Capcom's annual Vegas shindig is normally an announcement fest, chock full of exciting-sounding games that we won't get to play for 18 months (hello Ressie 4!), but this year was an altogether more sane affair, with just one previously unannounced title; a gory hackandslash affair with a difference (probably) by the name of Shadow Of Rome.
Set in the aftermath of Caesar's death in 48 B.C, this Keiji Inafune-designed PlayStation 2-exclusive title promises to be not just another frenzied button masher a la Devil May Cry or Onimusha, instead aiming to temptingly lace the inevitable Gladiatorial combat with a touch of stealth. It should be with us by the end of the year.
Amicus verus est rara avis
As with many Capcom titles you get to play as two different characters - in this case the action oriented Roman Empire solider Agrippa and his stealthy best friend Octavia, while freed female gladiator Claudia lends a nice pair (of hands). Hey, they had to have an excuse to show off a ludicrous armoured bra didn't they?
But the whole premise of the game hinges on the fact that Uesnius, Agrippa's father, has been stitched up and wrongly accused of the murder of Caesar. Cue the sound of horns, the donning of peculiar pineapple helmets and the commencement of the fight for family honour. Do I hear a manly "Huuuurggh!" in the coliseum? Well do I? Come on, time is running out and we need to discover the truth behind Caesar's assassination!
Set in apparently lavish third person 3D using the all-new Onimusha 3 engine, ancient Rome has been reconstructed with "startling" realism, full of diverse locations including a bustling market place, vast forests, sea vessels and citadels, while the Coliseum will be the setting for many of the key events where both characters presumably have to save their ass once or twice.
Footage revealed so far shows a game engine that will appeal to graphics whores, with immensely gory blood, guts and dismemberment all part of the fun. On the whole the general level of detail, sharp texturing, lighting and particle effects all appear to be pushing the PS2 pretty hard, which is nice to report.
Dulce bellum inexpertis
The game itself allows players to switch "flawlessly" between characters (or so it says here), while getting to grips with the various objects and weapons of the era including stones, slingshots, spears and swords - as well as hand-to-hand combat when no weapons are available.
A "colourful" cast of characters including real-life historical figures are promised appear throughout the game. You never know, our old mate JC might make a guest appearance if the saga goes on long enough. (Surely he's dead? Oh wait, the other JC. -Ed)
The potential is there for a diverse gameplay experience too, if Capcom's US PR waffle stacks up, with the promise of scenarios that develop dynamically in response to your playing attitude. For example if you're a master of the action sections, the game will respond by adding more action elements into future scenarios, and vice versa on those of an adventuring bent. Not only that, various sub-challenges help to mix up the gameplay styles even more, with chariot racing, tournament battles, catapult assaults, fights on board a ship at sea and even a fight against a Lion all making the final cut.
According to reports, combat is weighted towards realism compared to Inafune's previous games and other Gladiator-based titles, while the cunning Octavius has various other means with which to achieve his objectives, like combining items in his inventory to form makeshift weapons. Stealth is another option, allowing him to sneak past guards and adopt disguises, whacking his foes Sam Fisher-style in order to make progress.
Dum spiro, spero
Keiji Inafune's previous titles have rarely been a disappointment, so this is most definitely one we'll be keeping a close eye on during our impending adventures at E3. Until then, check out the screenshots and add it to your growing list of ones to watch.