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1PStart Review: Conan

by JW

When I was a youngster, I loved action movies. I loved the mindless violence and massive explosions that were quickly followed by the cheesiest of cheesy one-liners delivered by the biggest stars of the day: Arnold, Sylvester, Steven and Dolph. But, as I’ve grown my tastes have matured ever-so-slightly as to no longer want the mindless bloodbaths unless they have an engaging story and character development… yeah, I’ll just keep telling myself that. Anyways, when Conan came across my desk, I was naturally curious. After all, it’s based on the novels which brought about the awesome(ly cheesy) Arnold vehicles of the 1980s that were filled with blood, guts and sex, so naturally the game would as well, right?!

Unfortunately, once you get into the game the violence and sex quickly wears thin.

In Conan for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 you play as… wait for it… Conan the Barbarian. After inadvertently releasing an evil force known as “The Black Plague” (as opposed to The Bubonic Plague), Conan is KO’ed and stripped of his magical armor. Naturally, you want to retrieve your armor and you, as Conan, will be damned if a bunch of repetitive and bland enemies will stand in your way! Congratulations, I’ve just explained the entire story to Conan. After being stripped of your armor and being left to die at sea only to wash ashore on a besieged island, you start off on your quest to retrieve your magical armor and bring about an end to the plague.

While the storyline itself is fairly weak, the presentation of the story is superb. The voice acting (especially by Ron Perlman as Conan himself) is superb, and the overall pacing of the story (as well as the narrative) is also excellent. The orchestral score, however, is easily the game’s high point. If at least some of this music doesn’t find its way to Video Games Live in the near future, I’m going to be very disappointed. Now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you why I hate it.

Graphically the game is, how you say, fugly. I understand that not every game is going to be a Gears of War in terms of graphical prowess, but Conan seems to keep it at a bare minimum. The environments, while varied from tropical islands to deserts to dungeons, weren’t very impressive. The texturing was downright horrible. The enemies were uninspired and unoriginal, and I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, but watching some of the in-game cutscenes made me feel like I was watching wax dolls acting. When Conan would speak, it almost looked like a rubber chicken. The only real thing I could point to and say “I approve” would be the dismemberment bits, and seeing a poor sap stumbling around while his arm sockets shot blood like a sprinkler of damnation. The blood effects were also handled nicely, with the ground quickly being able to turn from clean and green to covered in the life fluids of your enemies. However, the blood had this same glossy look that all of the characters have, almost like they were laminated.

Also, another gripe about the graphics… this is 2007. You’re developing for either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 – the two most powerful home consoles EVER (to date). There is simply no longer an excuse for objects fading out of existence, whether it be dead bodies, limbs, broken pots, anything. This has been bugging me since the PS-X, and I would have thought that by the PS3 you’d have been able to figure it out. I see I was wrong.

Naturally I could look past the graphics if the gameplay was any good, but unfortunately it wears thin in more than a quick hurry. I played this game for an entire weekend before I put it down, and outside of the first twenty minutes I didn’t have any kind of fun with it, and here is why: I’ve played it before.

It wants to be God of War. Badly. Conan wants to be God of War so damn badly that they’ve even gone so far as to borderline rip-off the Hydra boss fight from the first game, replacing the Hydra with a Dragon, and the boat to a medieval construction platform (unfortunately, there was no hootin’ or hollerin’ from the medieval hardhats). Each Boss Battle boils down to a series of God of War/Simon Says button pressing gimmicks that really do nothing to expand on the game other than to show that the developers really were hoping to cash in on God of War’s success. This also makes the boss fights far too easy.

The rest of the game is much the same way. While there are dozens upon dozens of different moves you can unlock by gaining experience (from smashing chests or rescuing topless slaves), you can very well get through the entire game by simply mashing the X button (on 360). Sure, it may not be the most fun way to do it, but it’s certainly possible. The game tries to combat this by including different weapon combinations that force you to use strategy. Two-handed weapons are excellent on some enemies, while a weapon in each hand is good for another. If you’re like me however, and were driven nuts by those damned Archers, you’ll probably wind up using the shield and sword/axe combo. Each combination is designed to combat one of the types of enemies in the game, which does make you think a tiny bit about what you’re going to do next. Unfortunately, in the big picture it has a minimal effect on the outcomes of battles and you’ll probably spend most of your time using a single weapon set that you feel comfortable with.

Conan is a very average game when you get down to it. While the storytelling and pacing are excellent, the repetitive combat and run-of-the-mill boss battles bring down the whole experience. While there were certainly a few “Oh my God that was awesome!” moments early in the game, the sight of seeing Conan slice an enemy in half vertically wears thing by the twelfth time. If you’re a die hard fan of the Conan books, give it a rental. Otherwise, don’t waste your time or money.

Other 1PStart Reviews:
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3 Responses to “1PStart Review: Conan”

  1. 1P Start » Blog Archive » 1PStart Review: WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008 Says:

    [...] it only enhanced the bad tastes Conan left in my mouth. (If any one of you sons of bitches makes a comment on that, I will hunt down your [...]

  2. PS3 Updates and News » Blog Archive » WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 Preview! Says:

    [...] it only enhanced the bad tastes Conan left in my mouth. (If any one of you sons of bitches makes a comment on that, I will hunt down your [...]

  3. 1P Start » Blog Archive » 1PStart Review: Mass Effect Says:

    [...] Reviews Conan Dynasty Warriors GUNDAM WWE SmackDown vs. RAW [...]

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