Total War was a series which was critically acclaimed for the PC when it came out last year. The developer (Creative Assembly) has developed an entirely new title, and whilst it is still set in Rome, the game itself is significantly different to its spiritual predecessors. The game is best described as being very similar to the Gladiator movie.
Spartan: Total Warrior puts players in the role of 'The Spartan', who is a warrior who must fight against Emperor Tiberius's roman empire. 'The Spartan' enlists the help of his fellow comrades to help defeat the city of Sparta. The main mode of the game (the campaign mode) opens with a cleverly disguised training level, where players just have to destroy the wave of enemies that come at you, you only take control of one man throughout the entire game and the training session introduces all the moves that you can do. When your sword glows you can do a much more powerful move, so it's important to keep watching your player for his sword to glow. Healing your player is done by praying in front of certain points in the game.
Creative Assembly have also included an arena mode for those who don't want to launch into the campaign. This mode just pits you against a plethora of enemies time and time again where the only objective is to survive. You can open up new arenas by playing through the campaign mode, so arena mode is really just a creatively named training mode.
The gameplay itself is fairly decent. Unfortunately some of the tasks that you're required to do are a little questionable and will leave you a little befuddled. At times it is not rare to have to protect two things at once and both of the things to be protected are on opposite sides of the map, so you have to spend your time running back and forth; which wastes valuable seconds. When you die you have to repeat the mission, which means ten minutes of work and this becomes very frustrating when you cannot pass a mission three or four times in a row.
Whilst the combat of the game is fun, it is also very shallow and despite Creative Assembly's best efforts, the combat gets fairly repetitive after a while. The sweep kick (which is done by pressing B) is also much more powerful than the other attacks, and has a much more effective strike ratio, so a lot of the time you will just be pressing this one button.
The camera can also sometimes become a bit of a distraction. When you're trying to protect a warrior (which you'll be doing a lot in the first few missions) the camera will make it really hard to see some of the enemies, who will take the opportunity to take some cheap shots. With so many enemies on screen at one time it can be deadly to lose track of the action, even if only for a few seconds. These things may seem like they could be extremely detrimental to the gameplay, but they aren't overly annoying and are quickly forgotten as you fight the swarms of enemies coming at you from all directions.
Graphically the game is fairly impressive, as you could imagine 160 soldiers all on screen battling at once (and looking fairly different to each other) is quite a technical feat. Even more impressive is the fact that there is no slowdown during even the most intensive action scenes. Unfortunately we've only played the Xbox version so we can't comment on the Playstation 2 version.
Sound wise the game is decent. Commands are easy to understand, however the music is fairly average. Creative Assembly would have gone a long way if they had managed to secure a better score as the music never really rises to the occasion. The sound effect of 160 warriors all fighting at once is incredible and is much better than the game's soundtrack.
The game should last most people a fairly long time. However, it is quite linear and one the whole isn't worth playing through a second time. Unless you're a massive fan of the game you're likely to just play through the arena mode to keep getting high scores.
Spartan: Total Warrior comes highly anticipated and Creative Assembly are a very reputable development team, so the stakes are very high with this release. In the most part they have succeeded in creating an enjoyable roman empire story. However, the game itself doesn't have as much substance as people may be expecting. Although there are a few branching mission objectives overall the game is fairly linear.
If you're a fan of Dynasty Warriors then there is a lot to like here, as the two games are very similar (and in fact Dynasty Warriors could actually learn a little bit from this game). However, there are a few annoyances in the gameplay such as an irritating camera and repetitive combat which bring the score down. However if you're after a hack 'n' slash game with a roman flavour then you should be fairly pleased with the result.
Spartan: Total Warrior will be available on the 14th of October for both the Playstation 2, Xbox and Gamecube.