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Rune: Viking Warlord

Developer: Human Head Studios | Publisher: Take Two Interactive
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 06/28/01 | Genre: Action

Three words are synonymous with high quality gaming on the PC: Rune, Viking and Warlord. Unfortunately for me, a gamer with a low-end graphics card, I was unable to experience Rune: Viking Warlord when it was released for the PC last year. It was pretty heartbreaking for me, as I usually get to play all of the best games available each year. Unfortunately, I wasn't so lucky in Rune's case...

Then last spring, Take 2 Interactive announced that they would be bringing Rune: Viking Warlord to the PlayStation 2 this summer. I was ecstatic. Finally, I would get to enjoy the hack-'n'-slash fun of Rune, and on my favorite game console, no less. Does it live up to the hype? You'd better believe it!

Rune stars Ragnar, a Viking warrior who has been handpicked by the Gods to defend humanity from the evil that lives within the netherworld. With a large battle-axe held tightly in his hands, Ragnar will attempt to put an end to the madness by stopping the netherworld's war masters from bringing about the hideous day that everyone fears -- Ragnarok. Legends say that Ragnarok is the day that man, God and a giant will wage a vicious war that could obliterate the world.

Some games give you a few polygonal friends to aid you in your quest. Others give you rocket launchers, tanks and other modern weaponry. While Ragnar isn't lucky enough to get behind the wheel of an armored vehicle, the Gods were kind enough to give him the power of the Runestones. Several Runestones have been dispersed throughout the world, and when collected and used, they'll imbue Ragnar with a variety of powerful abilities.

There are five types of Runestones: Lesser, Greater, Health, Lesser Strength and Greater Strength. Lesser Runestone gives you a small amount of Rune power, which is stored in your Rune Power meter and can be used whenever you like. Greater Runestone completely fills Ragnar's power meter and expands its size, allowing you to store even more Rune power in it. Rune of Health restores all of Ragnar's health and expands your health meter. Rune of Lesser Strength raises your Bloodlust, while Rune of Greater Strength fills your Bloodlust meter and causes you to go berserk. Once you've collected a few Runestones, press the circle button to unleash their abilities, powering up your shield to withstand fiercer attacks or your weapon to execute more powerful attacks, etc.

In addition to Runestones, Ragnar may use any weapon he finds to take down his foes. Many swords, axes and hammers can be found throughout the game, and once you've vanquished a skeleton or two, you may notice that his remains have been scattered around the place. No one likes a messy room, so pick up that severed head lying on the ground and toss it in the trash. Or you could just throw it at your enemies in a friendly game of dodge head, the choice is up to you! That's right kids, not only do skulls make great decorations at Halloween, but they also make great weapons. Arms and legs do too. Eat your heart out, Quan Chi.

Controlling Ragnar through the large world of Rune: Viking Warlord is great. Who needs a mouse and keyboard when you could have the Dual-Shock 2 controller! I know some gamers prefer the PC standard, but give Rune on the PlayStation 2 a try and you may never want to use a mouse and keyboard again. The left analog stick controls your movements while the right stick is used to manipulate the camera. A familiar set-up on the PS2, yes. However, Rune's controls are much more intuitive and make great use of the sticks' analog sensitivity.

Tapping X will make Ragnar jump; square is used to pick up food (lizards, a leg of meat, etc.), drink, weapons and power-ups; hit triangle to throw your weapon; and press circle to invoke your Rune power. Attack and defend are conveniently placed on the two right shoulder buttons (R1 and R2) in order to make them accessible while your thumbs are busy controlling the analog sticks. R3 (the button built into the analog stick) allows you to lock onto the enemy closest to you. Hold down L3 to crouch under small passageways. Rounding out the button commands, L1 draws the next weapon in the class and L2 selects a different weapon class (sword, axe, bashing and drops any limbs you may be holding). This control system makes playing Rune a lot of fun. And if not all of the above satisfies your needs, there are more than a few other configurations to choose from that will reverse and/or move around some of the button commands.

Everyone loves to hack. It's fun, it's exciting and it's the best way to show your enemies who's boss. Unfortunately, hacking is a solitary hobby, leaving your friends in the dust...until now. Rune features a great multiplayer mode that allows you to hack, slash, bash and chop up to three of your friends into tiny little pieces. Select one of over 20 Viking gladiators, from a armor-wearing female gladiator named Sigrun and an appropriately named skeleton called Bones, to a grave-risen warrior named Zombie and a few different skins for Ragnar, there's a gladiator that's right for you.

Weapons are conveniently placed on the wall, on the ground or on a table in almost every room you enter in multiplayer mode, just waiting to be picked up and used against your foe. This definitely adds to the fun and feels more like a real multiplayer deathmatch, as you don't have to hunt for an axe, sword or whatever weapon you desire because they're right there in front of you. Be careful though. If you attack too many of your opponents at once, it could cost you an arm and a leg!

Rune: Viking Warlord is an excellent game. Without a doubt, this is one of the best PC-to-console ports, if not the best PC-to-console port ever made. I love it to death and have been playing it non-stop ever since I got it. Did I mention the graphics? I especially love the real-time lighting. I threw a torch down a dark hallway and watched as the light brightened the area it was passing through, then quickly faded, only lighting the small area where it landed. Very cool. I could go on and on for hours. Give it a try and you'll want to go on and on for hours too.

By Louis Bedigian - 08/01/00
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Screenshots for Rune: Viking Warlord

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