‘Beowulf’ bathed in blood
That mighty wrencher-of-arms and breaker-of-skulls, Beowulf, has dragged his blood-smeared tale from Old English poetry to the big screen and to the video console.
The results are gruesome in more ways than one.
Ubisoft’s “Beowulf” begins with the traditional tale of the Geatish warrior who travels to the mead hall of King Hrothgar and encounters that ripper-of-bodies, Grendel. After tearing off the giant’s arm and sending him whimpering to Mommy, Beowulf tracks her down, too. But that’s just the start because the game follows Beowulf’s career as king of the Danes, battling human and inhuman foes and determining what kind of monarch and warrior he’ll be.
The game earns its M rating through bloody and bawdy encounters.
Blood spews with every slash and stroke — to the degree that it actually becomes comical, then irritating. The buckets of blood actually obscure much of the action. But unlike the upcoming “Conan,” Beowulf doesn’t actually send severed heads, arms and legs flying through the air. Aside from the red goo, the worst thing is probably the squishing/tearing sound emitted during the hand-to-hand engagements. So, if you’re expecting a re-creation of the movie’s limb-ripping battles between Grendel and Hrothgar’s men, you’ll be disappointed. In fact, Beowulf’s the only one who actually fights the giant in this game.
Although Beowulf fights naked in the computer-animated movie, he’s clothed here. The same can’t be said of Grendel’s mom, her pals or quite a few of the other females populating the game. Mommy is played by Angelina Jolie in the movie and looks the same in the game — basically nude, except for thin streams of golden liquid that flow over her body. Her companions go similarly unclad, but it’s sort of hard to tell since they spend most of the time entwined provocatively around Beowulf, trying to tempt him.
The graphics are good, with well-rendered settings and detailed characters. However, most of the action is hard to see because it’s covered in blood and largely takes place in misty forests and dimly lit caverns or halls.
The game play is pretty typical for a sword-wielding adventure. Run. Encounter foes. Mash buttons. Special button combinations unleash spectacular displays of swordsmanship — which are likely to be obscured by a cascade of blood. Finally, major battles require a precisely timed sequence of button presses to ensure victory. The results don’t really go beyond what gamers have been doing for ages.
The game offers some squad-based action. Beowulf is accompanied by a loyal group of Thanes, whom he can order to fight, move boulders, row and so forth. They’re a pretty dull bunch who frequently require saving and must often be encouraged to work harder through Beowulf’s chanting. This involves a tedious exercise in rhythmic button-pressing.
The post-Grendel campaign involves some role-playing elements, such as consulting with advisers, gathering an army of Thanes, leveling up certain abilities and deciding the course of Beowulf’s career. But no matter what course he takes, it’s certain that the brutal and bellicose king will be painted red.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PC
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