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Beowulf the Game
Score: 70%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Shangri-La Entertainment
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
If there is anything good that can be said about Beowulf the Game, it's the look of the levels. For the most part, all of the locations have a very nice feel to them; unfortunately, the same thing can't really be said for the characters. Granted Grendel and his mother look pretty good, but as for Beowulf himself, he just seems a bit too blocky and I couldn't help but get aggravated by the fact that his pony tail seemed to always stick out during cut scenes.

Beowulf's audio is probably one of the better aspects of this game. While I normally expect to see the same actors from the movie take part in the game, I never expected to see both Ray Winstone (Beowulf) and Anthony Hopkins (Hrothgar) lend their talents to this title. Even the game's background music feels very barbaric and really gets your blood pumping. Probably the most interesting audio aspect of this game is how it "tempts" you into using your Carnal Fury, something that can do as much damage as good. It does this by having a voice whisper in your ear, telling you how you can defeat your foes or become invulnerable. The more your health depletes or the more enemies that surround you, the louder and more persistent this voice gets, and I have to say, it works.

Beowulf is one of the oldest stories in history, full of epic battles and mythic creatures. So, it should obviously make a great third-person action game right? Unfortunately Beowulf the Game doesn't really do all that well as far as a fun and fulfilling experience.

The basic premise is there; Beowulf has become a legendary fighter, partly because of a power bestowed onto him by a mysterious woman. This power is known as Carnal Fury and is essentially a berserker mode where Beowulf is invulnerable, but it takes life away in order to charge it up and use it. The other result to using this ability is that you can hurt your Thanes (basically your troops) while in this mode. Usually, only your enemies can be hurt by your attacks, but when Carnal Fury is activated, anyone can feel the might of your blade. As an added note, if you end up killing all your Thanes, you failed at your mission and the game is over. Of course, just because you can damage your friends doesn't make this all that difficult, that is, except for the fact that your vision becomes blurred and red-tinted, so you can't really tell if you are attacking one of your opponents or a Thane.

Most of the time, you will trudge your way through fairly linear levels taking out swarms of enemy barbarians or monkey men, but occasionally you will end up facing off against a boss (like Grendel or his mother), and the game then becomes a action-sequence attack that seems to be a bit more forgivable than other games' implementation of this. I found that if I hit the wrong button, I could immediately switch to the right one and still have it considered a success.

I found the game to be really enjoyable, at first at least. By the time you beat Grendel (the third or fourth level), you've seen pretty much everything the game has to offer, at least everything good. After that, the game gets really repetitive and you will end up performing the same actions over and over again, but at least Beowulf itself is short, providing little more than a Saturday afternoon's amount of gameplay.

Beowulf the Game has some difficult moments in the form of some unusual puzzles that just don't seem to make sense. But those puzzles aren't really frequent and most of the game involves some mostly mindless hack and slashing. Sure there can be some strategy to try out while in the middle of a horde of enemies, but once you find out how to alternate between the block and attack buttons to perform radical slow motion, and apparently unstoppable, combos, you've pretty much found a way to get through any group of enemies. And just in case that nifty little combo doesn't quite do it for you, there is always your Carnal Fury which will make you invulnerable, but could, of course, leave you cutting down all of your allies and ending the game that way.

Game Mechanics:
Beowulf the Game is, quite frankly, a blend of mechanics from other games that, while interesting in this combination, don't quite gel all that well. Most of the game is pure button-mashing, combo-dealing fighting. Boss battles become little more than action-button sequences a la God of War and then there is the rhythm mini-game and heroic deeds features.

The mini-games are used to rally your Thanes and get them to move faster or become more energetic. Several times, you will have to do this in order to advance the story (like goading Grendel into attacking), but you can also choose to use this action to get your troops to move faster when they are moving boulders or working other machines necessary to progress in a level. As for the heroic deeds, I found this interesting because performing well in battle causes your Thanes to become inspired and perform more aggressively, but the interesting part is that it isn't every trooper that gets the boost, just the individuals that actually saw the feat. I thought this, along with the motivational rhythmic game and similar mechanics, made you feel like you are the leader of the small army, and not just another member of a squad.

Beowulf the Game is definitely not worth buying. If anything, it should be rented and then returned after its quick story is completed. While it has an interesting mesh of various mechanics, none of them are done well enough to make the game stand on its own.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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