Feature Article

Ryse: Are You Not Entertained?

Roman bloodbath.

by

Marius Titus was once a family man, but it's only a few minutes into Ryse: Son of Rome when all that he loves is forcibly ripped away from him. Barbarians are at the gates, and Marius' mother and sister are slaughtered before he and his father have time to draw their swords. Marius' father, too, is not long for this world. After Marius watches his beloved mentor succumb to a bloody death, he cries out in vengeance. His thirst for blood has been activated, and yet I suspect it shall be difficult to quench.

Indeed, after recently playing almost two hours of Ryse, I was struck by just how carefully and lovingly the camera caressed each brutal slow-motion execution. If you come to video games in the hope of expressing your most carnal instincts, Ryse seems a fine outlet for it. As for me, the sensory overload was overwhelming. After all the close camera angles, the guttural howls, and the freshly amputated limbs, I was exhausted. Marius still needed blood, but I was ready for a bath.

At the same time, I grew to appreciate Ryse more than I had previously. After seeing the game for the first time at E3 2013, I joined a chorus of voices expressing concern over gameplay that looked more like a succession of quick-time events than responsive combat. As it turns out, Ryse certainly has its share of QTEs, but they appear only when you are ready to finish off your growling opponent, and the game signals them not with a button prompt, but by highlighting your foe with a temporary glow that corresponds to the color of the button you must press. Before you can perform this backstabbing ballet, however, you engage barbarians and brutes with standard attacks and counters that recall the fluid combat of the Arkham Batman games. Ryse: Son of Rome tries to bridge the gap between standard action games and cinematic spectacle with this rhythmic tug of war between standard swordplay and in-your-face violence.

Faces contort in pain and brows furrow in grief, and the camera sticks close to Marius' back, ensuring that you stare down every disembodied limb.

Armed with gladius and shield, I waded through the barbarous hordes, slashing and countering my way to uproarious glory. I enjoyed myself most when surrounded by baddies, reacting to oncoming attacks with quick blocks and rolls, and then slicing off their arms, heads, or whatever body parts might be protruding from these grunting bags of meat. You can finish off each and every enemy with a grotesque execution, and I must say: the game did a great job of making these executions contextual. If I were in the midst of vulnerable enemies, the move might involve stabbing more than one of them in the same execution, and there were enough varied animations to keep the moves from becoming visually stagnant.

You don't have to perform these executions, but you gain more experience when you do. Ryse encourages you to shed as much blood as possible, and the game is clearly in love with its levels of gore. When lopping off an arm or leg, you can see the bone and viscera that remain. Each quick-time event is accompanied by a slight pause that gives you time to react--and time to notice every grimace and every spurt. Ryse's impressive visuals drive home the madness. Faces contort in pain and brows furrow in grief, and the camera sticks close to Marius' back, ensuring that you stare down every disembodied limb. Ryse's focus meter further hones the power trip, allowing you to enter a temporary slow-mo state that lets you slice away with abandon.

So closely does the camera focus on the violence (and Marius' back) that I was frequently attacked by enemies I couldn't see, making it all but impossible to counter their blades. Outside of combat, moving around as Marius wasn't very satisfying. The levels I played were as linear as they come, and every time I tried to move outside Ryse's limited corridors, I jittered and bumped against the geometry and invisible barriers. Marius can leap and climb when the game wants you to, but he can't step over a single fallen beam if it isn't what developer Crytek had in mind.

Ryse replaces the joy of exploration with contextual combat moves and other surprises. You can grab and fling pikes to take out foes at a distance, man mounted bows and point them at cauldrons of oil or explosive barrels, and even give your fellow soldiers contextual commands when the game calls for it. At predetermined locations, you can also join your compatriots in formation, deflecting flaming arrows before launching a volley of your own. These are brief and simple diversions, however: Ryse's focus is primarily on the melee action, and it was a level in which I faced heinous barbarians clad in horned masks that Ryse's combat rhythms began to click.

The atmosphere was dark and dreadful, and the men were spooked. We moved slowly through the dank forest, unable to trot any faster until the game allowed it. And then the brutes arrived, forcing me to tumble out of the way of the deadliest attacks and stab combatants from behind. I enjoyed the tempo here as each button press led me from one merciless chop to the next. There were two battles that further upped the ante, but rather than deepen the combat, they only served to highlight Ryse's limitations. A boss fight against a towering warrior involved performing the same tumble-and-slash move over and over again, though to be fair, a quick-time dodge maneuver was added to the boss fight's second half. In another battle, I had to focus my efforts on the savages that attempted to set fire to my caged comrades. Unless I overlooked this mysterious feature, Ryse doesn't allow you to break free of combat once you are engaged. I couldn't sprint towards my targets, and ended up rolling in that direction so that I could execute them before my fellow soldiers died in a flaming heap.

