the writings of a mind

Title: Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance
Big Word: Crowesfeet
Strap: The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones

Living in this beautiful utopian future, we now share pretty much all our games across all the boundaries of gaming machinery. From Deus Ex 2 to KOTOR, GTA to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the very, very best titles straddle proudly, any side of any fence. And this puts a timely end to the loud complaining about certain gamesí being "for consoles", rather than PCs. Thank goodness for that. But saying all this, Gladiator is such a console game.

The emperor Trajan is dead, and now some Caesar-a-like called Arruntius is running the lands. Heís not so much the hots, and in order to win over the affections of his citizens, organises the biggest damn gladiatorial contest they ever did see. So thereís your game, right? Wrong. Forming only the training levels, the conclusion of said epic street battle is the death of our heroic player character, Invictus Thrax, at the wrathful fingers of demon gods Phobos and Deimos. Itís upon waking up in Elysium, to the mocking tones of Romulus and Remus, that the game-proper begins its nonsensical meanderings.

You are granted the ability to re-enter the world, so long as you kill off all the beasties left behind by the baddie gods, by the means of the rarely loved Silly Arcade Beat-em-Up Technique. Indeed, reminiscent of console games gone by, combat is achieved through the frenzied assault on (ideally) joypad buttons, or (unrealistically) a pair of poor-fated keyboard keys. These are backed up by a magic button, and the ambiguously named and implemented "context action" button.

All is split into two approaches Ė the long, linear pathways to hackchop along, and the obligatory, timed mini-levels scattered throughout. The latter are along the lines of "kill everything " or "smash everything" before time runs out, the former sloggish tramping through wave after wave of enemy, occasionally interspersed with a switch to press.

And each reveals one of the two key issues. During the mini-games, the weak directional controls brought forth some quite mother-shockingly bad language, sprinkled liberally through sentences such as "BUT I WAS [auntie-scaring] PRESSING THE [cattle-worrying] BUTTON!" But more damagingly, the rest of the game seems to only serve to demonstrate quite how incredibly good Prince of Persia: SOT really is. So similar are its attempts at combat that the comparison is impossible to avoid, and it just cannot begin to compare.

The supposed joy to be found is within the intense and bloody carnage. It comes thick and fast, wave after wave, with Battle Royale-esque bloodshed, and Mortal Kombat inspired combos and FINISH HIM!!! moves. And despite being far too repetitive, itís not so bad at that.

For an afternoonís hack-n-slash, thereís the glimmer of fun here. Itís an average beat-em-up game Ė simple as that. But in a world with Prince of Persia, there is no conceivable reason to bother.

Margin Note:

You canít help but notice how pretty the game is. Unless of course you havenít just spent £3000 on a new PC. You HAVENíT?! Ah. Running on the officeís new pet laptop Ė a machine of such power to make mortal men weep Ė Gladiator looks absolutely gorgeous. However, working on any other computer, it either didnít, or just looked alright. Bearing in mind this is a PS2 game, thereís no good reason for demanding such high specs to reproduce the effect.

 Rather shallow sword swinging Roman romping, lacking the awe of the gods.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: In house
Price: £30
Minimum System: PIII 1Ghz, 1.3Gb HD, 256Mb RAM, GeForce 3 FX or higher
Recommended: PIV 2Ghz, 512Mb RAM, dual-analogue gamepad
Multi-player: None
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