The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian is a new beat-'em-up for the GameCube based on this year's action blockbuster The Scorpion King. Itself an offshoot of The Mummy films, The Scorpion King movie was positioned as a vehicle for WWE wrestler The Rock's rise to action-movie stardom. As such, the movie featured a very thin plot and a lot of fighting, and if you dig very deeply into Rise of the Akkadian on the GameCube, you'll find that the same is true of the video game version. The game stays true to the roots of its license, but that doesn't make it a very interesting or entertaining game.
In Rise of the Akkadian, you take control of The Rock's character from the film, Mathayus, as you travel through an original storyline created specifically for the game. The plot here is positioned as a prequel to the film--you guide Mathayus as he is still training to be an assassin in the warlike society of Akkad. At first you'll be battling human foes, but eventually, Mathayus will be pitted against an evil wizard named Magus and his otherworldly forces. This sounds all well and good, but really the plot in Rise of the Akkadian is just an excuse to let you take control of The Rock and beat the crap out of hordes of enemies.
You control Mathayus from a standard third-person perspective as you guide him through the game's assortment of levels. Aside from the lightest of puzzle solving elements, such as having to turn a crank in one room to open a door in another, the focus of the gameplay is squarely centered on fighting, fighting, and more fighting. In each area of each level, you'll be greeted with a great number of enemies who rush at you blindly, waiting for you to unleash a variety of combat moves on them and knock them down. It's not uncommon to see Mathayus swinging his fists and kicking his feet madly into a group of three or four enemies, taking them all down en masse. In fact, the more you play The Scorpion King, the more it starts to look not so much like an adventure game as it does a simple brawler like Final Fight and its ilk.
The Scorpion King would like you to think that its combat system is complex and intricate. Mathayus has access to four different classes of weapons: gauntlets, one- and two-handed swords, and spears. As you progress through the game, you'll find more powerful versions of each of these types of weapons, and when you pick up a new one, it replaces the weapon you had previously. No matter which weapon you're using, Mathayus has two attack buttons: a fast, light attack and a slower, more powerful one. These can be chained together in preset sequences to pull off a reasonably large number of attack combos on enemies, and each of the four weapon classes has its own combos. In addition, you can perform a simple jump attack and a couple of super moves that drain a "stamina" gauge. You can also pick up shields that let you block enemies' attacks, but these can be broken, and you'll have to replace them when they are.
Unfortunately, though you have access to a multitude of moves, very often you'll find yourself simply flailing on the buttons randomly in the thick of frenzied combat. The action is usually too harried for you to really think about what moves you're using, and it's often difficult to even integrate blocks into the flow of combat. The super moves aren't very impressive either, as they generally consist of a roundhouse kick and a charge move. These are good for clearing out enemies who are ganging up on you, but they require little or no technique to use, much like the rest of your moves. The GameCube controller doesn't really lend itself to the combat in The Scorpion King--the controller's odd button layout sometimes makes it hard to keep straight which buttons control which attacks. Ultimately, the gameplay is either too easy, in areas where you can simply mash buttons to plow your way through the stream of enemies, or needlessly hard, in places where enemies have an unfair advantage against you through numbers and placement. The combat in Rise of the Akkadian just feels flimsy and frustrating overall.
The Scorpion King suffers from some mechanical flaws in addition to its monotonous gameplay. The camera has almost no degree of automatic adjustment--it's pretty much always up to you to adjust the perspective on your own. This is accomplished with the C-stick, and it's easy enough when you're just running around, but when you're busy trying to stave off waves of enemies, it can become very frustrating to have Mathayus facing the camera and therefore obscuring oncoming attackers. The camera will also occasionally get stuck on walls or inside doorways, hiding the action entirely. The game's graphics are a little bland but generally serviceable, and the frame rate is very smooth, for the most part. Finally, the music that plays while you're engaged in combat loops ad nauseam, and since you're fighting all the time, this can be enough to make you tear your hair out.
The Scorpion King doesn't give you much to come back to. After you've spent hours bashing heads with the same attack moves, there isn't much incentive to keep playing the game, let alone to replay it once you've finished. The game includes a "bonus gallery" that lets you view FMV clips and concept art, but other than unlocking these paltry items, there's little reason to keep playing once you've got a feel for the combat. The game does feature the voice acting of The Rock himself, along with a couple of other lesser Hollywood names like Mark Hamill and Earl Boen. Unfortunately, all the celebrity voices in the world couldn't dress up this otherwise bland and repetitive game.