STAFF REVIEW of RYSE: Son of Rome (Xbox One)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013.
by Stephen Cameron

RYSE: Son of Rome Box art When we were shown this title at E3 2013, we honestly thought to ourselves...”What a weak title to launch a console with! NEXT!” -- Hell, we even wrote a letter to a Microsoft executive telling him the same thing. Well my friends, there comes a time in every man’s life when he must admit he was wrong. We were wrong about Ryse. We’re positive that most of you thought the exact same thing as we did because the E3 showing of this game was terrible. Turns out they needed to show us more gameplay and less cinematics. Who knew it was simple as that.

Ryse: Son of Rome is probably one of the strongest launch titles for the Xbox One. One, it’s the only first party AAA title that is a unique and untested franchise. Basically a huge gamble for Microsoft. This was a bold move for them, especially with a brand new console. With the folks at Crytek being right there holding their game designing hand every step of the way, it was sink or swim. It also doesn’t hurt that they have an amazing graphics engine either. They’ve really bet on a good horse here. Sort of.

The best way to describe this game is that it’s a mix of Prince of Persia and Batman’s hand to hand combat system, mixed in with a bit of the linear and gameplay feel of Gears of War. All set within a beautiful Roman era historical wrapper. Generally speaking, linear games are not a new phenomenon. But, games like Gears and Splinter Cell are perfect examples of linear single player campaigns titles that work. Basically if you’ve watched Spartacus Blood and Sand series you’ll love Ryse.

When you load up the game, you have the options to play thru the campaign, or try your skills at the multiplayer gladiator arenas. For this review, I decided to play the entire single player game first. Then move on to the multiplayer arenas. In the campaign experience you play the role of our hero Marius. He gets himself all tangled up in a great mix of story twists and turns, and without giving away spoilers you can’t help to think he’s lead by the gods straight out of Ancient Aliens! Some of the familiar faces of the ancient Rome storybooks make a notable presence.

The combat is the backbone of the game. I remember asking the standing developer rep at E3 2013 to what level was the blood and gore was going to be at. He replied, relatively tame. Man, from June until now, they cranked it up; way up! This game is beautifully gory in every next gen sense. There was even blood splatter into the camera a few times. I was always craving to execute a possible rare hidden head decapitation, but it never happened. I’m not even sure if it’s really in the game. You seem to be able to do legs and arms all day long with ease. Go figure.

The controls are very intuitive. The player can unleash what they call “focus”, and when you rack up enough of it, then your character slams his shield down and you open yourself up a glorious can of bloody whip-ass! However, Ryse does comes with a few bugs. Throughout the game I’ve encountered a few instances where my character got hung up in some of the geometry. Another time I got cornered by the AI and couldn’t get out until the cut scene was over. Lucky for me, the AI saved the day!

Visually is where this game shines the most, it’s simply dreamy! It’s probably THE game that speaks next-gen to me the most because it’s not a rehashed sequel and uses Crytek’s new engine. Don’t get me wrong here Forza 5, and Dead Rising 3 obviously look next-gen, but this title stands out and has been tweaked to near visual perfection. The soundtrack of the game is what you’d expect from this title as it’s epic, heroic all the way through. All the voice acting is top notch. They spared no expense in that department.

The Smartglass features are very basic. It gives you a progress indicator on where you are in the campaign and which chapters you’ve completed. But overall it’s better than nothing. A log book basically. The only thing I walked away wanting was a coop campaign mode. Going through the story with a friend. The overall gameplay is relatively simple, but hard to master though very repetitive. There really wasn’t enough variety in the enemies either; too often once you recognized them, you knew what to do. There were less than ten different enemies if I had to guess with the exception of the bosses.

The multiplayer aspect of Ryse is the hidden gem of this title. It’s only a two player coop experience and no head to head. I could almost guarantee that most people have completely missed out on the experience. In a nutshell, it’s Horde Mode with gladiators, but you can use the environment to execute kills, or do a double execution with your friend. Plus, the various waves of enemies have different objectives too which mixes things up. You also gain experience for your warrior, sadly it’s a bit of a grind. Overall, it’s fun time for the whole family! (But not your little kids).

Are Microsoft and Crytek breaking new ground here with Ryse? No. Is the game a lot of fun? YES! If you’re looking for a brand new, never seen before game experience that will blow your mind, then move along. If you’re looking for a descent game with a good time to be had, and with the “taste” of next-gen, then Ryse: Son of Rome is that next-gen game. Not only does it look fantastic, but the lush storyline and familiar combat system makes this one an average winner. Is it a console seller? Sadly no. However, if you’ve picked up an Xbox One this holiday season, do yourself a favor and don’t miss out of experiencing this title. Buy it or rent it.

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.8 / 10


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