Ryse: Son Of Rome, Are you not entertained ?

Ryse: Son Of Rome never stood a chance. Think back to the launch of the Xbox One last November, what do you remember about Crytek’s ambitious next-generation launch title? It’s no doubt how the conversation preceding release quickly shifted from  Ryse’s immersive setting, triple-A credentials and cinematic action, onto word that it didn’t run natively at 1080p.  And it was locked at 30 frames per second, the audacity! Well, boo freaking hoo. Haters gonna hate, but they are also going to miss out on one of the best exclusive games on the platform.

Ryse might have been the first casualty of the #ResolutionGate nonsense that stretched itself thinly over the earliest days of the Xbox One, but behind the scandal you’ll find one hell of an experience. Despite the outcry over Ryse's resolution sitting comfortably at 900p, it’s still one of the best looking games on the console. From the sandy streets of Rome to the haunted hills of Britain’s countryside, Ryse is Something to behold. The thing is, it also plays pretty damn fantastically too.

The fear that Ryse would be nothing more than a QTE-driven, button-mashing hellscape of broken controllers and shattered attention spans was quickly shut down by anyone willing to give it more than a hour to form an opinion. Truth be told, if you bump the difficulty up a peg, it’s incredibly engaging. Combat is chaotic: multiple enemies storm your position, forcing well-timed offensive strikes with your sword and shield, all while your attention has to focus enough to block any and all incoming attacks with precision. The reward for raising the combo meter is the opportunity to unleash a horribly violent not to mention wildly entertaining execution attack, more of which are unlocked with XP throughout the campaign. Not only do they look great, but they really helped sell the whole sword-and-sandals power fantasy in a way we’ve been desperate to digitally reenact since Ridley Scotts’ epic  Gladiator came into being over a decade ago.

This dream become totally realised through Ryse’s gladiatorial co-operative multiplayer, a mode that’s somehow even more criminally overlooked than the base game. It’s set in the mighty Colosseum, and it’s here where the whole concept of Ryse falls into place. The roar of the crowd as you emerge from a dark tunnel with your co-op partner in tow, it’s quite the spectacular scene. You aren’t just a gladiator drafted to spill blood, you’re an entertainer and the audience demands satisfaction.

At its core,  Ryse’s multiplayer is based around fighting back waves of enemies, defending objectives and avoiding traps with hack and slash action. Think Gear Of War’s Horde mode, albeit with the Lancer replaced by a Gladius and Scutum, and the Locust replaced by barbarians so beefy they’d make the steroid-induced bad guys we fight in modern-day games wet their pants in an instant. The hyper-violent combat doesn’t disappoint in its transition to multiplayer. With the Colosseum’s layout constantly shifting around you bringing new environmental dangers, and fresh spectacle, into play at a moment’s notice rounds never grow stale either. Ryse’s multiplayer is the hidden gem of the Xbox One launch.

It’s made all the better by the wholly satisfying, co-op executions that can be unleashed by two gladiators in tandem. You’ll need to try your best to team up with your partner; the better you work with them the easier it is to keep the crowd entertained, the easier it is to earn the big XP rewards. And here is Ryse’s biggest problem: by its very nature, it’s better with a friend. Ryse never fostered a fantastic online community, nor was it a sensational seller, which makes finding a game tougher than it should be. If feels like Ryse is primed to drop into the Games With Gold program sooner rather than later, we only hope such a move would provide the online side with a much needed jolt of life.

Considering the recent Crytek troubles, it’s highly unlikely we will see a sequel to Ryse: Son Of Rome. It’s a shame, because in many respects it’s a Russell Crowe DLC skin away from being the Gladiator game we’ve always dreamed of. If you’ve got a friend and a spare couple of hours, it’s well worth revisiting. Better yet, if you've got it languishing on a shelf, gathering dust, at least try sticking it back on and kicking the difficulty up to hard you might find yourself struggling to put the campaign down.

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