|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Nihilistic||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 23, 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|
This brings us to Conan's next defining feature: its mature rating. This title wears that "M" like a badge of honor. From slow-motion decapitations to throat-crushing kicks, Conan's animated violence never lets up. And every death is punctuated with a nice visual blood spray. This is, after all, the over-the-top world of Conan creator Robert E. Howard, so the blood and boobs--did we mention the topless maidens you'll be rescuing--are a tribute, and actually seem right at home in this testosterone-fueled title. While the carnage and cleavage definitely fit the bill, there are some things in Conan's world that do rob us of an entirely immersive experience.
The worst offender is the voice acting and dialogue; we can dismiss the fabric-challenged wenches grateful cries of "Crush me with your love!" as cheeky fun, but Conan's dismal delivery is just plain bad. He utters every line in the exact same wooden tone. Whether it's the oft repeated "My blade thirsts!" or the too-obvious hints he offers potentially lost players like "The only way is up," he sounds exactly the same. It's a shame they've made our favorite passionate barbarian sound like a sleepy bore. Fortunately, in the options menu, the VO can be turned down and the excellent effects can be turned up. The score is rousing and appropriate, but it's the smaller sound effects that really pop; clashing steel, crackling fires, and roaring lions will all justify the purchase of your pricey surround sound system.
Another Hyborian highlight is Conan's boss battles. Brave barbarian wannabes will have the opportunity to take on sand dragons, elephant demons, and a slithery Medusa-like monster, just to name a few. Each of these battles are long, and your relentless enemies will get their life gauges refilled many times before your blades steal their last breath. But the developers have struck a nice balance, allowing these several-tiered battles to be more fun than frustrating; thanks to forgiving mid-battle checkpoints, you'll never be forced to restart these daunting end-boss fights from the very beginning. Like many games since God of War, Conan has also incorporated on-screen button-matching mini-games during its boss encounters. Like the exploding barrel before it, this gaming cliche is rapidly approaching its expiration date. That said, it gels really well with Conan's gameplay and never feels forced or tacked-on, as it has in so many other post-GoW games.
Conan is definitely short and linear, and its sometimes restrictive camera emphasizes both these points. It also could have used an extra coat of polish on its ugly in-game engine cutscenes and sloppy collision detection. For every minor flaw though, Conan redeems itself with cool little touches; we love pulling health-draining arrows from our chests and torching village huts to reveal orb-filled treasure chests. Minor stuff, good and bad, aside, Conan really shines with its deep and intuitive combat, gritty and gory visuals, and barely-catch-your-breath boss battles, making it a must-play for fans of the genre or anyone looking for a pulse-pounding action experience. Like a refreshing flagan of mead, Conan really hits the spot.
CCC Freelance Writer