The greatest achievement of Ryse: Son Of Rome, and in pure technical terms there are many, is that in cribbing various elements of other well-established franchises developer Crytek has somehow managed to create a game that stands on its own merits. Ryse takes its two most overt influences – the ferocious ultra-violence of Sony’s God Of War series and the slick mechanics of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham games – and dissects, embellishes and expands each to create an urgent, visceral and cinematic hack-and-slash adventure.
The story is an unhinged ode to the sweeping swords and sandals epic, presented with all the imposing scale and stunning detail that the genre entails. In pure visual terms Ryse is the most spectacular demonstration of the Xbox One’s nascent capabilities to date, delivering densely-packed battlefields splattered in blood and vistas soaked in rich sunbeams that pour through the ancient architecture and bounce off the gleaming Roman battle armour.
Said armour belongs to vociferous general Marius Titus, whose patriotism and subsequent betrayal leads him on a revenge-fuelled rampage that takes him right to the heart of Rome. The narrative wobbles as the second act spirals into genuine lunacy, however what remains unfaltering throughout is the gameplay. A simplistic combination of brutal attacks and stylish quick-time events constitute almost the entirety of the action, each of the game’s meagre eight chapters ostensibly a variation on cleaving through waves of barbarian marauders.
It’s linear to a fault and severely lacking in gameplay variety, ultimately Ryse is shackled by the restraints of its own limitations. Had Crytek given the bloodthirsty action room to breathe and dedicated time to exploring the immersive world it had created, then it could’ve delivered a spectacle worthy of the coliseum itself. Instead this is a momentarily gratifying punch of violence that’ll be forgotten the moment your blade is sheathed.