You know what makes my job hard? Games like Spartan: Total Warrior. Not because the game sucks, or rocks so hard that I broke the disc during an excited "session." Right now this review is kicking my ass because I'm trying to figure out how to tell you all about this nifty little game. It's only "average" though. Now how do I tell you this without you leaving before I'm done talking?
The instruction manual: the lynchpin of any great gaming experience, right? Well, here it was a little ominous that the control descriptions were a little goofed (i.e. misplaced/mislabeled), and instead of a short story blip instead you'll find what sounds more like a mini-review. I mention this only because the instruction manual set the tone for all the production values in Spartan: Total Warrior Just enough to hit the mark, but nothing that'll floor you.
Damn, I just skipped right over an important bit of trivia. Guess what popular real-time strategy game on the PC developers Creative Assembly are responsible for birthing? If you guessed: Total War you should reward yourself now. So not only does Spartan: Total Warrior marks their first console outing it's also their first non real-time strategy game.
If you have to go first, dive in head first and draw blood
For a first attempt at making a console game, much less a non-RTS game, I must congratulate Creative Assembly for "getting" what it is that makes console gaming different than PC gaming. There have been attempts by other only-PC developers to make the leap, and very few have landed on their feet. That said I'm not sure Creative Assembly leapt at the console world with both feet.
I really expected a little bit of Creative Assembly's previous real-time strategy games to have an influence on the design of Spartan: Total Warrior. In a way their last title, which was also set in Rome, did have an influence. However, seeing the screenshots of massive groups of solders had me imagining that our unnamed hero would be leading them into battle ala Battalion Wars.
Instead I found myself wading into the thick of it ala Dynasty Warriors, only with an obvious Roman/Greek fantasy element instead of ancient China lending flavor to my bloody battles. The scale of the mass melee isn't anywhere near the level of Creative Assembly's Rome: Total War. Instead you'll charge into battles with an average of a hundred men running about.
Into battle you will go – right after a short bit of chapter dialog – and there you will find a strange brew awaiting you. The "flavor" immediately feels like God of War because of the ancient-Roman architecture, but the music screams out Ninja Gaiden without the guitars. Techno-music and half naked men? There's something decidedly modern about finding these two items together.