The narrative context for all this killing was flimsy but straightforward. Murder is at the forefront of Ryse, yet in its finest moments, there's an undeniably satisfying rhythm to the hacking. I am more curious than ever to see whether Ryse: Son of Rome can vary this rhythm enough to avoid tedium, or to at very least allow players to take some deep breaths and clear their heads. This is the kind of audiovisual assault I might enjoy in short spurts, rather than by the riverful that flows from Ryse.

Discussion

362 comments
spotlifetv
spotlifetv

The game is not bad at all. Looking forward to Ryse 2 with improvements. Sequel worthy! Run Tell That!

jecomans
jecomans

Seeing as this game is meant to be the XBox launch showcase, I find it worrying that there aren't reviews up yet.

forcefactor13
forcefactor13

Looks great.

One question, though: wasn't this originally going to be a Kinect game? I seem to remember the original hype surrounding its Kinect capabilities. Not that I'm complaining; I don't have a Kinect, so I kind of hope I can play with a controller. The fact that the combos are activated by buttons makes me think this isn't a Kinect game anymore. What the heck happened??

VintAge68
VintAge68

Interesting feature: Marius certainly is not as quick as Bayonetta in the flow of his moves but the Colosseum demo I played recently felt rather good.

MN121MN
MN121MN

The moment I hear gore gameplay, I could only feel for the Australians with their classifications board...

Garm31
Garm31

Why is there a pause or slowing of the combat? DON'T FUCKING SLOW IT DOWN! . Also they removed the QTE button prompts from the footage. It  looks far too easy. It's to keep the casual non gamer coming back for more. Such a fucking pity. This a very pretty game, marred by truly awful combat design choices.

magiq-mike
magiq-mike

So basically this is Xbox's God of War.... interesting

Evil_Saluki
Evil_Saluki

The character looks like a random guard you plough through in a God of War.

mickyfinn84
mickyfinn84

Those QTE finishers make the game look terrible. I hope there is a demo.

Neo_OnionKnight
Neo_OnionKnight

Ryse: Son of QTE's

This summer prepare!...Prepare for button commands!

macaque12
macaque12

Don't get me wrong, but all the excessive gore and slash limbs look like those games to get the attention of kids that  "are not allowed" to play the game yet. I didn't find a single reason to buy this game, looks a bit foolish right now. I do hope I only got the wrong impression of it.

zyxahn
zyxahn

I have been waiting for something to give me the reason to get this game.  Your views and reviews on games are the best to me.  You almost had me going to preorder it until the bumping into invisible walls and not letting you out of combat.  I was hoping it would be a hack and slash rpg.

RustyOn9
RustyOn9

Does it have selections of different armours and weaps?

Kyrylo
Kyrylo

oh, look game that was dumbed down in twice thanks to microcrap crappy technology and article "I too was a hater once...." How original. 

wristbreaker
wristbreaker

I think this and titanfall will make the decision for me to buy xbox one despite being loyal to Sony since PSONE...

guitarist1980
guitarist1980

From the screen shots I have seen the xbox one seems to have better color saturation and the textures seem more detailed from the BF4 side by side comparison. The PS4 had better Anti Aliasing that's the only thing I noticed thus far. But each game will be different.

guitarist1980
guitarist1980

I played all the Kill zones I found the games moderately fun but the story telling was to dry for me. Ryse looks like a decent launch title I have it on my list with Forza 5 and COD Ghosts [I am not a huge COD fan but I am interested to see if they made any improvents, not just better graphics]. I am honestly not that excited for the launch titles except for Forza 5. Dark Souls 2 is the game I am most excited about and its not even coming to next gen consoles.. and Its getting delayed on the PC.

Yulaw2000
Yulaw2000

In the video it shows the guy using his shield to "bounce" an arrow back at the guy firing it. 

Evidently they aren’t going for super realism but even with that in mind it seems like a far fetched mechanic for the genera IMO.

ahpuck
ahpuck

I'm predicting this is going to be one of the, if not the lowest reviewed games at launch. maybe a 5 or 7, but no higher than that.

Cubs360
Cubs360

When I can get my hands on an Xbox 1 I will buy it along with Ryse.  Hopefully they have some on store shelves before the end of the year.

ffragale1
ffragale1

if cryteck is smart the will multyplatform Ryse eventually

dmdavenport
dmdavenport

All hail Marius!  Sparticus would be proud of you.

