Chances are pretty good that when you read (or pretended to read) the poem "Beowulf" in high school, you never imagined that it would one day become a video game. Thanks to Paramount releasing a movie version of the famous tale, the once unimaginable has come true. We got a first look at the game in action at the Leipzig Games Convention.
The game tells the tragic tale of Beowulf, a Viking warrior born during the fifth century. It follows the events of the movie for a while, but where the movie skips ahead 30 years, the game continues linearly, eventually rejoining the film for the end. The developer is working closely with Paramount and has been given full access to character likenesses and assets from the movie. That means you'll be seeing Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, and John Malkovich in the game.
At its core, Beowulf is a single-player hack-and-slash with a bit of tactical elements thrown in (there's no online or co-op). The level we saw took place on a tall seaside cliff. After Beowulf makes his way down toward the shore, he witnesses a burning fortress surrounded by dead bodies. A man atop the fortress wall calls out to Beowulf, apparently challenging him, and then swarms of soldiers wearing Viking helmets and equipped with large swords and shields attack. Using the game's simple combat system, which appeared to consist mostly of hitting the B button, Beowulf quickly dispatches the first few attackers with his sword and then takes out another group with grappling moves, killing them off with one of four available finishing moves. But the foes keep coming, and Beowulf utilizes his comrades to fend off the attacking forces. This is done by pressing the left bumper, which brings up a list of available commands that Beowulf can give out.
While the core combat is simple, the game's legacy system encourages you to mix things up. Heroic points are earned for performing advanced combo moves and can be used to improve your team and morale. Improving morale is important because it makes your team of soldiers fight better and allows them to perform actions not normally available. You can earn carnal points, which can later be used to upgrade Beowulf by fighting hand-to-hand, using grabs, and even getting hit.
Beowulf also has the ability to use something called carnal fury, a skill that we witnessed in action when he took on an enormous, cycloptic sea serpent with giant fangs on a tiny island in the middle of the sea. Armed only with his fists, Beowulf attacked the great beast but caused no damage. Eventually Beowulf was flung into the sea, and there was a brief cutscene where he learned about his carnal fury. Beowulf climbed back onto the island and used his carnal fury, which is initiated with the right trigger. Suddenly everything slowed down, the sky changed color, and Beowulf attacked the serpent and, using a series of timed button presses, climbed up his neck and ripped the horn from the top of its head. That's where the demo ended.
Beowulf has some nice visual touches, but as a whole the visuals are a bit uneven. The model for the main character was quite impressive, even in the real-time cutscenes. There was no shortage of enemies onscreen at once, though there wasn't much variety to the appearance of the bad guys. Most impressive was the sea serpent at the end of the demo. It was very detailed, moved smoothly, and thanks in no small part to its large size, looked quite menacing.
For a game that's just three months away, Beowulf had some rough edges, but nothing that can't be fixed between now and the game's November release date. If the story holds up and the combat lives up to what the developer promises, Beowulf could wind up being another game worthy of your attention this busy holiday season.