300: March to Glory Impressions - Combat, Graphics, and Sound

Warners Bros. Interactive shows off its PSP action game based on the upcoming movie.


300: March to Glory is the upcoming PSP game based on the upcoming 300 film, which is based on Frank Miller's epic (and awesomely brutal) graphic novel. The film and game both follow the story of King Leonidas, who faced off against Xerxes and the Persian army with 300 Spartan soldiers in the battle of Thermopylae. The game is being developed especially for the PSP by Collision Studios, a fledgling developer made up of industry veterans from Activision, EA, Warner Brothers, Gameloft, Digital Eclipse, and Vicarious Visions. We had the chance to get a look at the first few levels of the game, which is set to come out around the time of the movie's release.

You'll leap into action against an entire army in this game based on comic author Frank Miller's graphic novel.
You'll leap into action against an entire army in this game based on comic author Frank Miller's graphic novel.

The game will cast you as either Leonidas or as a phalanx of Spartans ready to rock and roll as they face the massive Persian army. The linear game will send you up against hordes of Persian soldiers, broken up by tough boss battles. Besides humans, you'll have to face off against amazingly ill-tempered members of the animal kingdom who've been tapped to stomp you. For instance, we saw a phalanx of Spartans contend with a surly war elephant.

300: March to Glory's gameplay is, for the most part, a whole lot of hacking and slashing. However, it looks like the game won't just boil down to button mashing, since it will offer several features to build on its simple combat system. You'll have light and heavy attacks that you can string together to perform melee combos. You'll also be able to swap between one of three weapons, depending on the occasion and your preferences. Your choices will be a single sword, a handy spear, or dual swords. Each has its own unique pluses and minuses that you'll have to weigh to decide which one is right for you.

For example, spears can be thrown to make an enemy shish kebab, but you'll lose the spear until you find another on the battlefield or take one off a mangled foe. Deciding between single and dual swords requires you to make a choice on how you want to fight. Using a single sword lets you use a shield to block attacks, bash enemies to daze them, and decapitate foes when you throw your weapon, which are all handy abilities to have. On the other hand, wielding two swords forces you to give up your shield, but it beefs up your attack damage by leaps and bounds. The three styles differ enough to allow players some variety in gameplay. Another perk for players is the game's customization options, which let you take the honor you've earned for each kill on the battlefield (which is stored like currency) and use it to upgrade your weapons and combos, as well as power a killing move during your attacks. The combat system differs somewhat when playing as a phalanx, which requires you to guide an entire group of brave warriors to do their business.

The visuals in the game sport a stylized look that feature a variety of different nods to the stunning motion picture. Leonidas and his warriors feature a good level of detail, as does the huge horde of foes you'll be slicing through. Animation is still coming together, but it has moments of fluidity we hope stay constant during the action. The action as Leonidas is very cool and enhanced by slow-motion effects and close-ups when you perform finishing moves. The environment we've seen so far is sparse, but it features plenty of ambient action and a whole lot of arrows that randomly rain potential death on you and your boys. Aside from the graphics, the game's storytelling features a unique, hand-drawn look, similar in spirit to what's been seen in Konami's Metal Gear digital comics for the PSP. You'll see impressively detailed line art that's enhanced by animation and camera pans as the whole bloody adventure unfolds before you.

You'll play either as a lone king or as a phalanx of soldiers.
You'll play either as a lone king or as a phalanx of soldiers.

The audio in the game is still a bit embryonic, but it features elements from the film score as well as bits crafted specifically for the game. The sound effects run the gamut of clangs and clashes that you might hear while in the middle of a battlefield mowing down opponents. The speech you'll hear ranges from the ambient cries heard on the battlefield to the ensuing death cries of your foes. More significantly, you'll hear actor David Wenham serve as narrator in the game, just as he does in the film.

Based on what we've seen, 300: March to Glory shows a lot of promise. The hack-and-slash action has a pleasing amount of variety to it that should appeal to button mashers, as well as to those players who choose to learn the various combos available. The ability to level up your fighting skills offers a nice bit of customization, which should be cool. On top of all that, the storytelling and unlockables should provide fans of the graphic novel some good extras to check out. 300: March to Glory is currently scheduled to ship March 2007, around the time of the film's release.

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