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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Ryse: Son of Rome.

TranscriptEdit

As a child, I would gaze enviously at my friends with Nintendo and Sega consoles, who needed only plug the cartridge in and be killing brain cells within seconds; I had a Commodore 64, and gaming on such things hinged on being able to confidently state that you'll be equally keen to play Fantasy World Dizzy about half-an-hour from now. I remember thinking that, while you can't use a console to write a letter or print the words "sausage slaps" all over the screen in varying colours, consoles were clearly the platform of choice for those who wanted simply to game, without faff and nonsense.

I found myself thinking about those days as I attempted to play Ryse on the Xbox One, or, as I have come to call it, the Xbox Installing, and I had to wait until it had finished faffing up and down the garden path. I put in the disc, and up comes an exciting next-gen percentage that takes five sodding minutes to get to 1%. "Don't worry, you don't have to wait 'til it gets to 100% before you can start playing!" OK, so what percentage do I have to wait for? "I'm not telling you!"

Eventually the console let me pass the velvet rope like a disinterested theme park attendant, and I found that my patience had earned me the privilege of watching an in-game progress bar instead! "Oh well, at least all this installing means I won't have to faff about with the disc in future", I said aloud as the Xbox coughed awkwardly and directed its gaze elsewhere, but let's move on!

Ryse is a blatantly-misspelt historical hack-'n'-slash in which we play a Roman solder named Marius, as in "Thank you, Marius, but our emperor is in another castle." The game opens with him finding the other castle in question and sealing himself in the panic room with Nero as barbarians besiege the city, at which point Marius starts recounting his life story: the death of his family at the hands of barbarians and his adventures as a Roman soldier in occupied Britain, fighting the forces of King Oswald and Boudicca.

And at no point does Nero interrupt him to ask some pertinent questions like "How the hell did barbarian invaders get all the way to the middle of Rome to kill Marius' family without anyone noticing?" They're not exactly the ninja assassins of classical antiquity! And Boudicca wasn't the daughter of King Oswald, whoever the fuck that is, she was the wife of Prasutagus, although that seems a petty quibble later on when Boudicca besieges Rome with fucking war elephants! Are you sure you're not misremembering, Marius, mate? Must be that concussion you sustained while fighting the shark-people from the planet Outlandish!

"Are you seriously gonna complain about historical accuracy, Yahtzee?" Fair enough, I'll complain about originality instead. 'Cause the plot seems to have been written in five minutes by someone who watched half of The Eagle and half of Gladiator, while someone playing God of War in the same room occasionally fired a gun into the air. "Oh, fuck plot! We're just here to watch several thousand barbarians get stabbed to death in glorious next-gen!" Although the more realistic graphics get, the stupider it looks when enemies glitch around the battlefield in order to be in the right position for your pre-animated finishing move, like Nightcrawler has acquired a death wish.

Combat's your standard "light attack, heavy attack, oh-no-you-don't, counter, ha-hah!, pre-animated finisher interlaced with quick-time events", but you'd better make sure you don't miss any of those quick-time events, because if you do, the finisher will continue regardless and be pulled off without a hitch. Wait, what? This is the next bold step forward, is it, even less player involvement!? Ten years from now, games will have one button prompt at the start, labelled simply "resolve", and then play themselves for six hours while we tearfully jerk off with handfuls of corn flakes.

I suppose the pertinent question is "what was so bloody demanding about the game that only a next-gen console could contain its mightiness?" Well, the environments are pretty! Although the actual level design is insipid, and if you're gonna shepherd us around with invisible walls, at least be consistent about it. Some ledges the same height as Marius, he's content to pull himself onto, in full armour, no less! He must have forearms like whale testicles! Whereas other times I got to watch Marius angrily hopping up and down next to an impassable chain that came up to his fucking shin, his dignified little miniskirt billowing with each hop.

And dull level design meant I was constantly getting turned around and going back the way I came, especially if I've had to fight a few dudes and watch pre-animated five or six more times, so that the camera had been sweeping all over the place and keeping track of which way was north was like trying to keep track of which cup the ball was in during a Matrix fight on a merry-go-round. "But, Yahtzee, the environments are pretty!" Oh, shit, I forgot! 10/10!

And it wouldn't be a next-gen launch title without mandatory hardware gimmicks! So you are occasionally invited to give the Kinect a stern talking-to. You give commands to your men in the heat of battle by yelling them out loud, whereupon Marius yells them a second time which rather undermines the point of it all. But at times, I had tremendous difficulty being understood. I've had problems like this before with speech recognition, 'cause my accent is on a permanent walking tour of the entire United Kingdom. So I found myself experimentally yelling "fire volley" in a succession of comedy American dialects. And there's only one voice command you can do at a time, so they might as well have let you shout whatever you want to fire the sodding volley. Indeed, there's also a button you can press to activate the command if you're too shy, but if you take that option they make you hold it down for no particular reasoning except to punish you for being a spoilsport.

This is all part of a gameplay aspect wherein you command a squad of crack Roman troops in such a way that you don't have to make any actual decisions at all. Well, sometimes you can pick which of two different places to put some archers. Wow, just call me Stonewall Fucking Jackson! And there's a repeated segment in which you and your fan club alternate between raising your shields and throwing pilums at pillocks as you advance in a straight line, "Oh man, just what we needed; even less decision making!" It only happens at determined moments in the plot, but you know, if I could've blown a whistle and formed a tortoise at any time, I might've appreciated it as a mechanic. I was gonna say it would really liven up the romantic scenes, but there are none. Who needs romance when we can watch limbs flying off in such a way that, if smooth jazz was playing, you'd think it was a Cinemax production?

It really is the Modern Warfare shooter, decked out in sandals and fashionable miniskirts. The repetitive combat broken up by battle-porn set pieces, the most powerful military force on Earth presented as a victimized underdog to an inferior foe with massively overstated resources, and a protagonist who gets thrown aside and knocked out with clockwork regularity every time a scene transition is needed. All it needs is a central cast consisting exclusively of burly white du– Oh. Well, let's just say that the Xbone starts as it means to go on, with a brick on the accelerator and a hose on the exhaust pipe!

Addenda Edit

  • In vino veritas[1]: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret[2]; now there's a phrase I'd put on my coat of arms
  • Tu fui ego eris[3]

ScreenshotsEdit

TranslationsEdit

  1. In wine, truth
  2. Slander someone enough, some of it will stick
  3. What you are, I was
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells

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