Frank Miller’s latest film adaptation 300 opened up to mix reviews at the box office last weekend. Earlier last week, the gaming version was released from Warner Brothers Interactive for the PSP. I’ll be taking a look at 300: March to Glory for the PSP to see if can out do its movie counter part and receive a rating that can live up to Frank’s legacy. Here is Extreme Gamer’s blood soaked review of 300: March to Glory.
Following the graphic novel, Frank Miller's 300 has inspired a motion picture, and a game adaptation of the movie. The source material of the Battle of Thermopylae, an epic battle of 300 Spartans fighting the upward war against the Persian Empire, lead by King Xerxes. This sounds like the perfect setting for a game, even more than a movie, so what went wrong? Warner Brothers should have a winning situation on their hands with Collision Studios developing 300 into a game, but unfortunately they can't all be winners. Unlike the movie, you can’t just sit back and watch the action unfold, you have to get those fingers moving, motivated for destruction, and this is where the problems begin.
300: March to Glory is a basic hack n’ slash game coated over with some blood red graphics and a few interesting game mechanics. 300 isn’t as innovative as the Zack Snyder's art direction which is the first misused quality in games production. The possibilities could have been endless, it’s a shame Collision Studios didn't cash in on the unique look of 300, or didn’t try something more original in gameplay. It’s not to say Collision didn’t try because the combat is genuinely brutal at times with an art made out of sword dismemberment, but its not enough to stand out against other titles that forge art and action more collectively like Okami, Killer 7 or Realtime Worlds Crackdown.
As one Spartan, King Leonidas, you are joined by only a few in March to Glory and not the other 299 like stated in the title. The massive epic feeling of the original plot starts to slide down to a minor squabble then an all out war. The highlighted extras like the genetically enhanced macabre enemies has been turned into a round a bout of generic cookie cutter enemies that have little substance or variety. This generic feeling also falls over to the combat system, besides a few notable innovations. In 300 you have a shield, a sword, double sword, and a spear that you can cycle through as you battle. Different enemies will require you to use a different weapon for the best efficiency, and you will know this because the game tips you off. 300 have combo moves that are rather simple to pull off, but you can march forward simply by hammering the buttons. The biggest innovation is in the shield which is obviously used to block attacks, but seems cooler than a normal shield from the characters positioning and attention to detail, especially the hail storm of arrows.
A few other concepts are introduced in 300 like a “Wrath” meter that increases when you successfully strike down an opponent, perform a combo, or counter an enemy attack. The wrath meter which is located in the circle HUD in the game can be unleashed for some deadly ‘wrath attacks’. This meter is also tied into the ‘Battle Skills’ meter that lets you know when you can unleash your Wrath attack or use it to heal yourself instead. The Wrath attacks work in conjunction with your shoulder button and modify your characters attacks. There are two special attacks with each weapon along with the always cool shield throw. I can appreciate the realistic approach to these special moves, but I really would have liked to seen over the top destruction instead of common attack moves.
Collecting Kleos which translated loosely from Greek means “honor” works like money to upgrade your character. These Kleos can be gathered by accomplishing great feats in combat. The harder the bad guys are to kill off, the more points you will gain. Like any upgrade system it’s necessary that you spend your points often to keep up with the gradual increase in difficulty. Upgrades can be spent on improving your equipment divided into four categories (sword, spear, shield, and armor). These improvements cosmetically change on the character as well, but the change is a underwhelming. You can also improve your combat Battle Skills in four categories (Blood Drunk, Eye of The Warlord, Defense, and Fortitude). Lastly you can upgrade your combos in three areas, Sword, Spear, and Dual Sword. If I have a suggestion saves up for the Dual Sword Decapitator after you unlock the two swords.
Besides straight ahead hack n’ slashing you will have a few instances when you have to traverse the terrain and move obstacles in your way. There is also a could have been cooler Phalanx sequence when you team up with a row of your fellow Spartans marching forward to down a huge elephant. The Phalanx episodes feel tacked on with some horrible collision and clipping issues. At the heart of 300: March to Glory is the combat, and even without all the extra toppings the game could of survived on its own merits if the structure was down. It's too bad 300 ended up falling into a pit of generic slashing boredom. 300: March to Glory could of been something special, unique, and entertaining... but instead turns into a standard repetitive game.
The graphics that are presented in the graphic novel look are vastly better then the in game action. In the game we have an un-stylistic backgrounds that are only saved because you can dismember and leave the opposition in bloody pools. I believe 300 could have turned out a lot better if they could have carried over the deep dark graphic style from the cute scenes over to the action. This would have conveyed a dark brooding overtone and could have had more of an impact. The audio on the other end is well produced in 300 with some superb voice work that has some grit behind it and a thumping imperial styled soundtrack that tries to hold down the epic tone of the games plot line. This section of presentation is like an awesome sword that could be more if it was sharpened and curved a little more of battle.
It’s unfortunate that 300: March to Glory feels like another movie-licensed that was tacked together to meet the films released deadline. This game version sadly falls in the worst of all three media releases behind the graphic novel, and motion picture. If you are standard beat em’ up games then 300: March to Glory will keep you busy until your fingers get tired. 300: March of Glory has a few redeeming qualities, but not enough for us to recommend for a straight out purchase. Bargain bin fishermen; wait for this one to swim downstream.
Gameplay: 4.5, Graphics/Sound: 6, Innovation: 4, Mojo: 4. Final: 4.5 / 10