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Clash of the Titans Review

By Neilie Johnson, 8/10/2010

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It's sort of a given these days that big action movies have to have their own video games. It's also a given that gamers groan at the sight of said games, knowing them to be nothing more than supporting revenue-generators, destined for blandness. Who knows what Warner Bros. Interactive had in mind when deciding to publish Clash of the Titans: The Videogame, but when you play it, it's obvious the developer, Game Republic, did its level best to exceed the limits of your average movie title. On occasion, the effort pays off; for the most part though, the game is a flat, interactive retread of a so-so film and offers few surprises.

Clash of the Titans: The Videogame is a third-person action adventure game based on the recently-released (and generally panned) remake of the 1981 cult film classic. The game follows the plot of the movie, but expands on it a little, adding more of the fiction as well as a hefty load of chore-like missions. You play mechanical owl Bubo, and spend the entire game crapping golden gears and making cute little “boop-boop” noises. (OK, not really—although that might have made for an interesting game.) You play noble but boring fisherman-turned-hero Perseus, and as in the movie, your main goal is to save the Princess Andromeda from Hades' vengeance. You start on your home island of Paxos where you learn something about combat by fighting off the monsters that periodically invade your village. It's all fish-heads and ouzo until soldiers of the defiant King Kepheus arrive. Their blasphemous actions provoke the wrath of the Gods and after your village is decimated, you're dragged to Argos along with them.

As in the movie, King Kepheus of Argos enrages Hades, thus jeopardizing his daughter's life and you decide (for no good reason) to stick your well-tanned neck out to save her. Before you can do that however, you have to prove yourself good enough (to go on a suicide mission?) not only to the king, but to seemingly everyone else in Argos. Draco, the leader of the king's guards—and the guards themselves—set you to performing a series of arena challenges and monster-drubbing expeditions and this sets the tone for most of the game. In virtually every area, you work from a central hub where NPCs loiter, hoping somewhat optimistically to send you to your death. Most of the missions they give you entail killing things; in that sense, the game isn't particularly inventive. Every mission, you run through a city or the mountains or a swamp or the Underworld, periodically being held back by glowing barriers until you kill X number of enemies. This is a sure formula for tedium and the game tries to get around it via its unusual combat system, which is simultaneously too simple and too complex.

Part one of the combat system involves weapons. Many, many weapons. You can carry four of them at once: a main bladed weapon that you never switch out, and three changeable sub-weapons, including items that can replenish your health. There are 80 sub-weapons in the game (including swords, bows, axes, hammers and other more magical doo-dads) which you gain by beating down various enemies. When enemies take enough damage, an onscreen prompt tells you to “seize” their weapon. You do this by holding L1, which starts a finisher/Quick Time event that you complete by hitting the X, Square or O buttons in a timely fashion. A successful seize grants you seize points specific to the type of weapon you've taken, and these points are used for weapon upgrades. Also needed to upgrade weapons are things called “gifts", (essentially materials) which are dropped by defeated enemies. To use these upgraded instruments of death, you need "soul" power, which is not a dance show from the 70's, but is instead a blue glow that you leech out of enemies using some kind of inexplicable demi-god suction.

Part two of the combat system involves the over 100 enemy types you'll face in the game. During your quest to defeat the Kraken, you'll encounter armored skeletons, succubi, centaurs, wisps and all manner of other non-friendlies, all of which are susceptible (or invulnerable) to different attacks. It's up to you to figure out which attacks work on which enemies and so much of your time will be spent swapping out sub-weapons. For instance, undead warriors are weakest against weapons made of bone while naked stone statues that suddenly come to life and try to sear your cuirass off with their eye lasers—those are best handled with a giant stone hammer. This ambitious combat design, encompassing so many weapon/enemy match-ups as well as so many weapon upgrades is occasionally entertaining, but is more often tedious. True, it's cool to have lots of weapons to choose from, and much effort was obviously made to create a wide range of weapons with different combat animations and finishers. Despite this, (and the fact that every weapon comes with its own special attacks) one weapon feels much like another and each fight becomes a test of button-mashing endurance.

Another combat-related downer has to do with the ranged weapons, namely bows. Aiming and using bows is just too cumbersome to really be of much use, especially considering how aggressive most enemies are. By the time you've pulled out your bow, recovered from the disorientation caused by the sudden camera change, and maneuvered the sluggish targeting reticule into place, you're already dead. Overall, the sub-weapon system is a nice idea, and it does mix things up having to swap them out; however, the game's pacing is often killed when a seemingly impervious enemy has you repeatedly stopping the fight to rummage through your weapon stash. And speaking of pacing...two even bigger pacing killers are the many similar style missions and the too-closely-spaced boss fights. After cramping your fingers for fifteen minutes pounding on a giant two-headed dog, you'll think you've earned a break--only to have a Cyclops lumber in, forcing you to do the same thing all over again.

Combat may be questionable but where Clash of the Titans: The Videogame does succeed is in its artwork. The amount of work it took to create the game can't be denied, encompassing as it does, all of the locations seen in the film as well as all of the film's characters. All of the main character models are very well done and the likenesses are good. All except for oddly enough, Perseus, who veers left of the handsome Sam Worthington to end up looking more like a wall-eyed jarhead. The game's voice acting is also well done, in spite of the obvious lack of original film actors, and the development team deserves credit for the amazing number of cutscenes in the game. In addition to the ones needed to move the story along, there's one to set up every single mission you undertake as well as some dramatic finishers for every boss monster, and these provide convincing evidence of the effort put into making the game.

In the end though, Clash of the Titans: The Videogame fails to captivate due to what could be called “sound and fury” syndrome—a thing many big budget game and movie productions suffer from. It's a kind of “too-muchness” that comes from trying to do too many things and not doing anything particularly well. The game's combat system is simply over-designed for the kind of game it is, and the kind of audience it seeks to attract. 80 weapons feel like 40 weapons too many and a glut of enemies and cookie-cutter missions sap the excitement from combat, making it a chore.

Movie games have a generally shady reputation and as a result, rarely get a fair shake with the gaming public. Sadly, Clash of the Titans: The Videogame, while much more polished and ambitious than most movie-based titles, is still unable to buck the trend. In spite of the game's indebtedness to the film, it tries to become a viable action title by expanding on the story, presenting quality artwork and creating a combat system more complex than you'd expect from a mere movie title; still, it misses the mark. Even with thirty hours of gameplay (including challenge modes and DLC) Clash of the Titans: The Videogame fails to reach the heights of Olympus and instead languishes in Limbo.

Overall: 70%



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