Clash of the Titans Review
Developer: Game Republic / Publisher: Namco Bandai Games / ESRB: Teen (Blood and Gore, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $39.99
It’s probably fair to assume that the developers of Clash of the Titans didn’t go into this project’s initial planning sessions with a clean whiteboard and scrawl goals of:
* Destroy audience’s fond memories of the camp classic mythology story
* Make combat as complicated as possible
* Ship months after the movie hit theaters to dodge all that free marketing publicity
* Avoid fun
Sadly, those points are all takeaways from a disappointing God of War-like third-person action game. Peppered hither and thither among this laborious adventure are occasional “woah, cool” moments, usually the first time you see the slow-mo gut-ripping kill moves, particularly on the bigger bosses. And to a certain extent I appreciated the volume of items to collect, even if most of them were worthless virtual junk. Lying underneath the straightforward hack-em-up is an extensive level up system that allows you to upgrade weapons, though it’s convoluted, like it was over-designed. This mechanic plays into the action with some weapons being more effective against certain monsters, only it’s pure guesswork to figure out the best combinations.
Combat itself is more involved than mashing four-button combos. Even some of the more basic skeletons require what seems like hundreds of light and heavy hits before splintering into bones. Instead, you need to use soul-sucking techniques to both inflict damage and increase your soul meter that allows you to perform the more powerful soul powers unique to each of the hundreds of weapons. It sounds more fun than it ends up being due to the shoddy, over-simplified level and quest design. Many times you’re locked into what’s essentially an arena where you slaughter wave after wave of spawning enemies, and it’s not always apparent that you need to perform a very specific task to end the onslaught.
The story, loosely following the plot of the movie, doesn’t encourage you to keep plodding through repetitive enemy scenarios. Fortunately, unless you’re trapped in a set arena, it’s often possible to run straight past the enemies crawling out of the ground or appearing out of thin air. Progression just means stopping at awkwardly filmed cut scenes where sitting through stiff animations, wonky lip-syncing, and some very dodgy dialogue make it a challenge in itself to find out where you’re heading next, and why. Perseus’ pursuit of the Kraken is really all you need to know, with his battle against the gods and his own demigod status merely providing opportunities for some plain weird word play. Oddly, it also seems some planned cut scenes are missing. That or the continuity guy was asleep at the wheel as you’ll often go into a cut scene and out the other side and wonder “where did those guys come from?” But keep fighting through, as Perseus often says, “I do this as a man!”
Clash of the Titans has two-player co-op and drop in options, but that would require a very good friend to take one for the team for you to earn a few extra Achievements. In the single-player game you often have the choice of bringing along a cohort, and they provide worthy diversions in some battles (giving you the chance to heal, while they get abused, for example) but randomly teleport to where you are when they get lost, which is often. Add the fact that the story might tell you that you’ve a squad of four or five worthy veterans in tow, but only one makes an appearance just underlines either game design dreams the engine couldn’t handle, or plain shoddy workmanship.
Each quest earns you rewards like crystals to power up weapons and you’re even graded on your performance for no discernible reason.
Still, pulling soul chains (where after mashing madly for a minute or two you’ll earn the chance to suck the soul out of every nearby enemy, which is hugely satisfying) and some epic-sized boss monsters do create a few memorable moments. At times, in stylish slow-mo, while you’re executing the crucial QTE sub-weapon steals (yet another combat feature) the game almost looks next-gen. These are no pushover QTEs, either, as each enemy type requires a different number of button presses (fortunately, you hit any button, not a specific one), which keeps you on your toes, but also results in failures against brand new enemies when you’ve no idea what pattern will be required.
Clash of the Titans wants to be a broad-scope, multiple path, varied, stylish action-RPG. It doesn’t lack for ambition, as can be seen in the overly complex combat mechanics and skill power-ups. But it lacks in overall execution of pulling the occasional cool element–the slo-mo dodges and attack moves, for example–into a narrative that compels you to move forward. It wants to be an open world, but it’s tightly scripted. While you can say no to missions, you really can’t, so why have the option to accept or reject at all? A decent God of War-style action game lies fractured and mired amid so many weaknesses. It’s almost like the game designer, mission designers, quest givers, and storyline conjurers were all in separate rooms, maybe separate countries, and plunked all the pieces together months after the movie limped lamely from theaters.