When the usually reliable Ubisoft announced that they were going to start doing more movie licenses we first thought that this would be a good thing, and when the slick King Kong tie-in game arrived we thought that it was indeed a very good thing. Then came the distinctly average Open Season, followed by the distinctly average TMNT and the distinctly average Surf’s Up. Can you see a pattern forming?
The developers have included more than a few nice ideas here to try and make it more than a standard fantasy hack and slasher, but ultimately their effort is wasted – after the first hour you’re left doing the same things over and over again. There’s no doubting that the basics are in place though – there’s the usual special move upgrades, AI controlled cohorts (known here as Thanes), grizzly finishing moves and a large array of weapons. They break in battle surprisingly easily, which goes a long way to stopping it being a total button basher, and it also means that you’re often forced to roam the battlefield to find a foe carrying a nice sharp blade or pointy stick to steal.
As for the few less than predictable elements, the ‘legacy system’ is based around your actions in battle and will effect your reputation and eventually the game’s ending. Your Thanes can be ordered to move boulders and such, while words of encouragement can be yelled by pressing buttons in rhythm to get the job done quicker. You can also go berserk momentarily and use larger objects as weapons and pull off God of War style pre-scripted fatalities, but while in this mode – or mood, rather – it’s possible to “accidentally” kill your war buddies. Annoyingly, if they all kick the bucket then it’s game over.
It looks slick in places – most notably in the hub, where you can chat to locals and upgrade your weapons – and one of the earlier missions involves rallying the Thanes before a boss battle by singing a crude song about prostitutes. Unfortunately this is the most enjoyable mission in the whole game, with most being either teeth-grindingly dull or frustrating to the extreme due to your Thanes’ slow reactions. Ask them to open a door and they’ll do it no problem, but if even one of them gets attacked while doing so they’ll stop and stand around like Danish lemons.
It doesn’t take long to develop a dislike for Beowulf either – he’s incredibly hard to bond with and completely up his own arse. The frequent cries of “Fear me!” and “I am Beowulf!” soon offend the ears. Perhaps it’s for the best that everything can be done and dusted in well under five hours.