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Spartan: Total Warrior (GameCube) artwork

Spartan: Total Warrior (GameCube) review

"Creative Assembly is a company somewhat well-known solely for their Total War series of historic RTS games on the PC; arguably some of the better RTSí around, the Total War games rank only under Starcraft and Europa Universalis II in the hearts of many. As such, it cast doubt in my mind when I learned that those crazy Brits were planning a console-bound manly brawler rendition of Ancient Greece. It was multiplatform between all three systems. Multiplatform games usually suck, with..."

Creative Assembly is a company somewhat well-known solely for their Total War series of historic RTS games on the PC; arguably some of the better RTSí around, the Total War games rank only under Starcraft and Europa Universalis II in the hearts of many. As such, it cast doubt in my mind when I learned that those crazy Brits were planning a console-bound manly brawler rendition of Ancient Greece. It was multiplatform between all three systems. Multiplatform games usually suck, with developers trying to add in unique features between all three versions while the overall product wasnít all that great, thanks to the difficulties in assigning actions to three different controllers and maximizing performance for each individual console. It was a manly brawler, which was far from CAís area of expertise. And it was splicing Ancient Greek culture with mythology, deviating from any non-fictional path of adventure. I was expecting it to fall flat on its face. It surprised me by overcoming a few sharp flaws to become an overall decent, but not quite great product.

Unlike David Jaffeís God of War that released earlier this year, the main character, a Spartan warrior orphaned after birth and dubbed Ďthe Spartaní, barely interacts with the gods of Greece. Instead, Ares, the God of War, gives him some special powers and then sends him merrily on his way. The Spartan is going to need them, because the Roman Empire under Tiberius Caesar Augustus have rapidly conquered Greece, with the city-state of Sparta as the lone defiant. Before the first mission is even over, youíll see the just how truly evil Roman General Crassus is, whom coincidentally died 11 years before Tiberius was even born.

Like I said, Spartan: Total Warrior isnít exactly the most realistic game under the sun, but who go!@#$! cares when youíre fighting in a battle of fifty against one and a combination of hard rock and heavy metal is playing?

Itís lucky for the Spartan, though, that he has a wide range of fighting abilities. He can slash. He can slice and dice. He can shoot a bow with great accuracy. He can break shields, he can impale opponents and then kick them off, and decapications are a dime a dozen. The Spartanís most lethal innate attacks runs on a special meter called the Rage Bar that goes up when you harm or kill an opponent, and steadily declines when you arenít getting on the pain. When you utilize your Rage, the Spartan can do additional bloody attacks such as zig-zagging in between an enemy column going in fast-motion and cutting throats, or slugging a giant warhammer of death and knocking hordes of foes back. Once you kill Romans, Praetorians, or the undead, whichever one is hunting you down at the moment, they will oft leave behind green and blue orbs. The green orbs will restore your health, while the blue orbs will raise your Power Bar. Power, unlike Rage, does not slowly decline, but stays pat. It is a connection to the power of the habitants of Mount Olympus, and when you use it, the Spartan combines his own strength with that of the gods to create devastating attacks. You have not lived until you have seen one man cut down an opposing legion through a giant lightning storm, petrifaction, or just light his spear on fire and burn up any whom oppose him. The Spartan is going to need all of these abilities, because before the game is over, heíll have faced the stone-eyed Medusa in the town square of Sparta, the multi-headed Hydra over the ruins of the atmospherically silent Troy, Danish war chief Beowulf in the ravine of a giant badlands, chase down a giant skeleton dragon on the roof of a high tower of Athens, and gone so far as facing a God himself with some of the most progressive rock music this side of the moon.

Of course, heíll also need it when he goes to face normal enemies, which range from regular Romans to Beowulfís Barbarians, and from an especially annoying group of undead skeletal warriors to the Praetorians, the Elite unit of Rome. Even though Iíve barely ever played a brawler before in my life, I can tell already that STW drifts somewhat away from the norm. Instead of being just one man against an endless stream of filler carnage, the Spartan also has his own entourage of men that help him out in battle. Although a good portion of these battles results in the Spartan deciding the outcome, it is not singlehandedly; his own personal army, however minor they factor in, do count, and itís a relief to be able to clear one area while fellow Spartan warriors fight elsewhere.

It should be noted, however, that in order to pump out battles of three hundred or even four hundred men at a time, Creative Assembly had to cut back on some things, and graphics were one of them. While STW isnít honestly that aesthetically bad, annoying things such as identical enemies and allies (fun story; two of your NPC allies with a name are twins. TWINS. What a lame copout to reuse the same character model), the occasional sharp jaggie, letdown and poor lighting all serve to drag down the atmospherics a bit. It seemed that CA really focused on the bosses and Spartan, however, so when you do get in a boss fight, you donít even notice anything else.

Unfortunately, there are a few downsides to the game. While most of the missions that have parts that donít deal with straight-on brawls, such as a stealth assassination or reconnaissance, there are two back-to-back missions that will frustrate most. The first of two evils, the Resistance mission, sees you trying to stave off Roman assassins that are out to gun down the scientist Archimedes, who has a pitiful amount of health. Not only will the very fact that you need to take longcuts in order to avoid slaying yourself (as jumping down from high platforms will damage and kill) end up with a mission failure, but when you do finish this first objective, youíll find yourself put into a free-roaming mission, in an Athens of gigantic proportions and labyrinth-like avenues. Without a map. When you have to hunt down fifteen Roman spies complete with guards and prevent them from getting to safe houses, it becomes too much to bear, especially when you have an escort mission right after that for Archimedes. Needless to say, the escort mission falls to the various vulture stereotypes of escort missions such as nigh-upon impossible groups of enemies, and an Archimedes A.I. not worth a shit. The next mission puts you into a second free-roaming area of Athens, and while it doesnít have any escort missions or the such, itís at night. With poor lighting. Youíll go straight past someone you have to meet and you wonít even notice.

Overall, I have to admit that Creative Assembly did a good job putting me at ease. While STW isnít by any means a GREAT game, or even a good game, itís a very decent one. Although I still dislike the sham of throwing aside a lot of historical data and going the mythology route, the chance to fight a giant Minotaur was awesome, and something I likely wonít get for a while. Next time however CA, disperse with the free-roaming and escort missions (or else include a map). They suck, and because of that, Iím not picking up Ninjas: Total Warrior (Now Pirates: Total Warrior on the other hand, might be a novel idea if implemented correctly. HmmmÖ.).

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Community review by yamishuryou (December 18, 2005)

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