Ryse, Roman. Ryse!

Raise your controller, Son of Rome, for you are needed! I won’t lie, it was half the reason I pre-ordered my Xbox One so early. Ryse has wowed me from the moment I first saw it, and it didn’t fail visually to live up to the hype and my high expectations. The game kicks off in spectacular fashion, fighting to clear the main bridge leading into Rome, clearing the Barbarians in the way while seeing the unique tools that will be placed throughout the game. Formations, ballistas, voice commands and executions – many, many executions. The game does the ole ‘hey, let’s show the end of the episode/game/film first, then go back and show how it reaches that point’.

The combat is very hack-n-slash based, but don’t lose too much heart. The sword swinging looks fantastic, and the blood splatter very realistic. The executions weave into slow motion amazingly well, the transition process in and out of slow-mo being a particular highlight for me. However, there is a distinct lack of buttons to use in combat; the generic X to hit, Y for a shield break and A for parry. B holds no significance, and apart from RB to activate the special focus mode and LT to aim a pilum, there isn’t really much more to explain. The focus mode is another highlight; the ability to use all of those combo strings you’ve worked hard to put together, as well as the executions, to enter what can only be described as a slow-mo speed-freak attack. This is particularly useful against those fast moving dual-wielders, or the dodgers, or indeed against the Minotaur barbarians. What I like probably the most, however, is that the game specifically stops you using this uber move to down bosses faster. You can activate the focus mode; just after one attack, it slips out. Something like this is so small that some games miss removing such a big advantage from boss fights, but Ryse did well. The executions at the start are very few in number – don’t expect to see a wide variety until you start purchasing them; the first few you may see very often. But, once you get going, with lots of execution moves purchased, it adds another element to the game – the wonder of what finishing move you will use. The belly slices are fantastically detailed, and the removals of limbs looks fantastic on a television that does it justice. Double executions also look great, but sometimes, despite two enemies being close together with the necessary lack of health, it doesn’t activate. But hey, maybe it’s just me? I’m not sure.

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The plot is, in my opinion, is one of the stronger points of this game, with it taking a basis on the truth and twisting it into a unique story that the player can connect with. You play as Marius Titus, a Roman centurion who ends up joining the 14th Legion, and fighting his way to General and becomes the foundation for the 14th’s success in England. Looking for revenge on the supposed Barbarians that murdered his family, Marius fights for family, fights for his legion and fights for Rome, with hack-n-slash never being more fitting for a video game than this!

The online writes itself – go in the Colosseum and fight through scenes, taken right out of the end of the story itself. After struggling to find where and how to get a game going with a friend, once you get into it, it’s quite fun. Graphics are more of the same, with no real struggles in terms of loading– which says a lot about our connection! The armour can be changed depending on level and coins too. There’s an achievement for reaching level 100 online. If anyone gets that, then the hours they’ve put in will be beyond crazy. It took me the best part of an hour to be just over level 2! Will it get boring online? That’s yet to be seen – Ryse has taken a lot of flak for being “boring” or “one-dimensional”; what’s not said, is that Crytek have done hack-n-slash so well, that the one-dimensional play barely puts the player off.

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The graphics were always going to be the key thing about Ryse. The announcement videos lined it up to make an impression, and it did so amazingly. The drops of water and mud in one video clip are beyond belief, and I was asked at one point what television show I was watching, the characters looked that realistic. The video clips/cutscenes look spectacular; they really add another layer to the game. At one point, the Commander of the Legion, throws a pilum (spear) through the eye of Boudica’s war elephant – just wow. All this said, the length of the game is somewhat short. Under 10 hours of gameplay isn’t really enough in this day and age for a £50 title. What you do in these short, few hours are quality, but it does make you wonder if this could have been extended. That said, I don’t know how much more they could have done. Perhaps a bit more with Boudica’s rise, perhaps with your character helping the Roman retreat back towards Rome, or perhaps more on Marius’ revenge with other characters … I can’t go into too much detail as it would ruin part of the story!

I enjoyed Ryse. For my first ‘Next-Gen’ title (I guess this is now current gen?!), I am pleased to have played this. It showcases what the Xbox One, and what the 4th Gen of Cryengine can do well. You must remember that this is the early titles – something that fills me with so much hope and excitement for the future of the consoles. It does leave you with a slight case of the ‘wanting mores’, but it’s fun none the less. You get what you expect from a hack-n-slash, don’t forget!

Developer: Crytek
Publisher: Microsoft StudiosGenre: Hack-n-slash
Platform: Xbox One
Genre: Hack-n-Slash
Player Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer
Price: £48.00 – £55 (depending on where you shop!)