Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat is a compilation that contains both downloadable titles, “Deadliest Warrior: The Game” and “Deadliest Warrior: Legends”, as well as six never-before-seen episodes, all on a single disc. Developed by Pipeworks Software and published by Spike Games and 345 Games, does the popular TV show translate well into a game?
As you pop in the game, you’ll notice that you’re required to fully install each of the two games provided. I’m not talking about an installation to speed up load times. I’m talking about the fact that these two downloadable games are simply put on the disc to only be installed and placed on your XMB/Dashboard. If the games are on the disc, why not just program them to run off the disc? Upon installation, you’ll be able to choose from both Deadliest Warrior: The Game and Deadliest Warrior: Legends.
Deadliest Warrior: The Game will have you pitting against certain types of characters that you might have been curious to see in battle (the infamous Ninja vs Pirate comes to mind here). You’ll be able to play as one of eight different characters which consist of: Ninja, Pirate, Apache, Centurion, Knight, Samurai, Spartan, Viking, Rajput, Shaolin Monk and Zande. In terms of combat, the first thing that’ll come to mind for some players is the slight similarity to Bushido Blade, a PS1 classic, only nowhere near as good. Combat is fast-paced, with health bars depleting in a matter of seconds. However, its concept design is also its biggest issue. Deadliest Warrior aims for a very realistic fighting element in which battles purposely end quickly as if they were simulated in real-life. This makes the combat system lack depth though. You’ll have a variety of moves to utilize from between your high, medium, low and projectile attacks. Also, you’ll be able to switch to a different combat weapon mid-fight which is a nice addition. However, thanks to the insanely fast nature of fights ending in a matter of seconds, it really doesn’t give you much of a chance to get acclimated with it. Luckily, the game’s controls are really responsive which is a necessity for fighting games (or any games for that matter). The neat draw to Deadliest Warrior is its gory nature of dismembering your opponent and you could do that in a single attack if you know exactly how to hit their weak spot. Upon finishing off an enemy, the game initiates a quick slo-mo effect, giving you the opportunity to dismember limbs off of your opponent.
DW: The Game does lack modes so if you’re looking for longevity, you may not get much here. You’ll only have Arcade and Multiplayer to play through essentially. Arcade mode consists of eight levels to battle your opponents through and will contain two bonus levels in between. Due to how quick matches end, you’ll fly through this mode in a matter of minutes, which is fine considering most Arcade modes in fighting games only last that long. You’ll unlock new weapons for characters to utilize in future battles as you progress through the Arcade mode, giving you some incentive to go back. Multiplayer is your standard fare that you’d come to expect, but the online didn’t feel as smooth as the single player, even with a perfect hard-wired connection.
Upon booting up Deadliest Warrior: Legends, I noticed the main menu was definitely a much sleeker look than its predecessor, but did the gameplay evolve at all? Well, here’s the interesting part about Deadliest Warrior: Legends…the gameplay took a step back. While they added a Risk-inspired strategy mini-game called “Generals” (more on that soon), the combat itself has been taken to the point where matches can end in as little as two seconds! What kind of fighting game ends rounds in two seconds?! In DW: Legends, the “generic” element to characters has been thrown out the window and replaced with actual historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Genghis Kahn and Vlad the Impaler. The problem with the combat mechanics in this entry are that projectile attacks can finish a match in a single headshot. What’s the point of doing close-quarter combat if you could just shoot the enemy point blank? Remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (amazing movie) where Indy is confronted by the man trying to be intimidating by swinging his sword around and Indy just pulls out his gun out and shoots him once? That’s exactly what I thought of when this happened in the game. Also, health bars have now been replaced with…well, nothing. There are no health bars at all in the HUD. Instead, we’ve got a bigger focus on Stamina and if that depletes, your character is useless until it regenerates…but that probably won’t happen since the fight will be over by then anyway.
Generals mode, as mentioned earlier, is a simplified take on the board game “Risk” and is also mentioned as the game’s main campaign. Here, you’ll choose your general/character and plot out where to place your soldiers on the battlefield in a turn-based strategy game. Certain regions require a set number of soldiers to successfully take over that area. When attacking a castle, you’ll initiate a battle with the game’s core combat system and should you win, then you’ve secured a new home base. Should you lose…well, you get the idea. Fans of the Strategy genre may get some enjoyment out of this, but I’ve never been a fan of them and nothing here won me over.
Aside from the game running at 60 fps and the blood staining on the characters’ clothing with each hit taken, both games look incredibly bland and have odd technical issues. Animations are jarring and can look very unnatural and stiff. I came across weapons clipping through their respectful wielder, making me wonder if they’re trying to handicap themselves. One finisher in particular has Joan of Arc’s halberd penetrating her kneecap while she prays for the enemy she was about to execute. It just looks baffling and questionable. Environments lack any character to them and feel really mundane.
Fighting games, especially brutal and visceral ones, must have some twitch inducing sound effects to truly establish an effectiveness. Unfortunately, Deadliest Warrior has average sound effects, along with some laughable ones that just completely ruin the immersion of the experience. The characters have some voice acting but are very poorly done and feel forced in there to give their characters more “character”. Music is almost nonexistent throughout the game outside of the main menu and at the end of battles, so don’t expect any tunes to listen to while fighting. There’s music for the Generals mode but it’s practically sleep-inducing. Pretty poor audio overall.
Replay Value: 2/5
You can probably stretch some longevity out of Deadliest Warrior depending on your factors. In terms of single-player content, there’s not a whole lot aside from unlocking weapons and costumes. Multiplayer may provide for a more enjoyable time with your buddies but only for a short amount of time before you realize there are other fighting games you could be playing. The online mode is practically barren at the moment so don’t expect players to be roaming the servers for very long.
Overall Score: 4.0 out of 10
Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat is one of those games that makes you wonder why you’re not playing a different fighting game instead. It insults you by providing a lack of depth, poor visuals and audio, and shallow gameplay mechanics. It may provide some fun for a very limited amount of time but at the asking price of $29.99, I’d say you should just spend a little extra cash on a more polished/visceral fighting game like Mortal Kombat. If you really have an interest in either one of these two games, then download the demos via PSN/XBLA to get an idea of what the game is like. After that, just steer clear of this compilation because the demo is basically what the whole game is like. Unless you’re a die-hard Deadliest Warrior fan and need to see the exclusive episodes packed on the disc, there’s nothing worth the asking price here.
+ Controls are responsive
+ Gory, unpredictable combat
+ Six exclusive episodes to watch
– Bland visuals
– Poor audio
– Fights end at a record speed of two seconds
– Lacks depth
– Generals mode is boring
– Fighting mechanics aren’t engaging
A special thank you to Reverb Communications for providing us with a review copy of the game!