Shadow of Rome
In 44BC, Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of men involved in a
clandestine plot that is said to have possibly consisted of up to 60
members. Taking this bit of history and mixing in their own melodramatic
flair, Capcom goes about telling the yarn of Caesar's assassination.
Players assume the role of the Imperator's nephew Octavianus and his
close friend Marcus Agrippa. With players controlling Octavianus (later
Augustus), Rome itself will be explored, and historical figures like
Cicero and Marcus Brutus will be met. To hide the truth, the
conspirators tap Agrippa's father Vispanius as the sole murderer of
Caesar, leading Agrippa to become a gladiator to win the right to kill
the true murderer, and, in the process of climbing the ranks of
gladiators, being able to find out the full truth and save his father.
In what has to be one of the strangest combinations in a game of late,
Capcom decided to mix gladiatorial combat with stealth. While Agrippa
fights in vicious arena battles against both man and beast, Octavianus
is left creeping around Rome, clinging against walls, crawling through
bushes, and slapping unsuspecting guards around with vases.
As Octavianus trails key figures and eavesdrops on conversations, he
will go to the Senate, the Forum, and a handful of other locations,
sneaking in to buildings and handling minor puzzles, like figuring out
the proper sequence of sentences during a speech to rile the citizenry.
On the city streets, he can go about as he wishes, for the most part,
but once inside a structure or on an estate, he needs to assume the role
of whatever costume he finds. Since he can't fight, this means that he
has to use vases, as well as honey, ars of wine and torches to create
distractions to knock out, or sneak past, slaves and guards so that he
can take their uniform.
The gladiator matches are some of the most raucous fun you'll have on
the PlayStation 2. It isn't overly complex, but it has enough moves and
weapon variety to keep the fights fun. Whenever Agrippa's initial weapon
breaks, he can pick up those of his fallen enemy or one tossed into the
arena from the crowd. I wish the bouts were more man vs. beast and
free-for-alls, especially since they added a few team bouts and hostage
rescues. The team-based bouts are absolutely infuriating, with team
members who refuse to do anything but stay in one place or lift levers
so that gates around statues lower, allowing them to be destroyed -
obviously, this is a problem when the goal is that the team who destroys
the other team's statues first wins. Someone had to have realized how
broken these were, but, alas, they have to be tolerated to enjoy the
As a gladiator, the love of the crowd is crucial. This means that
combos, stealing weapons, dodging attacks, and gory moves will get salvo
points and fill a gauge. Once a gauge is filled, Agrippa can lift his
arms and cheer at the crowd, who will toss him food to help replenish
his health or, if he has them riled up appropriately, a giant weapon.
The larger weapons are incredibly fun to use, which include giant swords
and maces, which will sever arms, legs, and crush heads, with each
successful blow getting cheers and rose pedals thrown from the stands.
To really get the crowd's juices flowing, beat another gladiator with
their own severed arm, insult them by fighting them with a rose, or
raise a severed head - the latter is a pretty rare occurrence. The
normal weapons include scimitars that can cut off limbs and heads, maces
to bash heads in, and morning stars that slap other gladiators around
with head blows that send them falling in pain.
There are also a few chariot races. As Agrippa climbs up the ranks, he
has to fight the men in a special unit ran by Decius Brutus. These
soldiers are special units trained to fight with animals and unique
weapons. None of those units are particularly hard to best, which makes
the fights a bit anticlimactic, but the chariot race and its boss battle
are great. Racing consists of whipping horses enough to get them
motivated but not enough to exhaust them, while duelling with other
riders and also keeping damage to the chariot itself under control.
Graphically, Rome itself also lacks the grandeur most would come to
expect. The city streets are barely populated and most structures are
fairly basic. The intro sequence is fantastic, and the character designs
and costumes look great, but everything else is bland. The combat looks
good, with blood staying on the ground and sparks flying from locked
swords and battered shields, but the gladiators consist of just a
handful of designs.
The music is nice but is kind of low-key for the subject matter. The
music in the arena is appropriately downplayed for the roar of the
crowed and weapon effects. Synching is also done well, and the voices
are matched well to the characters. The hustle and bustle of a Roman
city street would have certainly been nice, even if it was relegated to
just one path or so. A simple taste of the hectic life back then would
have gone a long way.
In conclusion, Shadow of Rome is a strange game that promised much but
unfortunately failed to deliver on both parts. It's a cross between
Metal Gear Solid meets Gladiator but unfortunately the combat scenes
were used a little too much in this game, especially for the content of
the storyline. With that said, the combat of the game is extremely fun
but unfortunately it does become a little stale and there should of been
more excitement and I would recommend this title for newbie gamers that
wish an accessible hack and slash game without all the difficulties.