Shadow of Rome - Review
There have already been a couple of gladiator based combat titles on Playstation 2. The first game - released in December 2003 - was LucasArts' Gladius which is a game we neither previewed, nor reviewed, but according to all reports was a fairly solid action title. A week later and Acclaim released Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance which, while not overly complex, had its charms and captured the feel of gladiatorial combat fairly well. But this game is being developed by Capcom, a developer who knows how to create a hit game and a solid storyline.
|Blood, lots of blood.|
Rome, 44 B.C. – a place of violence, corruption and deadly shadows. The great city is in chaos. Julius Caesar, the emperor, has been murdered. The evidence points to the father of the great soldier Agrippa. But the evidence, like so much in Rome, is not what it seems. To save his father, Agrippa must conquer the bloody gladiatorial arenas. While he fights, Agrippa's friend Octavianus tries to uncover who is really behind Caesar's death using stealth and intellect. Two different stories, one epic tale, set in the shadow of Rome...
Essentially Shadow of Rome has two very distinct gameplay styles and stories which are intertwined. Each of the two main characters, Agrippa and Octavianus, lives in the same time period but use totally different styles. Let's start with Agrippa. Agrippa is the gladiator in the game. He has the ability to use swords, bows, daggers, shields, maces, and - most amusingly - severed limbs. His combat takes place in a variety of situations, at times it is one-on-one combat, at other times he must face several enemies at once. This is a battle to the death and Agrippa must use any, and all means to survive. If you perform spectacular moves you can play to the crowd by pressing the square and X buttons to receive applause. The game also names many of the fatal moves, Sadists Utopia, for example, occurs when you hit an opponent already on the ground, Urine Trouble is when you strike an opponent who is wetting his pants and so on. In total, there are around 200 of these special moments. It must be said that the combat is quite intense and very brutal - probably the reason why it is so enthralling.
|Look at that head fly!|
The second main gameplay style occurs with Octavianus who applies a more stealthy approach to missions. In fact many of his missions include sneaking up close enough to overhear conversations, or wearing disguises to get close. Octavianus is a bit of a whimp so if he takes even a single blow from an enemy chances are he won't make it through the level.
As a couple of side notes the game includes an impressive map which shows you not only the layout of the levels, but also any enemies or items of interest. Finally, some of the levels involve a gladiator chariot race/battle which is quite entertaining while it lasts.
In terms of gameplay there are only a couple of issues with Shadow of Rome. Firstly, the stealth elements with Octavianus are a bit slow and really breaks up the pace of the game - I guess, however, this can also be seen as a positive but it could have been done much better. Another issue which I have is that your enemies don't harm each other in the Gladiator ring. Not exactly the most realistic aspect of this title, especially when there are several enemies centimeters apart and their weapons don't affect anyone but you. Also disappointing is the camera which, for me at least, still requires a little too much manual work with the right analogue stick.
|Sneaking around as Octavianus.|
Once again Capcom are pushing the limits of the PS2's graphics chipset. The in-game graphics look wonderful as blood gushes and spatters in all directions while the character modeling is very impressive with a wide range of enemies to defeat. Perhaps, however, it's the artistry that deserves the biggest mention as the developers have truly re-created the look of the era. As well as the in-game graphics Capcom have excelled in the games cut scenes. Not only do they look wonderful but have a very cinematic feel to them. It's clear to see the inspiration from the Ridley Scott Gladiator movie for the opening sequences which shows the Romans battle against the Germanic armies.
Audio in this title is certainly highlighted by the speech. While the game doesn't include well known actors such as Jean Reno who Capcom used in Onimusha 3 I don't think there is a single character (or should that be voice) who doesn't seem to fit into this title. The sound effects are suitably meaty as well the clash of steel, the slicing of skin and the screams of pain are all fantastic. Unfortunately the music, while adequate, could have done with a little more variety.
|The wonderful opening sequence.|
Have no doubts, Shadow of Rome is brutal, and not a game for youngsters. Having said that, this isn't Manhunt styled gratuity, but more like Gladiator (the movie) realism. This game was a lot more enjoyable then I thought it would be and is a welcome addition to my collection. Certainly a game to seriously consider purchasing.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||It looks wonderful, but too much manual camera work required.||77%|
|SOUND||The voice acting is super, the music atmospheric and effects solid.||88%|
|GAMEPLAY||Two characters complement each other by breaking up game styles.||81%|
|VALUE||Probably worth a couple of plays, so overall pretty good value.||75%|
|OVERALL||Shadow or Rome seems to capture the look and feel of a bygone era better then most other games. The graphic and sound are superb while the gameplay will keep you hooked. Certainly a game worth purchasing.||82%|