I’ve always wanted to play a game that allowed me to:

  1. Wear a pushbroom on my head
  2. Parody Gladiator
  3. Kick dudes over ledges in a Spartan fashion screaming at the top of my lungs

Fortunately Ryse: Son of Rome has all this covered.

Ryse is the product of when Crytek and Microsoft collaborate in an effort to make a game that they haven’t quite decided on what they want it to be. I mean they know they wanted to use Kinect and the game was to be set in or based around Rome. I don’t say this out of malice as many know Ryse has seen more changes than a model on a catwalk during fashion week. We originally saw it as Codename Kingdoms and other names until it was fully realised as the product we have now.

As much as I joke, Ryse is very much a parody of Gladiator in a sense that its story of revenge and betrayal is set during a period in which the Romans slaughtered millions. Early on we see Marius Titus, a very Roman sounding name in which every word ends in “us”, witness the death of his father and seek revenge on those who sought to kill his family. It’s your generic revenge story told through an ultra violent medium with a good few moments but doesn’t quite qualify as stellar writing.

Being a launch game Ryse obviously had to showcase one part of the Xbox One’s capability; graphics is obviously Ryse’s area. The game is beautiful, be it the hacking of limbs and blood drenched guards or the scenic landscapes you pillage in hopes of spilling more blood than a slaughter house. Ryse is even aware of the beauty, stopping and prompting the player to have a look around at points just to bask in the splendor. One section that sticks out is just prior to a large and eerie forest; Marius, or as I knew him Stabius McGladius, is standing beside a waterfall. Here the dragonflies gracefully bob back and forth as this awe inspiring waterfall crashes down in front of you in a vibrant grove. It was good enough to sit and bask in the serenity of such a peaceful area, even if just for a minute to contrast against the game’s brutality.

And with that brutality you grow to understand what Ryse is all about. It’s the gratuity: an occasionally clumsy combat system is fully brought to life by a series of various QTE slaughterfests. The combat allows players to perform multiple executions on different enemies each with its own gratuitous and devastating finishing move. It’s a bit fidgety and after killing literally thousands of enemies, the ability to execute enemies grew dull much like the overly simplified combat. But the biggest issue is not the combat itself but how close the camera can be to the player model at times; many a time I was caught unaware by some bobber swinging his axe offscreen and it became infuriating.

There is an online system to Ryse in which players co-operatively fight through hordes of enemies, much like a simplified survival mode, in an attempt to appease the Romans by defeating various enemy waves. It’s good fun but the game lacks enough enemy variety to justify playing this mode for countless hours. Thankfully there are various arenas and layouts to fight on but it did not justify the rather overwhelming amount of matches required to progress multiple levels in the online system. It’s a shame really as the online customisation was intriguing and you could add your own spin to your warrior with different armour that improved separate attributes of your warrior.

Overall Ryse is a fun game. If you are looking for a fun and ultra-violent title for a few hours’ story then it might be worth looking in to. Unfortunately the campaign is rather short, no more than 6-7 hours by my count and the online doesn’t justify your potential need to play it until more games are released. What little cash you have left after the hefty Xbox One purchase might be better spent elsewhere. All in all I enjoyed my experience and I really wish there was more, so that must mean it got something right.