Platforms: PS2, Xbox, GameCube - PS2 Version Reviewed
First, a quick film history lesson. Back in the fifties, when TV was just beginning to dominate popular entertainment, Hollywood realised that it was in big trouble. If they wanted to lure audiences away from their brand new TV sets, movies needed to provide something TV couldn’t. Hollywood’s solution was the epic. These needed strong historical or biblical stories, a big cast full of big names, impressive sets or exotic locations, and vast numbers of preferably armour-clad extras. You’ve probably seen some of these movies, maybe on a bank-holiday afternoon or – if you’re lucky – in a cinema revival: films like Ben Hur, El-Cid, Spartacus, The Fall of the Roman Empire. The success of Gladiator even spawned a new, modern wave of epic cinema. Troy, Alexander and Kingdom of Heaven are all, if less successful, still clearly cut from the same cloth and, well, can you get more epic than The Lord of the Rings trilogy?
The reason I’ve bought this up is that Spartan works along similar lines.
This is a game that believes in size and numbers. It’s a game that pits one man against whole battalions, that throws out big set-pieces like confetti. It’s a game that says “if smacking six shades of stuffing out of one guy is fun, then with ten guys it just gets more enjoyable.” Like much of The Iliad or Gladiator, Spartan is a paean to one man’s sheer destructive force. It plays out like a glorious cross between Dynasty Warriors and God of War, but believe me: that doesn’t begin to do it justice.
Now, no epic worth its salt lets the facts of history get in the way of a good story, and Spartan is no different. Basically, in the reign of Emperor Tiberius, the Romans have Greece under siege, and only Sparta remains free from their evil imperialist yoke. With sorcerous war machines surrounding the city, it’s up to the unnamed Spartan and his chums to repulse the Roman hordes, then go off in search of the mighty spear of Achilles, which is the one thing that can drive the empire out of Greece. If this isn’t a big enough hint that history has gone out of the window, perhaps this will do: Spartan also manages to cram in the monster, Medusa, the giant bronze warrior, Talos, the greek philosopher, Archimedes and a bunch of Germanic-looking barbarians led by the Scandinavian hero, Beowulf. It’s just that sort of game.