Ryse: Son of Rome
Ryse: Son of Rome Hands-on Preview - Are We Not Entertained?
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Ryse: Son of Rome isn’t the game you think it is. Or at least, it’s not the game I thought it was after dismissing it as a QTE button masher following Microsoft’s E3 2013 demo. Instead it’s a fun, engaging, brutally violent hack and slasher with a decent combat system and the best visuals I’ve seen on a console. Yet it’s not without its problems.

I spent two hours lopping off limbs and wading through a sea of blood recently, sampling the opening of the game and a darker, scarier chapter from around two thirds of the way through the story. Here’s what I thought.

Ryse begins with a cutscene showing the chubby Roman Emperor Nero waddling through his opulent palace, in fear of his life. The city is under attack from Barbarians and Nero is alone and scared. This is where our hero Marius Titus comes in; a thick-jawed man’s man with a red brush on his helmet, blood on his hands and revenge on his mind. He immediately escorts Nero to a safe place and begins to explain exactly who he is. Cue flashback.

A few years ago, Marius is a relatively new recruit to the Roman army, a posh boy with a wealthy family and aspirations to fight alongside the military’s leading regiment. Returning from battle for a chat with mummy and daddy and a quick tutorial fight, Marius’ home comes under attack and although he distinguishes himself in battle, his parents are brutally murdered. As he grieves over his father’s dead body, swearing revenge, a nearby commander growls, “Welcome to the 14th, lad. If it’s blood you want, I promise I’ll give you as much as you can handle.”

And I tell you what, he’s not lying. Ryse: Son of Rome is absolutely brutal. In those two hours I chopped off arms, plunged swords into throats, decapitated dudes, stamped on heads and almost drowned in their viscera. This is without doubt one of the most violent games I have ever played, and at first I found it a bit odd and off-putting. But by the end I was revelling in stylish, next-gen goremongery.

Here’s how the combat works. Against standard opponents, you can tap a face button quickly to initiate a sword attack, or hold it to pull off a slower, heavier attack. Chain a few of these together and, eventually, a skull will appear over your enemy and you’ll be able to instigate an execution. This is where the QTE moments come in, as time slows down and a coloured outline appears on your victim, indicating which buttons you have to press. Whether you nail it or not, your enemy’s gonna die a horrible death, but your timing dictates how you pull it off and what rating you get, from Recruit all the way up to Centurion and Legendary.

Built into all this is a series of bonuses which can be activated by hitting the relevant direction on the D-pad. There’s an XP bonus, for example, which adds a multiplier to your chain attacks and is banked when you perform an execution, with further points added according to the quality with which you perform it. These points can then be spent on unlocking further executions, including some which allow you to take out more than one attacker at once. There’s loads to purchase, unlocking as you progress and gleefully dialling up the violence.

Most interesting, however, is the way your health is managed. There simply isn’t any other way to regain health other than to fly into battle, weakening an enemy and then executing them, ensuring that even when you’re near death and vulnerable, you still have to keep pressing forward. It adds an air of tension and risk/reward to proceedings.

So while it doesn’t sound particularly exciting on paper, it’s really quite engaging thanks to the brilliantly swoopy, flowing animations, strong feedback from the Xbox One controller and a wonderful sense of impact. Hampered only by a dodgy camera, which when you’re near scenery occasionally blocks your view and therefore the button prompts. It’s fun, but the problem with Ryse: Son of Rome, however, isn’t what’s there. It’s what’s not.

You see, what I played of the game didn’t offer up much variation. There’s additional details in the combat which I haven’t covered, but it’s still just combat. The only sections which provided any meaningfully varied gameplay were short spear-chucking and turret shooting sections, as well as a portion where you storm a building by forming a Roman tortoise defence with your squad’s shields. But these moments were fleeting and occasional. Over the course of what promises to be a meaty campaign, you have to wonder if Ryse: Son of Rome will become tiresome.

Put another way, Ryse is a stunningly beautiful game with character models, animations and environments that outstrip anything I’ve seen on next-gen hardware so far. It’s gorgeous. But while the visuals are undoubtedly next-gen, the gameplay is a throwback to days of old. We’re used to seeing combat like this at the heart of expansive titles like Assassin’s Creed and the Arkham games. Based on my time with it, Ryse: Son of Rome has no such depth of gameplay. It’s just a brutally efficient, entertaining brawler that may turn out to be rather limited in scope. Time will tell just how much of a problem that is.

Ryse: Son of Rome is an Xbox One launch game, hitting North America and Europe on November 22nd.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 1585
Comment #1 by Baihu1983
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:02:23 AM
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Getting this day 1.

Forum Posts: 208
Comment #2 by DeadlySinz86
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:03:18 AM
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Game looks impressive, but doesn't really appeal to me personally, might pick it up once it hits the bargin bin.

Forum Posts: 1685
Comment #3 by EMP
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:09:15 AM
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@2 Likewise

Forum Posts: 14
Comment #4 by Astartes Marine
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:12:41 AM
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Sounds alot like Space Marine in regaining health through executing enemies and the focus on visceral bloody melee.

