Beowulf Hands-On

We play through a four-level demo of Ubisoft's movie-inspired action adventure game.

Currently scheduled for release in mid-November, Beowulf is a combat-oriented fantasy adventure game in which you'll assume the titular role of a legendary Geatish warrior. The game is based on the upcoming Paramount movie of the same name, which is in turn based on an ancient and lengthy poem. We recently had an opportunity to play through a four-level demo version of Beowulf on the Xbox 360. Although our experience was short-lived, it bodes well for the finished game.

The first level that we got to play through is the first level of the game proper, and it serves as an interactive tutorial. Playing as Beowulf, you're challenged to a race of sorts by a rival. Along the way, you'll learn how to climb walls and shimmy along ledges, and you'll also learn that Beowulf can slide down steep inclines without losing his footing. The race portion of the tutorial ends on a beach inhabited by giant crabs, and although nobody appears to be keeping score, you'll be attempting to outdo your rival as the pair of you set about killing them.

Beowulf's combat is visceral and satisfying from the moment you land your first punch. The controls are uncomplicated enough that you'll feel comfortable with them right away, but you certainly won't be able to just mindlessly mash buttons once you come up against something more dangerous than crabs--for example, the three huge sea serpents that show up toward the end of the first level. Your battle with them not only calls upon all of the skills that you've learned previously but also a brand-new one: carnal fury.

The carnal fury skill makes Beowulf see red.

Activating carnal fury sends Beowulf into a blind rage for a period of time. The screen takes on a deep red hue, there's some motion blurring and, most importantly, your attacks are much more powerful. They're powerful enough, in fact, that you can punch a huge sea serpent in the face and cause its head to crash down onto the rocks next to you. After that, you have the opportunity to climb up onto said monster's head and take it down God of War-style by hitting the correct buttons as they flash up on the screen. Incidentally, these button-sequence actions aren't reserved for large, boss-type enemies in Beowulf; you'll be presented with a similar scenario every time you grab an enemy (or a part of an enemy).

Your offensive commands during combat are mapped to three buttons: grab, light attack, and heavy attack. Light and heavy attacks can be strung together to perform some devastating and very satisfying combos, but the grab move is the most interesting of the three because it's invariably followed by an opportunity to perform up to four different moves. For example, there are moments when you can successfully grab an enemy that is roughly the same size as you by initiating the maneuver and then mashing the correct button when instructed to do so. At that point, your options might include throwing the enemy, crushing the enemy (it's brutal), or stealing its weapon. The options vary somewhat according to the opponent that you're grappling with, but we can report from experience that grab moves get the job done regardless of the enemy's size. More on our troll-butchering exploits later.

The second level, titled King's Road, saw Beowulf and a number of his allies landing on the shore of a landmass purportedly inhabited by another of the game's huge monsters. Unfortunately, the portion of the level available in our demo ended before we could confirm or deny that possibility, but not before we'd had a chance to learn about Beowulf's heroism system and to put it to good use against numerous enemy crabs and barbarians. Heroism is represented onscreen as a blue energy bar of sorts that fills up anytime you perform a particularly devastating combo or do something deemed heroic. One example that did the trick occurred when we picked up a large rock and used it to crush a giant crab. As your heroism gauge fills up, you and your Thane colleagues will become increasingly powerful and start to emit a blue glow. The heroism gauge doubles as your life bar, so the best way to stay alive is basically to kill others as spectacularly as possible. In addition to the significant bonuses that heroism affords you and yours in combat, it gives you the power to unleash the "Viking storm" special attack on multiple enemies. Heroism also makes your followers more adept at performing simple tasks for you, such as moving heavy stone doors. Tasks appear in the game quite frequently, and as your followers attempt to complete them for you, you'll have the option to speed up the process by completing a relatively simple rhythm-style minigame known as Thanes' Song.

Your group becomes more powerful as you perform heroic deeds.

