Shadow of Rome is a trip in the Way-Back Machine. Rome is brought to life in all its horror and glory as you attempt to save your father's life as you become a gladiator - one of the most brutal professions ever devised. Shadow of Rome is a real bloodbath.

Had this game been released a couple of years ago it probably would have languished in the gladiator-game-phase that was inspired by the Academy Award Winning, Russell Crowe movie, Gladiator. Shadow of Rome has distanced itself favorably so that the gameplay feels fresh. It's almost as though no other gladiator game existed before.

Shadow of Rome is essentially two games in one. There are two playable characters, Octavius and Agrippa. Since the murder of Caesar, the political climate has been unstable. Sentenced to be executed in the gladiatorial arena, Agrippa's father has been framed for murder. Agrippa becomes a gladiator to buy his father some time while Octavius, Agrippa's best friend, searches for clues that will exonerate his friend's father.

Agrippa's character is action based. He's the gladiator. Loaded with moves, weapons and charisma, he manages to slay his enemies while entertaining the crowd. With one mighty slice of his sword he can cut his opponent in half. With blood spraying in all directions this move is aptly named the Red Volcano. In the arena he will be faced with all kinds of challenges including chariot racing, lions and tigers and will face opponents of all shapes and sizes armed with a plethora of strange and unusual deathly apparatuses.

Earning Salvo points for his skills, Agrippa can also gain the favor of the audience which will throw him weapons and food to keep his energy level up. The fighting scenes are in real time and are spectacular. Even watching someone else play the game is exciting - and how many games can you can that about? Bloodshed and dismembered limbs is not just a gory feature of the game, it's an integral part of the gameplay not to mention that it's also a very realistic portrayal of events in those days. The audience is bloodthirsty and must be appeased. You can also use some of the severed limbs to clobber your opponent with when you run out of weapons.

Octavius is not a gladiator. He's a spy. His challenge in the game is to sneak into various buildings and eavesdrop on conversations so that he can gain evidence to clear Agrippa's father. All of Ocatvius' missions are stealth based. He doesn't have any weapons, devices or special moves. You have to walk quietly and avoid detection. Icons appear onscreen to show you the right path. These missions may seem a little boring but they are a great device to reveal the plot of the story. I prefer having to play as two different characters since it seems more realistic than having only one character perform both the fighting and the stealth missions. I would have a hard time believing that a brute such as Agrippa could pull off the finesse required to infiltrate secure, government buildings.

While the graphics manage to recreate a realistic Roman vibe, the story offers us an unprecedented glimpse into the machinations of the Roman government. The result is a deep and compelling storyline. You don't have to be a history buff to appreciate it. It's very accessible butintelligent. It offsets the gory aspects of the fighting but it illustrates that even though Rome was the model of modern civilization, underneath the people were still struggling with their barbaric past.

Shadow of Rome is a great game in every aspect. It doesn't require superhuman skill but it will pose a challenge to all that play. Above all else, it's fun and there's nothing that beats that.


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System: PS2
Dev: Capcom
Pub: Capcom
Released: Feb 2005
Players: 1
Review by Fenix