|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Collision Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 27, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
The highly anticipated movie adaptation of Frank Miller's 300 is coming to theaters this weekend. Already film critics are glowing about the movie's bewitching visual style and unrelenting action. But what about the video game, which was released just one week before the epic is unleashed into theatres?
The game begins simply enough with stills of Frank Miller's graphic novel accompanied by voice-over narration that gives the background of the story. You learn that the Persian army has attacked a small village on the outskirts of your territory and left no survivors, save one little girl. The little girl is frightened at first, but is so compelled by the tenderness of King Leonidas that she recounts the horrors that the Persians have wreaked upon her friends and family. She then dies in the arms of the good king. This galvanizes King Leonidas and his men to march forth and slaughter (in sometimes gruesome detail) every Persian in sight.
From here, the gamer takes on the role of King Leonidas and enters a training mode, where they'll learn the basic controls and movements necessary for success in the game. You also learn how to control the Spartan-exclusive combat formation, the phalanx. You then move headlong into the game, going to various levels to maim and dismember every enemy you can find.
And that's about it. Although it's super-fun to button-mash and kill everything in sight, this game runs with this idea a little too much. Levels are uncannily similar, and can barely be distinguished from any other part of the game. Even end-of-level bosses are a little too similar and feel so alike that beating a boss in level 6 feels like a repeat of level 2. Gameplay also falters because it feels rather rushed. The entire game could be feasibly beaten by an average gamer in the space of one Saturday afternoon.
Controls are extremely simplistic and users can take control of their choice of two different weapons: a sword or a spear (with a third choice of dual swords earned after some battle experience). Players use the X and Square buttons to perform heavy and moderate attacks and can use O to perform a shield attack. Combo attacks and advanced weaponry are possible, but they have to be bought using "kilos" earned by killing opponents on the battlefield. Although this sounds like a good idea, the advanced moves take so long to execute that they are extremely impractical in the fast-paced gameplay.
Another notable facet of the gameplay is the "wrath" powerup system. Basically, after you kill an enemy, a small yellow bar begins to appear. As you fill up the bar, you gain the ability to do special attacks. If you fill up your "wrath" gage completely, you get the choice of some pretty interesting (and useful) powerups. There's four in total: one that slows down time, one that heals part of your life, one that makes your hits cause more damage, and one that makes you impervious to damage (my personal favorite). However, because of the necessity of using special attacks most of these are never used.
Graphics are standard at best, with borderline polygonal figures walking around in a simplistically textured environment. The environment almost never varies, and it all runs together quite terribly. Another disappointing facet is that there is almost no interactivity with the environment. In fact the only way a gamer is able to do anything with their surrounding is when a little white light prompts them to move a rock or a golden sparkle prompts them to pick up a spear. There is no sense of exploration or discovery with this game, it expects you to know nothing and leads you step-by-step through any task (besides the overall mission of killing everything in sight).
The sound of the game, however, is excellent. The voice acting is not done by the actors from the film, (save for the actor who reprises his role as Dilios), but still manages to sound genuine and believable. The music is also very good, especially during cinema sequences, and I wouldn't be surprised if most of it is borrowed from the film's score.
Another plus in this game is the video content you can unlock throughout the game. In addition to the TV and theatrical trailers, it contains several interviews with the series' original creator, Frank Miller. For Miller's hardcore fans, I would say that this is the best (if only) reason to buy this game. He gives his opinions on how he feels about the comic-to-movie transition and the creator's role in navigating the Hollywood quagmire. Nearly the only reward I got for playing through this game was getting to see all of the Frank Miller bonus content, and I was happy for it.
Overall, I would say that this game is standard fare in the world of licensed games. With lackluster levels, imbalanced controls, and below-par graphics, 300:March to Glory does not seem to be a good representation of the subject matter upon which it was based. Even as I write this, early reviews are coming in that 300 is going to be one of the best movies so far this year. I wish I could say the same for the game.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer