As soon as I heard that they were remaking Clash of the Titans, I knew there'd be a videogame. Obviously. So I booked a flight to South America, chartered a boat up the Amazon and tracked down the Tagaeri, a remote tribe that has had virtually no contact with the modern world. I made a bet with them, to see what they thought the Clash of the Titans videogame would be like. They said, "Probably another mediocre God of War rip-off, with giant boss monsters and probably a few quick-time events".
Well, looks like I owe the Tagaeri a family-sized bag of Haribo and the Friends DVD boxset. Clash of the Titans really is that predictable. Hemmed in by both the movie and Greek mythology itself, realistically there's a limit to how imaginative developer Game Republic could be under the circumstances, but that's no excuse for missing so many easy targets.
The game opens on a small fishing island, where Perseus lives with his adopted family, blissfully unaware that he's actually the illegitimate son of Zeus. His demigodly powers soon prove quite useful, however, as monsters and demons start to appear, along with soldiers from Argos (free delivery, you see) who are waging a war against the neglectful gods of Olympus.
And so you're introduced to combat, with the simple initial task of clearing a siren and some other monsters off the beach. In truly generic style, left trigger locks on, one button does the fast weak attack and another does the strong attack. Hit them in various ways and you perform combos that, on balance, are only slightly more effective than mashing one of them over and over again.
There is at least an attempt to add more wrinkles to the overly familiar cloth. While locked on you see that enemies glow in slightly different colours. Red means they're fresh and ready to fight. Wear them down a bit and they'll glow dark blue, meaning you can now perform the Soul Seize move, which syphons some of their life force for you to use in special attacks. Keep on clobbering and eventually they flash orange, which means they're softened up enough for the fatal Sub Weapon Seize attack.
Triggering this brings up a QTE-style mini-game in which you hit any button as a circle of orange energy whooshes across the screen. Hit it as the circle passes over two stationary markers and your attack is more powerful, yielding bonus goodies. Sub Weapon Seize allows you to steal weapons from enemies, and also other magical items. These secondary weapons are selected, four at a time, using the d-pad and map to a face button.
There are 80 such weapons in the game, each with its own tiers of upgradable stats and skills. Such generosity sounds great in theory, but ultimately proves that more isn't always better. Certain enemies can be instantly defeated with the right weapon, and there are monster-spawning obelisks that are even more specific in their requirements. In practice, this means a lot of journeys in and out of the game's clumsy, long-winded menu system to swap your arsenal around until you find the right tool for the job.
Upgrading proves problematic as well, since you need to collect Seize Points specific to the weapon type being augmented. If you want to level up a bow, you need to keep performing Sub Weapon Seize moves on archer enemies until you have enough, each time hitting the same timed button presses and watching the same slow-motion animation.
The higher levels even demand unique items that are only provided by specific enemies, defeated in specific ways. In other words, not only do you have a grossly inflated armoury to manage, but it's an absolute grind getting the few genuinely essential weapons up to full fighting strength. Chances are that you'll end up finding four weapons that work best and stick with those.
All this information is conveyed in the most confusing manner possible, not helped by those obtuse menus, but by the end of the game this bloated pile of ideas actually starts to coalesce into something that is almost interesting.
Enemies start to demand a more tactical approach, the higher-level abilities start to shape the gameplay in almost-clever ways, and you're left wishing this evolution had taken place much earlier. As it is, just when things are reaching the level where good melee combat games are made, it all stumbles to a halt.
Progress is made via a series of over 100 "quests", although since these invariably last less than five minutes and involve nothing more than entering a map and killing everything that moves, the RPG connotations are undeserved.
You'll see a lot of these maps as well, as each area of the game sends you back into the same places over and over until it's time to move on. Objectives range from finding fish or herbs to defeating guardian bosses, but the net result is always the same: jog through empty spaces until monsters spawn.
Even in such a restricted world, navigation is a pain. The map is completely useless, showing only your position - no enemies, no objectives, nothing - and you'll often find yourself laboriously trudging down numerous dead ends before stumbling on the path the game wants you to take.
It's at the technical level that the game really struggles. The cut-scenes are truly atrocious, populated by stiff robotic mannequins speaking their lumpen dialogue with awkward pauses and sloppy lip-syncing. Perseus himself looks like Wayne Rooney crossed with a confused turtle.
In-game, things are no better. Animation is rudimentary, with the jump move particularly hilarious in its jerky weightlessness, while nothing seems to match up. There's just no physicality to the game world; no sense that these might be solid objects interacting with one another, and the relentless combat is deadening as a result.
Relentless combat is all you're getting though, which makes the length of the game problematic. My playthrough clocked in at almost 16 hours, a stultifying amount of time for a game so mired in mediocrity.
It doesn't know when to stop. Each stage churns out waves of easily-dispatched enemies long after you're bored. The game hits a natural high point with the boss battle against Medusa, but then continues to spin its wheels for hours more before you reach the climactic confrontation with the Kraken. Even with that behemoth defeated, it plods onwards. By the time the credits roll, you feel bludgeoned rather than elated.
Even at its best, Clash of the Titans barely succeeds on its own terms. Consider the similar titles vying for your attention and its small victories are almost completely diminished. From God of War, the spectre of which inevitably hovers over this mythological copycat, to the sublime Bayonetta and even the dumb-but-fun Dante's Inferno, there simply isn't room in the limited confines of the hackandslash genre for a wonky also-ran like this.
3 / 10