Next up in our demo was a level taken from Beowulf's ninth episode, which we believe is almost halfway through the game. You've been separated from your men at the start of the level, and must make your way to a blood-filled sacrificial pit where they're fighting for their lives. The only way to get there is on a long, crumbling staircase that runs along the edges of cliffs and such, and along the way you'll come up against skeleton warriors whose shields make them tricky to hit with conventional melee attacks. However, the aforementioned grab moves work just fine, and there's plenty of fun to be had in tossing the enemies off the staircase to their deaths using the throw command. When you reach the pit, you'll find that the situation is pretty dire; your men are being attacked from all sides by undead-looking enemies and need to close large doors to stop more of the enemies from pouring in. The enemies will do their best to hamper those efforts, and things definitely take a turn for the worse when a large troll shows up. The troll is too big for you to grab in the same way as the other enemies, but if you time it right, it's possible to grab one of its arms and then climb up it onto its head. Once atop the troll, your options will include the usual stuff to deal damage, as well as an opportunity to steal the huge axe that it wields. There are very few weapons available in the pit, so that was definitely the course of action from which we enjoyed the most success.

The last level included in the demo was taken from near the end of the game, and it featured a boss battle of sorts against the rival that we were racing against in the tutorial. There are numerous waves of enemies to get through en route to said encounter, and although it might be possible to simply bypass a lot of them and leave your followers to deal with the situation, there's a lot to be said for looking after those guys. Every follower that you keep alive makes your health gauge a little longer. Small icons above your health gauge represent the followers in play, and if any of them start flashing red, that's your cue to go and help them out. To a casual observer, the boss battle at the end of the level would look like little more than a one-on-one fight between two muscular guys, but it's more involved than that because only heroic combos and grab moves have any effect on Beowulf's rival. Any other moves you attempt to hit him with are a waste of time.

We look forward to bringing you more information on Beowulf as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, be sure to check out our new screenshots and movies of the game in action.

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Discussion

60 comments
theonlygamer
theonlygamer

How long has this game been in developement? It's cool that it's good as a preview but I wonder if this will just turn out to be another placid movie game

slyde_jinx
slyde_jinx

The game looks very good. Although its look like copy of God of War, I don't mind that. for PC user who don't have PS2 like me, this the chance to feel the action

solidsnake7882
solidsnake7882

powerframe8 and i hoped the graphics would be CGI good... so much for next gen. Posted Nov 10, 2007 7:03 pm PT Rate this comment / (+0) I had to respond to this. Give me a second while I stop LMAO. They used top of the line computers and motion capture technology for the movie. Do you realize how unafforadable a system with that kind of power would be in this day and age? The graphics look preety sweet and if you're wanting next gen games to look like the movie you are in the wrong decade.

Teyon
Teyon

Uhm...the 360 has a button A on it..I don't even own one and I know that much.

neatfeatguy
neatfeatguy

I cannot stand PC games that get ported and the tutorial information that flashes on the screen (Press Button A or some such like that) isn't changed over to reflect the fact that you're playing on a PC and not the 360/PS3/Wii. I hope a demo will be out to play for the PC version. I'd hate to pick up the game and find out it's about exciting as the pathetic Jericho game. I'm sure glad I didn't waste my money there.

uklegendkiller
uklegendkiller

Not to sure about this one, movie based games aren't really that good with the exception of Spider-Man 2, and chronicles of riddick. I'll proberly rent it Instead. P.S - How much you bettin this has an easy achievments list, roll on 1000 easy gamerpionts

gun_blade25
gun_blade25

To all you people whining about how they previewed it on the 360 instead of (insert other system here). Let me give a brief run down on the differences: PS 3: No difference PC: Slightly better graphics PSP: Completely different game Reviews are one thing, but did any of you stop and think for one second that maybe there wasn't any point of writing three different previews of the same game for three different systems? What if the demo was only available on 360 at the time? Are you saying that you don't want any info on a game if it isn't specific to your system?

M_A_D
M_A_D

hmmmmm not bad...

MasterChief1013
MasterChief1013

though movie-tie-in games that are good are rare, they're their nonetheless. (chronicles of riddick, king kong.)

