A school gym in England, mid-'90s, and two local rugby players await orders. One is small and wide and called Adrian, and one is tall and weighs about 20 stone. He's Big Dave. Adrian has been getting flattened by Big Dave all day but he keeps getting back up. It's the rugby training in him: you bloody well get back up if you're knocked down. But this instinct is starting to annoy the people he's in the school gym for, the people making the sports game. They're trying to motion-capture for a rugby game and would rather Adrian lay still. They should be careful what they wish for.
Eurogamer has spoken to Creative Assembly studio director Mike Simpson about the future of Total War. What new historical settings are under discussion? Will there be more remakes? What about consoles? Those questions, and more, are answered in the article below.
This is a game about hitting people. It's pretty damn good.
With the review out of the way, there's plenty of time for a detour into an examination of the postmodernist re-imagining of ancient Greece in modern videogames (a.k.a. Man! Ray Harryhausen is awesome). Because when one game takes from a period and applies it to a genre, it's a singular thing. When two take from the same period then apply it to the same genre... well, it's looking kinda like a movement. If you squint.
I'll tell you the real reason why people are constantly taking great joy over reprocessing Ancient Greece in videogames, and the Spartans specifically. Obviously, it's been in loads of films and books, so its imagery we're all familiar with. And obviously, Greece is the founding culture of western society. But the real reason why we're all going crazy over the Spartans is... well, we know absolutely sod all about them. They were a warrior culture. They were dead hard. And that's about it, with any certainty.
We've dealt with why Creative Assembly is making the game in the first place. We've dealt with how it has managed to get hundreds of armoured Greek men crammed inside an ageing console. And we've dealt with many replacements of expletives with innocuous words to prevent the moral guardians complaining.
In the first part of the interview, we talked about the conceptual grounding for Creative Assembly's move into the third-person mass-combat game. Now, with the effusive Lead Programmer Clive Gratton, we have a look through the technical demands of a game that manages to keep hundreds of people hurting each other on screen without dropping a frame.
Creative Assembly's headquarters nestle in bosom of Mother England's green and pleasant land. It's an unassuming building to have to been the home of the genesis of some of the greatest PC Strategy games of all time. However, Eurogamer's visit here isn't to talk about that. It's about something quite different: Spartan: Total Warrior.