Beowulf
360_beowulf-cover

I was invited to see this movie with a couple friends of mine, and I was expecting it to be pretty lame - the trailers made it look like some sort of dead-eyed CGI "Heavy Metal" wannabe. No, I wasn't familiar with the classic story of Beowulf and Grendel. Yes, I was embarrassed by that. No, I haven't read it in the original Danish yet. Yes, I'm embarrassed if it wasn't actually originally written in Danish. Yes, you're sick of this gag. My point, and I do have one, is that the movie turned out to be a really good time.

Most game adaptations of movies turn out to be a load of ass, with the occasional exception. Being fully conscious of this, I still picked up "Beowulf" at EB. Want to know the real reason? It had two price tags on it. One for $AUS109.95, and one for "2 for $50". Most people would take a price reduction of over 75% to be a warning, but I see it as an opportunity and possibly a challenge, so for my wallet I reached.

"Beowulf" is a mix of inspirations, including "Tomb Raider", "Golden Axe", the light or dark side character progression of "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" and a bemani game. During the battle with Grendel, I found myself wishing I had a dance mat. Perhaps I exaggerate a little bit, but I am seriously beginning to rue the day that "quick time events" were invented. If I want to memorize the right buttons to press and perfect my timing, I'll work at a nuclear power plant, where at least there'll be more interesting consequences than having to redo a boss battle for the fifth time if I miss one.

The game mirrors the events of the movie fairly well, starting with a tutorial level re-enacting Beowulf's race with Brecca that shows off the "Tomb Raider"-esque climbing, hopping and cliff-edge crawling type shenanigans most gamers will be familiar with, as well as introducing combat via a crab-crushing fight, before leading into a battle with some sea serpents, which introduces "Carnal Fury". "Carnal Fury" is essentially super strength and invulnerability that lasts for a limited time, but is the equivalent of the "dark side", whereas performing intricate combos and dodging/parrying moves builds your "Heroism" which also has its benefits - increasing health and improving combat performance.

Once out of the tutorial, you head for Hrothgar's kingdom to kick a little Grendel ass. This is where you're introduced to your group of thanes, AI allies that you have limited control and influence over (the aforementioned "Heroism" also improves their performance, and when high enough, enables special moves). Unfortunately, this is where the bemani influence comes in - in order to improve your thanes' performance at various tasks, like opening doors, turning wheels (to open doors) or, in this case at the beginning of the game, dodge reefs, you have to press X and Y at set times as a circle spins around. It's a bit silly, but is used to amusing effect in one place I won't give away.

Most of the gameplay involves running into an area, beating seven shades of shite out of a bunch of whatevers, opening a door and moving on, but it's fun enough for a while - I put a couple hours into it my first sitting, and have every intention of finishing it. Once you get past a certain point in the game (it's divided into chapters and acts), the Mead Hall acts as a central hub for various missions that fill in about 30 years of Beowulf's life not covered by the movie. Replayability is covered by different endings ("DETERMINE YOUR LEGACY") based on which missions you do and how you do them.

"Beowulf" gets a bit repetitive, but it's definitely eye candy - not quite up to the standard of the movie's CGI, but it's getting there. The surround sound is pretty nifty, too, and overall presentation isn't too shabby at all. Unless you can't stand hack and slash action, can't stand hearing Ray Winstone grunt a lot, or are in fact a Communist, you'd probably get at least a little enjoyment out of this game - more likely if it was part of a 2 for $50 deal than if it was $109.95

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