Vojkan80001
Vojkan80001

Hmm God of War clone and gamespot does not mention that ONCE!

powerframe8
powerframe8

and i hoped the graphics would be CGI good... so much for next gen.

vass86
vass86

i haven't looked forward to a film in a long time but beowulf looks pretty good. if the game turns out to be decent then i'll get that too. Ray winston rules :-)

carlosgames
carlosgames

the game looks good, but..... why in the @#$@#$ hell does gamespot continues just copy-pasting the same text for reviews (or previews) for games between 360 and ps3? the text is exactly the same!!!! ps3 owners doesn't care if the game is well played on xbox or wii and viceversa. just don't be lazy

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

this is the PSP forum for me RealPauper ^_^ and who cares why, this game sounds awesome.

RealPauper
RealPauper

This is a demo for the Xbox 360 ... what the h*ll is it doing in the PC forum ???

eeo10
eeo10

I hope there's naked anglina

advocacy
advocacy

I wonder if this game will be any good. Most movie license games are horrible.

wiips3360k5
wiips3360k5

that whole carnal rage thing looks cool. i like the lving system too since it not only levels u up, but apparently it levels ur crew up as well

Zephyr618
Zephyr618

this looks like one of the very few movie games i might just play

HVPinc
HVPinc

No way... This game looks really good and sounds really cool... I just might get my hopes u...

kraz1e8
kraz1e8

this looks crazy!!!!!

shortster1
shortster1

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

zouhou
zouhou

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

NUTTY_POO
NUTTY_POO

need more viking based games. this looks sweet. Beowulf the Dragon Slayer is an awesome dude. Should be good when it comes out. Peace n Carrots.

GhostyMcboo
GhostyMcboo

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

raride
raride

this looks beter than conan

Saranalas
Saranalas

I hope it's good. I /really/ hope it's good. My teacher made me read the poem in sixth grade. (read: Me. Just me. No one else.)

Maximiliator
Maximiliator

oh, i hope that there´ll be lots of combo/parry action ! Not only senseless slaying... ! senseless slaying would be nice , too though :P !!! --- Max

strawberryheart
strawberryheart

This looks to be an actually good game.....from a MOVIE!!!

dutch777
dutch777

Looks good so far. lets see how it plays.

Gothan
Gothan

could this finally break the curse of movie-to-game tie ins?

mikado01
mikado01

"They're powerful enough, in fact, that you can PUNCH A HUGE SEA SERPENT IN THE FACE and cause its head to crash down onto the rocks next to you." Thats all I needed to read.

zgreenwell
zgreenwell

Looks like it could be a good movie tie-in. Let's hope so.

bodylotion
bodylotion

It looks too chaotic to my taste and i still having flashbacks of the horrible movie (not the new movie but the one with Christopher Lambert).... nevertheless i'll never judge a game before i play it.

dashalcondoin
dashalcondoin

Sounds like MUA (yawn) movie games are always cheap rip offs.

beckoflight
beckoflight

Yeay a God of War style game on PC at last :) & it looks areally good using the GRAW 1-2 engine & the gameplay is just bruttally awsome ....considering the UBI made King Kong the game wich i think its just the best movie based game in history !

MKOwnzU
MKOwnzU

FREAKIN AWESOME!!! wow this game seriously looks SOO COOL!

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

I like the power meter award/generation system that they have in place I had a similar idea to this but for a beat'em up game instead of the food items but it wasn't based just on what you did it also attempted to find out if you were having fun...There's more to it but I won't post here...

galerian86
galerian86

Not to say that using God of War style of gameplay is bad, but they need to up the ante for people to take notice and say that this is a good game. Conan was a carbon copy of GoW if you see the video, at least Beowulf try to look different.

Jawsh12
Jawsh12

I think it will be a bust

Zee666
Zee666

It sounds alright, but movie to game titles are always really bad, hopefully this won't so with beowulf.

jazilla
jazilla

I never hold out any hope of movie to game titles being any good, much less poem, to movie, to game. This looks good, but so have a ton of other movie to game titles and most of them end up the same way: pretty bad.

capitancahonas
capitancahonas

Great source material (poem, not movie!), definitely worth some time, and I reckon it'll be better than conan, which I felt was a bit of a let down...