here, a little over there - rather than a far off cousin in which the maps are linear, divided off into areas which open and close out of your control and tie you to their rules. Where's the fun and freedom in that? If anything, the numbers of enemies is commendable, though pretty much everything else falls short.

The graphics are fairly good, some fighting scenes look exceptional, there's a lot of blood which works well, but there's also that annoying 'plastic' feel to the characters that makes them look shiny and badly rendered. From time to time they seem a little sketchy and when performing certain moves the physics just fall apart. Though it's likely that this was the desired effect - as mentioned before, it's certainly more of an arcade-style hack and slash than anything else (not that this is necessarily a bad thing). Another irritating point is that all the soldiers look short and fat, almost to the point where I think the game is set in another wolrd where the gravity is three times normal. The cutscenes are pretty weak - not that they're the determining factor by any means, but it still adds up to a lack of polish.

Regarding the levels, I found them to be very slow and sometimes tedious. At points they were too hard, even on normal, and often I'd have to either take a break or force myself to keep playing. Overall, I didn't find the game too enjoyable, it was more of a chore. The best way I can describe it, is like a book that you don't particularly like but feel the need to finish just because you started it. Although it's not like me, sometimes I just had to say “enough's enough” - I'm not going to carry on with something I don't enjoy.

I know this review may seem a little one-sided, but then my experience felt very unrequited. If you're thinking about picking this one up, I strongly recommend you rent it first. If you like what you're playing from the very beginning then you'll like the rest of the game. My experience however was more a case of not being bothered whether I played it or not. Although I've gone back to it multiple times, it's certainly not made it anymore appealing.

Spartan: Total Warrior is a good game for getting your mind off things and doing some senseless button mashing, but I didn't find the roots to go much deeper than that. If you're looking for something similar then may I recommend Dynasty Warriors or Crimson Sea (both available on PS2), although if you are going to go ahead and purchase it, let me give you one piece of advice: don't get your hopes up, perhaps that way you'll enjoy it a little more. Spartan: Total Warrior isn't really a love-hate game, it's more one that can be played from time to time or not at all - it certainly isn't likely to remain in your memory for long.

To sum it up I think it's best that I put out a word of warning - there's nothing worse than being let down by an over-hyped game.

Copyright © 2005 Mike Montgomery

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