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Ryse: Son of Rome review

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Price when reviewed : £45
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A great looking, stab-happy history lesson that’s all style and no substance

Read our full in-depth Xbox One review now.

With a history of making beautiful PC games, it should be no surprise that developer Crytek’s debut Xbox One effort is among the best looking launch titles. What comes as a shock is that it isn’t a futuristic first person shooter; the creators of Crysis have turned their attention to ancient history for Ryse: Son of Rome.

Ryse: Son of Rome

The perspective has changed too; Ryse is played in the third person, giving you an good view of protagonist Marius Titus as he traverses ancient empires, hacking and slashing his way through barbarian hordes and a veritable who’s who of first century historical figures. It’s all told with unflinching seriousness, even if the sub-plot involving legends of the ‘spirit of vengeance’ have absolutely no basis in Roman history at all. The developers have taken so many liberties with ancient history that Ryse technically takes place in an alternate timeline – it’s not quite as fantastical as the God of War series, but it certainly stretches the truth in places.

Ryse has something else in common with Sony Santa Monica’s Greek mythological brawler – a shocking level of violence. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, as you’ll be chopping off limbs just a few minutes into the game’s opening chapter. The combat is visceral yet simple, with light attacks hitting quickly and heavy attacks taking more time, but with the added ability to throw your opponents of balance – letting you land a strike when their defences are lowered. Blocking enemy attacks requires tight timing, with no on-screen prompts like the ones seen in the Batman Arkham games to give you a heads-up. You have to be constantly aware of your enemies, which gets tricky when you’re surrounded on all sides; the tougher bad guys attack multiple times, have powerful attacks that must be dodged rather than blocked, or shields that block all light attacks.

Ryse: Son of Rome

Once you deal enough damage, Marius can perform a series of bloody finishing moves. These are context sensitive attacks which almost always end with severed arms or skewered foes, and even though they change if you’re near some scenery, they quickly get repetitive. Each one is essentially a quick time event, with the enemy glowing blue or yellow to represent the X and Y buttons respectively. Match the colours quickly and your hit combo will increase, earning you additional valour points which can be spent on upgrading your abilities.

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