Irish-J
Irish-J

My PS4 is paid off, didn't pre order the Xbox One, then I saw Ryse, Titanfall and Dead Rising and now I HAVE to have an Xbone at least for the exclusives.  I'd give anything if I'd have pre ordered an Xbone at Gamestop, but I did pre order this game and Dead Rising for the extras.  Hoping to pick "One" up on launch day or at least before Christmas, very excited about this system now.

moesuir
moesuir

but.....but....PS4 has knick-knack Paddywhack!!

Wrathesoul
Wrathesoul

So far am not really impressed by any of the games coming for next gen as far as enhanced graphics or game length as they look way too close to current gen. The console specs look very nice tho just games look not much different.  As far as length I have read plenty the will be short like what is currently made 4-6 hours so not really worth a full price purchase.

KenshinXSlayer
KenshinXSlayer

Shadow of Rome will always be my favorite game set in this time.  I even loved the sneaking missions with Octavianus.  His last four letters spell... anus. I'm sorry to be nasty, but that name has always gave me a chuckle.  Anyways, Shadow of Rome seems to have more gore than Ryse and I loved ripping peoples' arms off and cheering to the crowd. Good times :D

jack00
jack00

Graphics are impressives, but the gameplay... When they showed that gladiator mode a couple of months ago, god it looked aweful. Reminded me of that ps2 game called spartan total warrior, but worst.

emacdaddy08
emacdaddy08

Come to ps4, and that may be the nudge I need to get one.

chieflion
chieflion

 i feel like if this game could go open world

it should

then i would pay money

mrGEEteam
mrGEEteam

cry engine sucks .looks ok  bet games just feels like shit..

PinkFloyd2003
PinkFloyd2003

@jecomans I'm sure its just another review embargo.  The likelihood that that there isn't one and simply no one has reviewed the game yet is pretty slim.

jecomans
jecomans

@MN121MN Then you misunderstand the problems our Board has had with violence and other things in games recently. There is no need to worry, the international game community has blown the Australian censorship issue way out of proportion. 

p.s. By the time you had written your comment the game had been rated R18+ (High impact violence) here.

Kyokamaru
Kyokamaru

@wristbreaker you will buy a console for years to come based on two games that you will play thro in 2 weeks?...........

KenshinXSlayer
KenshinXSlayer

@guitarist1980 Dark Souls II is one reason why I'm not getting a next gen console until either Holiday 2014 or Spring 2015.  This will be the only game I'll be playing in 2014.  I'm actually re-playing all of the King's Field and Shadow Tower games to get ready for Dark Souls II. 

TheExxorcist
TheExxorcist

@moesuir PS4 has Killzone SF: Best looking game I've seen on a console... 

I would love to see the frame rates of that game on an Xbox... my god, would it even be playable???

Too bad Xbox going for the less powerful machine... I seriously was gonna get one... but COD in 720 with lower framerates??? 

COD is not a visually impressive game to begin with... unacceptable Microsoft. 

My Final point is MS has some good exclusives, but to pay monthly fees on 2 consoles??? Playstation Will command my living room once again... If I'm going to be stuck with another console for 10 years. I want one with more recourses and wiggle room for developers... 

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@jack00 WOoOOoOAAHAHHh SPartan Total Warrior was fuckin awesome....don't you dare knock that game.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@chieflion So sick of open world games, they all turn out to be copy and paste, and hollow as hell.

jecomans
jecomans

@PinkFloyd2003 Yeah, it just seems like an odd game to embargo this close to the line. I did see one review that was pretty positive from a minor review site, but they were getting in trouble for breaking the embargo. The game is out in about 5 hours...

GameFan1983
GameFan1983

@TheExxorcist @moesuir and ryse is the best looking game I've seen on any platform.  even though it will probably end up with 7-8.5 from most reviews, but it doesn't change the fact that it is the best looking game technical wise.

I find it's funny that some medicore games like killzone and infamous which averagely scored 7.0-8.5 perviously suddenly became Sony drones holy grail because they are ps4's first wave exclusives.  graphic wise they might look decent but nothing compare to Ryse.    

Cloud7794
Cloud7794

@WantYouBad @chieflion Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was a very good change though. Action-rpg fighting (think god of war) mixed with Skyrim-style exploration and a loot system comparable to Diablo  3 on consoles.

Ryse: Son of Rome More Info

First Release on Nov 22, 2013
  • Xbox One
Ryse is a gritty, visceral action game that draws gamers into the epic times of the Roman Empire.