Xbox Review: Spartan Total Warrior

While obviously somewhat inspired by Koei's Dynasty Warriors series, Spartan Total Warrior starts off as an epic. The battles are bigger, cleaner, and far more packed than the competition, and combat it what the game does best. About halfway through though, it dies a painful, slow, frustrating death, and one that easily could have been avoided.

Using simple character models, Spartan crams the screen full of Roman and Spartan forces. In between them is the player, given extra power from Ares, the God of War. With a simple two-button control scheme in place for the basics, decapitating, maiming, and slaughtering thousands of enemy forces becomes engrossing. It's an incredible mass of body parts as you run into the dead center of a group and unleash a special move. It makes these opening moments nothing short of brilliant repetitiveness.

To make up for the obvious flaws in repetition, there are a variety of moves and weapons to be earned. Some are truly beneficial (the Medusa shield) and the rest are utterly pointless other than to see some gruesome fatalities. In the thick of a battle, you don't care as long as Romans drop by the dozens. Controls for the more extravagant moves are on the confusing side, mapped to both the analog sticks and shoulder buttons for different types. It will take a few levels to really grasp all aspects of hack-n-slash combat.

You'll only have a few levels too since the game abandons the early style of melee battles and turns into an aggravating, poorly planned adventure title. The mission structure is beyond terrible, sending players on fetch quests or forcing them to be an escort. It's literally a single point in the game where it completely collapses (immediately following a semi-special Hydra boss clash).

It's baffling why anyone thought such a radical shift in structure or play style was needed. This jarring switch is further complicated by the nearly impossible difficulty in these quests. The anger just keeps building as you wish for another epic battle (or take out your frustrations on helpless civilians), and while it comes, it's far too late.

That leaves the extras, including the arena mode, an unlockable piece that nearly brings Spartan back from an early grave. By finding items inside the levels in the main game, you'll earn items to use here. It's a basic survival romp, taking players through multiple stages of ever-growing armies. You'll need those extras near the end when you're outnumbered at least three times over.

Again, that's what Total Warrior does best. If you don't mind getting only half of a game and want something a little more adult (more bloodshed than you can imagine), this is the one you're looking for. Its battles are as epic as they can be, and until you make it to "that" part of the game, you'll have a blast. Anything after that leads to cries of depression because of what Spartan Total Warrior could have become.

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