Beowulf Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC | PSP
Beowulf box art
System: X360, PS3, PC, PSP Review Rating Legend
Dev: Ubisoft 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Ubisoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Dec. 4, 2007 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
A Poor Man's God of War

by Branden Barrett

Beowulf is a classic tale. If you are digging deep into Norse mythology, it doesn't get much better than the story of a man who became a king for all the wrong reasons. It would only make sense to turn such a classic tale into a game, right? Well, no matter what way you look at it, this is still a game based on a movie, and history has shown that this type of games are just plain terrible. Choppy visuals, sloppy gameplay, and quirky controls are all side-effects of most movie spin-offs, which are generally just put out there to make as much money as possible. Nevertheless, games based on "action-oriented" movies tend to do better because they try to copy the formula of better games in the genre. Beowulf on the PSP is proof of that. Opening up a new dimension to the original story and following God of War's mechanics closely, can Ubisoft pull a winner out of its hat?

Beowulf screenshot

Everyone knows the story of how Beowulf slew Grendal and then was bribed into being king by the fallen beasts' mother. Beowulf would then become king and rule over the lands for several decades. If you saw the movie, then you know they skipped a lot of Beowulf's life, primarily the time in which he was king and in his prime. Beowulf for the PSP tries to fill those time gaps by providing a unique side story of its own that intertwines quite well with the original plot. In the lands of Denmark, you will find yourself roaming the countryside, commanding a handful of Thanes against enemy units, and battling fierce monsters known as Titans. Sounds like something straight out Mythology class, right? Well, it isn't too far off what God of War's primary storyline is about, and the evolving storyline is definitely one of the best things to come out of this package.

As mentioned earlier, Beowulf is an action-oriented hack and slash title that copies a lot from most modern third-person adventure games. You have your traditional map screen loaded with objectives, weapons that will appear here and there along the landscape, and the ever traditional health and energy bars. Levels are fairly long, with the occasional cutscene or objective change breaking up the action. In fact, on paper, everything seems to play out just fine. It is unfortunate though that the people over at Ubisoft didn't double check their notes. First of all, whose bright idea was it to exclude a decent lock on system? Half the time you will see Beowulf swinging wildly toward one particular direction, only to miss a stationary target. This could have been easily fixed with the implementation of a functional camera, but the options are quite limited. Second of all, why is it that every single attack knocks poor Beowulf straight on his back end? Though boss fights are fairly simple, the confrontations are overly drawn out due to the sluggish movement of the protagonist. I sure don't remember this happening in the movie.

Beowulf screenshot

What I did recall was some epic battles and amazing imagery, which Beowulf for the PSP only does about halfway. Throughout a progression filled with mountains, valleys, and beach coasts, a mix of soldiers, assassins, and animals will continually impede your progress. The game does a good job with giving you plenty of fun weapons to mess around with, but the combat is very archaic and generally makes the title feel older than it should. For example, depending on the current weapon you are holding, you can put together a combo attack by repeatedly pressing the "circle" button. Now, it would have been nice if you could have had a variety of swings to mix and match strikes, but the same attack pattern is repeated over and over again. An energy bar called "Carnal Power" attempts to help give you a few moments of extra fun, but all the first one I got does is just improve your defenses and heighten the power of your attacks, though I was still continually thrown to the ground time and time again, even in this so-called ultimate mode. Later in the game you can unlock some different carnal powers, but again, they add very little to the tedium of the battle system.

Beowulf screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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