Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 11/05/03 | Genre: Action
This year at E3, Acclaim was pushing two games. The first was Alias, based on the hit ABC TV. The second was Gladiator Sword of Vengeance. Gladiator is set in Ancient Rome in a time where the empire is in turmoil and all of the gladiators are going to die a bloody death entertaining the masses. You play Invictus Thrax, a Roman who was born into slavery and later became the greatest gladiator in the history of Rome. Despite a few problems, Gladiator Sword of Vengeance is a solid action title.
As you begin the game, Invictus is ready to fight to his death. However, is he hurt and torn by the death of the emperor and the man who replaced him... Arruntius. This man is a cruel madman who has set out to destroy Rome and replace it with a new capital called Arruntium. To celebrate this, all of the gladiators will battle to the death. The crowd yearns for the blood and they shall be satisfied. After fighting off all of the enemies Arruntius places in front of Invictus, he is ultimately killed. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see his death sequence. But our hero instantly appears in the afterlife in front of a pair of young kids sitting in a tree. They explain that Invictus Thrax has been chosen by the Roman God Jupiter to get rid of Arrantius. He wrongly used the power of the gods Phobos and Deimos to achieve his power over Rome. And so Invictus' quest begins.
Gladiator Sword of Vengeance is beautiful to look at. Each character in the game is rendered with much detail and the environments found within the world are equally impressive. The monsters chosen to fight against include Skeleton Warriors, cyclopes, demons, and both Phobos and Deimos gods. The only problem I have found with the visuals is that the camera sometimes limits your view on the action. While you have some control over moving the camera around, most of the time you will be busy trying to concentrate on the action on screen to worry about the camera.
If I was trying to sum up what Gladiator Sword of Vengeance is like, it is an action beam 'em up title. This is a good and bad thing. On the positive side, the title is very easy to pick up and start playing. Using only two attack buttons and an evade button, the simple action keeps the game moving along. However, on the negative side, the gameplay can get very repetitive due to the simplied nature of the attacks. At certain points during the game, you can upgrade both your normal attacks and magic attacks by completing specific chalenges. Most of the time, these challenges ask that you defeat a certain number of enemies in a specified amount of time. These are usually very easy to defeat.
One of the biggest features Acclaim has been pushing is the number of "finishing moves" you can use to defeat enemies. These are extremely bloody moves that can do things like rip out intestines, chop off heads, slash enemies in half, etc. This portion of the game is the most enjoyable. What could be more fun than slashing your enemies into bloody bits in over 50 ways?
Unfortuantely, there are a few problems with Gladiator besides the simplistic fighting. The targeting system has some issues that were not cleaned up before release. I had a very difficult time switching targets fast enough while being attacked by two or more enemies. The game will auto-target the closest enemy. This is very helpful as you begin fighting but using the button to switch targets does not respond fast enough to be effective. Sometimes it works fine, but the vast majority of the time, it does not. Another issue that needed a bit more work on is the level design. For a large portion of the puzzles, you will need to backtrack back to places you have already been. Some may not find this to be an issue. However, I feel like it distracts from the flow a bit.
However, these issues should not keep you from trying out Gladiator Sword of Vengeance. While there are some issues with the game, it is overall a great little hack 'n slash action title. If you are looking for a deeper action game, you might be a bit disappointed. But give the game a chance and you may just find a title that will keep you busy for weeks. And lets not forget that this game is extremely bloody. Younger audiences should definitely stay away from this one.