Shadow of Rome PlayStation 2
Developed by Capcom
Release Date: Out Now
When the creative mind behind the Onimusha series, Inafune-san, creates a game you have to sit up and take notice. The Onimusha series has been hugely popular and deservedly so but whilst it looks like the series might be over (or not if fans of the series are successful in their demands for another game) our attentions must switch to ancient Rome for a game that's somewhat different from the Onimusha series.
Shadow of Rome places you in the year 44 BC. As Julius Caesar pushes for drastic reform to control the turbulent behaviour in Rome he is murdered. On hearing this devastating news a centurion named Agrippa, who's been fighting on the edge of the empire rushes back to Rome to the even more devastating news that his father, Vipsanius, has been accused of the murder. With justice in Rome being brutal his father is to be executed by the winner of the upcoming gladiatorial events. Agrippa, in an attempt to help his father, enlists as a trainee gladiator in order to become the champion of the gladiatorial events whilst his friend Octavianus attempts to find out who really killed Caesar.
In Shadow of Rome you'll play as both Agrippa and Octavianus and as you can probably surmise this means that what you have here are two game styles rolled into one. Whilst playing as Agrippa combat is the name of the game and entertaining it is too. Agrippa can use two weapons (or a weapon and a shield) and he has armour too. To make things interesting though all of these degrade through use so eventually a weapon will be unusable and you'll have to look for another one. Agrippa has some great special moves and can even slice limbs off (yes the game is very gory). Its great being able to throw your weapon and it's a nice touch that dirt/sand can be thrown into an opponents eyes to break off their attack. The varieties of fights you'll take part in are equally impressive as you opponents range from giants to animals and you'll also get to take part in brutal chariot races. The only thing that lets the combat down to some degree is that most enemies can be tackled in the same manner of avoiding their attacks and then moving in quickly for an effective strike. It's a small complaint though and hack 'n' slash fans will enjoy themselves with this part of the game.
If Agrippa is the brawn then Octavianus is the brains. Not blessed with the same physique as Agrippa, Octavianus has to use stealth in order to carry out his search for the true murderer of Caesar. Sneaking is the name of the game and keeping out of sight is definitely preferable. There are times when you'll have no choice but to walk within the vision of others though and thankfully Octavianus can wear disguises to prevent himself from attracting unwanted attention. As with all games that rely on stealth it can get frustrating at times although, thankfully, you can access your map which shows you the locations and movements of your enemies which makes these parts of the game far less of a problem than they could be. Octavianus is fragile though and one hit is usually enough to take him out which will mean that you'll have to do the level over again.
Capcom have a tradition of creating great looking games and Shadow of Rome will certainly go down as one of them. The character models and the environments in which the game is set all look great. It's also pleasing to see that the frame rate never dips no matter how hectic the action gets. It's really difficult to over-emphasize just how graphical the gore is in Shadow of Rome. Enemies can be sliced in half and limbs can be hacked off. With this kind of butchery on display there's blood spills all over the place and the game fully deserves its 18 rating because of this. However you can turn off the gore if you want to which is good news if you don't fancy witnessing such a carve up. Although the game doesn't claim to be historically accurate in way it does make you think how brutal some of the gladiatorial fights would have been.
It was pleasing to see Shadow of Rome subtitled and that the subtitles were enabled by default. This means that the first time you play the game you'll be able to enjoy the introductory movie clip. All tutorial messages are shown in text too which means you'll have no problem learning how to play the game. All conversations are subtitled, as well as the cutscenes, so you'll be able to enjoy the story the game has to offer. Any objectives you are given are displayed in text and these can be accessed from the Memo (on the pause menu) at any time so you can remind yourself of what needs to be done which is great. Stats and character profiles can also be accessed at any time from the pause menu.
Your opinion of Shadow of Rome will largely depend on whether or not you enjoy the two very different gaming styles on offer in the game. Gamers who like the full on battles will enjoy the Agrippa sections of the game but might not enjoy the stealthy, Octavianus parts of the game and vice versa. Taken together the two styles of play are wrapped in a fairly enjoyable story. Overall the game can definitely be called a success although isn't quite up to standard of the Onimusha games but then that was always going to be a tall order anyway. However it's great to see a game that on the whole feels original and there's definitely potential for sequels to be created.
Overall Game Rating: 7.9/10
The hack 'n' slash combat sections of the game are great fun and make for some great entertainment. The stealth missions are not of the same calibre though but overall it's still a game many will appreciate.
Deaf Gamers Classification:
(Click the letter or here for details)
No problems at all for deaf gamers and it's great to see Shadow of Rome subtitled by default.