Ryse: Son of Rome
Published by: Microsoft Studios
Released: November 22
Rating: M for Mature
Available On: Xbox One
No matter how powerful your technology or how impressive your platform, you can’t sell video game consoles without video games. There is no marketing solution for launching a new piece of hardware without any games. Which means, of course, there is an incredible amount of focus placed on those few games that do manage to accompany consoles to release day. Ryse: Son of Rome is more than just a video game; it’s the video game that Microsoft hopes will convince people to make the switch from old-generation hardware to the shiny new Xbox One.
Does it succeed? Partially. Ryse: Son of Rome is an infinitely forgettable title that if released during the middle of the console life-cycle would probably illicit only a blip from the gaming populace. It is a bland, simplistic, and repetitive brawler that offers very little in terms of innovation and very much in terms of blood and gore. However, because of its unique position as the lead game in Microsoft’s line-up, one can’t just take the game at face value. Ryse: Son of Rome has to be viewed as an argument for or against the console just as much as it must be reviewed for its internal merit.
Here’s what you need to know about the game: Ryse: Son of Rome puts you in the shoes of Marius Titus, a brawling Roman soldier with more than a few bombastic and violent moves in his repertoire. Scenarios generally involve Marius being attacked (or attacking) large groups of enemy combatants. To dispatch the foes, you simply need to mash whatever buttons on your controller seem most convenient. It’s true that there’s a combat and execution system in the game, but since it is impossible to fail and executions always go off, there’s no reason to pay anything more than passing attention to the game while you play.
Ryse is clearly designed for spectacle. CryTek, long a leader in cutting-edge visuals, has done an amazing job. And as the game drags you from point of interest to point of interest, you’ll certainly be awed by the action on display. The Xbox One may not be as powerful as a high-end gaming PC, but Ryse is one of the first games that shows consoles have at least caught up to the mid-range tech PC gamers have been using for so long. The only problem is that the game plays quite a bit like an FPS – there’s no control over your destination, everything is set out along a strict path, and the story is mere window dressing to the pretty graphics that are supposed to take the focus.
As an argument for the Xbox One, Ryse is somewhat weak. Ryse is pretty, of course, but no more or less pretty than the PlayStation 4-exclusive Killzone: Shadow Fall. And Kinect, which has been such an enormous focus for Microsoft’s marketing team, is pretty much a non-factor. There’s the mandatory voice command support, of course, but nothing that indicates that this newer, better Kinect has enabled developers to make better use of the device.
Overall, Ryse is pretty good, for a launch game. It’s not amazing, just as it is not terrible, and it does an impressive job of showing the technological leap the consoles have taken in terms of power. If you’re buying an Xbox One, Ryse is a good buy simply because there isn’t much else available and it’s a fun way to pass a few hours. If you’re on the fence, Ryse isn’t going to be enough to make that $500 purchase worthwhile.