Reviewed: January 25, 2005
Released: November 16, 2004
The tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is a story that has been retold many times in both books and movies. The most recent tale comes to us from Touchstone Pictures and is a high budget film focused on realistic and gritty action scenes rich in swordplay, but depressingly low in magic. Naturally, this means an action game bearing the same name, King Arthur, will hit the shelves, providing an interactive experience parallel with the film.
Unfortunately, the blockbuster release wasnít anything that special, meaning the video game was going to have to be sensational to achieve greatness. And while Krome Studios definitely put up a valiant effort, their hack-and-slash title met the same mediocre results as its silver screen counterpart. Donít misunderstand me, King Arthur had some fun moments, but for the most part, it tried to recreate the same progression we saw in EAís The Two Towers, grouping together real movie footage with a beautiful 3D side-scroller.
Using the exact same upgrade system as Two Towers, King Arthur allows the player to assume the role of the King, Lancelot, Guinevere, Bors and Tristan as they combo their way through a variety of enemies. Sadly, the graphics and gameplay didnít compare to EAís effort. Krome even tried adding their own spice to this genre through the over the shoulder archery sequences which were fun at first, but then became bland and frustrating later in the game.
Of course, if a gameís success depended on its use of a movie license, this game would be considered wonderful. The music and voice acting are done very well and the 20 minutes of movie footage keep the feel of the movie alive throughout, but when it comes to the overall experience, King Arthur feels a little rushed.
Just like EAís The Two Towers, Konamiís game starts off with an opening scene from the movie. In fact youíll think youíve just put in the DVD by mistake. Once the yells of war begin, the scene converts into a game, turning all of our well-paid actors into polygons. Now the moment the gameplay starts, you arenít given any special attacks. Youíll have to gradually build your arsenal beginning only with basic jab and fierce attacks. By performing well during battle, you will be rewarded with points that can be used to purchase new devastating moves when the round is over.
One difference youíll notice here from previous titles is the change from single character upgrades to universal upgrades. In King Arthur, newly purchased moves will be available to all characters, instead of just one or the next. While this works well in speeding up the pace of progression, it also reveals the first of many signs that the game could have been rushed.
The second thing youíll notice is the repetitive combat. Sure, occasionally youíll get to battle while on horseback, but stiff horse movements tend to subtract too much to keep this aspect enjoyable. Almost ever other scene however is on foot, with sword in hand, fighting the same five enemies you thought you just finished killing. This is very disappointing considering the melee system actually plays rather smooth, being both fun and responsive. But letís face it, using combos until youíre blue in the face needs something special to get the blood flowing and the only thing King Arthur brings to the table is an extremely linear journey filled with nothing but ďsavages.Ē
Now I understand that this is an action game, but it would be much more interesting to have multiple paths or at least a hidden room every now and again to bring a more realistic setting to the game. Having your character come to a dead halt by an invisible boundary is something of an eye sore these days, especially when the only thing the game has to focus on is close-up melee combat.
Now I feel itís only fair that I should give Krome Studios credit when itís due. In an attempt to bring something new to the genre, Krome added an over the shoulder archery sequence, allowing the player to pick off a rush of enemy attacks. This first and third person hybrid is an entertaining change of pace but unfortunately falls victim to the same problems as the swordplay. After the first five minutes, you simply donít see anything new. Perhaps Krome should have added some extra side plots to the movie or some action packed boss battles to keep players interested.
Maybe just another sixth months in the studio could have produced more addicting gameplay or additional game modes. Sure, thereís a co-op mode that allows you to play with a buddy, but this only means you can repeat the single player stages with a friend, instead of the useless AI controlled ally to which youíve grown accustomed.
At first, King Arthur appears to be a beautiful game with realistic environments stolen right from the movie. That is until the camera zooms in to reveal that lack of detail, particularly noticeable on all of the characters faces. This just seems like a waste to me, considering Krome had the rights to use all of the actors from the film.
Also, the games environments could have seen some improvements as well. The grass and overall shrubbery all look way too flat up close and the sharp edges make bushes look like they were made from Lego blocks. Iím also sorry to say the game has an abundance of collision issues. Sometimes swords donít really lock together during a block and overlapping objects tend to do that unattractive fluttering dance that tends to aggravate experienced gamers. This is something youíll see throughout the game which is unacceptable for such a simple side scrolling action title. Perhaps spending more time polishing polygons and adding more character models would have improved the overall score of the game, but on the other hand, probably not enough.
Surprisingly, the sounds of King Arthur were actually quite wonderful. Everything from rushing creek water to the clashing of heavy swords sounded 100% believable. Horsesí feet would trot and old wooden wagons with squeaky wheels would clank when on-screen. The voice acting also deserves a round of applause. The battle cries were all natural and the grunts and groans of tiresome melee combat all created a sense of passion and determination.
All of these sounds in addition to original motion picture score recreated some of the intensity of the movie. Itís a shame most of the energy produced by the audio portion of the game was quickly countered by uninspiring gameplay and visual appeal.
Simply put, this game doesnít offer much other than a quick run through some of the more memorable battle sequences from Touchstoneís latest film. There is no online component whatsoever, though Iím not sure if it would improve the overall fun factor. There is two player co-op option, but it doesnít differ at all from the single player campaign and doubling the amount of disappointment is never a good thing, even if it is shared with a friend.
The thing is King Arthur feels like it was made because thatís what has become the standard. No big action movie can exist without some interactive software release to expand sales. And while some movie games can be noteworthy most donít keep us interested longer than an hour or so. This game certainly wouldnít be missed.
I wish I could say King Arthur was a total surprise hit, with both stunning graphics and innovative gameplay. Unfortunately, Krome Studios delivers exactly what everyone expected, a hurried game that attempts to borrow a previously successful formula and use it to boost franchise sales. Well, this reviewer says theyíre going to have to try a lot harder than this to create fans.
Featuring dull visual effects, repetitive hack-n-slash gameplay, and complete lack of additional gaming modes, Kromeís King Arthur falls way short of its Two Towers role model in nearly every category. If, and I do mean if, you were obsessed with the Hollywood film, Iíd suggest renting this title since Iím willing to bet you wonít deem it worth the purchase, even as a greatest hit.