Ryse: Son of Rome Review

There has been a lot of talk recently regarding the visual disparity between Xbox One and PS4, and, well, despite being barely noticeable in moment to moment gameplay, once the comparison videos and screenshots are up side-by-side, there is no doubt that, at the moment at least, the PS4 is coming out on top in regards to the visual fidelity of multi-platform titles.

The internet, as it has a tendency to do, has jumped all over this, using these videos as proof positive that the PS4 is the more powerful machine. Do people forget the start of the last gen and the supposedly superior PS3 coming up short in the multi-platform department? I know that was a more complex machine, but generally speaking, while developers are finding their feet with new tech, I usually leave it to the first party exclusives to give me a more realistic impression of what each console is capable of. Ps4, that has Killzone, and yes, it’s an utterly gorgeous game, but the Xbox One, that’s got Ryse, and for my money, is the best looking game out there and a much truer representation of what the console can and will achieve in the long run.

Technically, I couldn’t tell you the difference between Killzone and Ryse, but there is no doubt that, as a coming together of technical prowess and artistry, Ryse stands head and shoulders above the competition. Of course, the quality of the game behind all of that visual whizz-bang is up to debate, but in terms of sheer spectacle, in terms of a video game striving for a sense of fantastical photo-realism, Ryse is an undoubted success.

From the White Cliffs of Dover to the Coliseums of Rome and the harsh, unforgiving terrain of Scotland, Ryse provides one breath-taking spectacle after another. Sure, the locations, the characters and the history are all exaggerated, and at times, completely fabricated in the name of attaining those levels of spectacle, but for a game of this ilk, those fabrications feel totally justified. If anything, Crytek could have arguably pushed the fantastical elements of the game even further, creating Microsoft’s take on the God of War franchise as it were. As it stands though, Ryse is more Call of Duty or Gears of War with swords and sandals than any real competition to Sony Santa Monica’s, God of War series.

It’s not just in terms of the spectacle it provides either. The gameplay too, a point of contention for many, on a technical level, comes nowhere near matching the depth found in the God of War series, and instead, provides a relatively basic, but extremely solid foundation on which the combat is based. Playing out more like Batman: Arkham Asylum or Assassin’s Creed than Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, Ryse replicates the ebb and flow found in those games via a combination of basic combos, well timed parries, dodges and utterly brutal QTEs.

Sure, it could be argued that the combat is a tad repetitive and that after the first hour or so, you’ve seen everything that the core system has to offer, but the whole thing really needs to be judged in relation to the spectacle. This isn’t a game to challenge you in a way that Platinum Games’ finest might, this is here to tell an interactive story in which the mechanics, while fundamental to the experience, never get in the way of the story being told or what the developer intends for you to see. In that respect, the game, in my opinion at least, is a huge success. It won’t be for everyone of course, but for those looking for a solid hack-and-slasher married to a blockbuster story with sky high production values, Ryse certainly won’t disappoint.

With combat broken up via a collection of turret sections, spear throwing and squad formation attacks, Ryse always does just enough to keep you fixated on the story, always doing just enough to ensure that no single aspect of the experience outstays its welcome or becomes especially stale. The combat on its own, while certainly solid enough (and pleasingly gruesome), is not enough to keep a game afloat, but when combined with the additional challenges, nonsensical but nonetheless highly entertaining story, the characters and yes, the spectacle, provides a perfectly serviceable backbone to a product with a very clear aim and goal.

Of course, a greater range of enemies would have been nice, and a bit more nuance to the unlockable abilities of protagonist, Titus would have been greatly appreciated, but despite the challenge rarely rising above what you experience in the first hour of gameplay, as an interactive story, as an experience, Ryse pushes all the right buttons to keep you moving forward in your decade long quest for vengeance.

With its solid and surprisingly imaginative multiplayer offering and its array of co-op and single player challenges rounding off the package, Ryse, despite offering little reason to revisit the game once it has been finished, offers more than enough technical prowess, entertaining storytelling and solid, well crafted gameplay to not only keep you entertained until the final credits, but in my case, extremely eager to see what Crytek might achieve if they decide to take on a sequel.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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