I like it already.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #5 by anyold
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:12:53 AM
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"But these moments were fleeting and occasional" you had it for 2 hours so I don't think that is a accurate summation.

Forum Posts: 23
Comment #6 by olie3146
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:15:08 AM
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These were my exact concerns with this game, it's not on my pre-order list as ill already Forza, DR3 and my free Killer Instinct to keep me occupied until the reviews start coming in.

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #7 by The Roti Lover
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:25:56 AM
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@2 I was one of the Ryse move winners, so free copy for me.

Forum Posts: 38
Comment #8 by Aussie27Legend
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:40:43 AM
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Why someone would pick up this over Dead Rising 3 at launch is beyond me, so many more fun gameplay possibilities in that game over what this appears to offer (I played both at EBExpo, so I'm not totally talking out my ass... only slightly :P)

Forum Posts: 71
Comment #9 by adbailey18
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:42:33 AM
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All in glorious 1080p...oh no wait thats not true!

Forum Posts: 13
Comment #10 by LeeJ2512
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:44:23 AM
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I've been on and off with this game for a WHILE, constantly thinking if I should cancel my preorder, but I'm going to stick with it and go for it.

Forum Posts: 1369
Comment #11 by ll Mr Bubbles ll
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 11:44:39 AM
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so polish a turd its still a turd... looks beautiful... gameplay is boring.

Forum Posts: 13
Comment #12 by ruisleipa
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 12:10:55 PM
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@8 because maybe they think the DR games are totally overrated? And DR3 is unlikely to be much better?

Forum Posts: 271
Comment #13 by the action frampton
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 12:28:22 PM
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Just reading the first paragraph of this preview makes me glad I've preordered this. Not gonna read the rest because I don't wanna ruin it !

Forum Posts: 538
Comment #14 by DarqStalker
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 12:52:44 PM
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I'm interested and will probably pick it up once it's in the bargain bin. Hopefully when the game is released and we're able to play the actual game, a better campaign will be revealed.

Forum Posts: 152
Comment #15 by MastrMeatWad
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 01:07:03 PM
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@9- yes, because 1080p is what makes a game great. I should toss out all my other consoles and every game I own because they are not 1080p. If you read the first paragraph the writer stated the best graphics on a console, but it isn't 1080! Kids like you are so very tiring.

Forum Posts: 71
Comment #16 by adbailey18
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 01:12:06 PM
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Ha, got to love getting thumbs down!

I'm getting day one...I'm still disappointed my next gen console isn't really next gen though!

Forum Posts: 92
Comment #17 by Goodacre
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 01:12:56 PM
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Eurogamer tears this game a new one. I'm not surprised though game looked shallow.

Forum Posts: 30
Comment #18 by Launch
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 01:38:10 PM
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So pretty much, "We can't say anything bad or we won't get invited to see other games".

Forum Posts: 755
Comment #19 by Hurricane Of 87
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 02:43:31 PM
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#17 You linked to Game Informer not EuroGamer ya melon!

LMAO that they removed the QTE button prompts "So that they didn't distract from the facial animations" but have all this health bar and combo nonsense plastered all over the screen as shown in that article.

Forum Posts: 33
Comment #20 by TirelessFiver
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 03:50:56 PM
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Not really interested in this game from what I have heard about it. I a,m guessing (and with the help of this preview) it's going to be an 8 hour jaunt of the same rehashed fight sequences... all for the overly high price of $60!! Yeah, I am gonna skip this one. Why can't they do a Dynasty Warriors style game in the ancient Roman time period? Hack and Slash to the max!!

Forum Posts: 71
Comment #21 by adbailey18
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 04:58:41 PM
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@ #15, you sound like a kid with that comment. 1080p should be the standard on the alleged next gen consoles regardless of whether its so little or so much better than 720p. People need to realise that Microsoft have messed up going with DDR3 ram and a cheaper graphics chip set.

Doesnt stop me keeping my pre order though, and the main reason for that is the controller.

Forum Posts: 349
Comment #23 by I X I Shock I
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 @ 08:32:11 PM
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I'm confused as to how DR has more of an experience. I've been mashing some DR2 with a friend recently, and all I've gotten out of it is continually hit 'X'.

Honestly, looking forward to this still, even if gameplay is 'shallow' it looks fantastic.

Forum Posts: 45
Comment #24 by oaklay
Sunday, November 10, 2013 @ 01:47:53 AM
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I'll get it on D1 and sell it after getting all achievements.
It looks great and I think it will be a fun game.

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #25 by jhrockers
Friday, November 29, 2013 @ 10:40:12 AM
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I love playing this game. Now ready to get Dead Rising 3

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #26 by Take Out G
Saturday, January 04, 2014 @ 04:15:29 AM
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Good game .. Ands looks amazing best graphics I have seen in a game ...

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #27 by SiennaMobbsaru
Thursday, January 09, 2014 @ 10:46:03 AM
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Game Info


US November 22, 2013
Europe November 22, 2013

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