Fledgling network Starz hit upon something big with "Spartacus." A tale of ancient Rome complete with lots of sex and gore, the series gained a large and loyal audience, though its final season looms. Ubisoft thought it would be a good idea to reveal a digital title, Spartacus: Legends, which is developed by Kung Fu Factory and will coincide with the series' final season.
The Comic-Con demo was basic. There were four available fighters, including Spartacus himself, and each one not only differed in stats but also armor and weapon selection. Depending on who you choose, you could either go into battle with or without armor and attack using either a sword and shield combo or just two swords. There was only the arena on display, and while there was lots of blood flying around, the real treat came from fatalities. Don't expect something as elaborate as a Mortal Kombat fatality, but you will see a range of things from fatal stabbings and decapitations to faces being cut clean off, satisfying the show's gore factor.
The animations for the fighters are nice, and even though the crowd is doing the same animations in a cycle, they look lively enough for witnesses to the bloodsport. The fighters look fine, and the details are there. Cuts appear on each fighter whenever they get hit, so you'll look badly beaten in a close fight that you win. Just like the series, slow motion is in full effect with the fatalities and during close calls when split-second timing determines who hits first. The same happens during moments of good blood spray, when you'll see individual globules fly toward the camera after a particularly brutal hit. Visceral but satisfying, it is something you won't ever tire of seeing.
There may be four characters on display for the demo, but it felt like they shared many moves, animations and damage. More often than not, moves stick by their animations, and you can't fluidly transition from one move to another unless it is part of a preset combo. It doesn't help that the four fighters in the demo lumber around, and jumps are only saved for moves that trigger them. Players aren't expecting a fast-paced, weapons-based fighter like Soul Calibur, but in its current state, the game feels like a slower Bushido Blade or Deadliest Warrior. This area needs some work to capture the attention of casual fighting fans.
There are still plenty of details that we don't have about Spartacus: Legends, such as available modes, the full roster, and how much involvement there is between the game developers and show creators. With some decent lead time between now and the release of the title, this will be revealed soon. More importantly, one hopes that the remaining development time will be spent improving the fighting component to better complement the look of the game.
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