Review: Deadliest Warrior (360)

Deadliest Warrior
Publisher: Spike Games
Developer: Pipeworks Software, Inc.
Genre: One-on-one Fighter
Release Date: 07/14/2010

Just before breaking into the 2010 Summer of Arcade event on Xbox LIVE, the service scored an exclusive that had a little bit of hype behind it. Whether or not this was based on the pedigree of the television series it is based on or just the fact you could make ninjas fight pirates to the death, we’re still not so sure, but it meant Xbox gamers could snag a fighting game built exclusively for the system for a mere $10. For fans of said television series, Pipeworks makes some decent use out of the source material to pit eight combatants from the annals of time against each other in a fighting engine I like to consider heavily inspired by Bushido Blade, sprinkled with some of the shock elements found in Time Killers. In the end, it feels familiar, yet, even among a number of technical snafus, it works well, especially among groups of local players.

Setting up Deadliest Warrior, there is no story to speak of in the title, but, at the same time, it really isn’t necessary if you understand the source material. The television show revolves around a group that includes a simulations programmer, a biomedical scientist and a medical consult, among other technicians, that pull warriors from different eras of time to see who is the … well, Deadliest Warrior. These claims are made by featuring experts that have researched these warriors and using weaponry used by these combatants to conduct a number of tests. This data is crunched into a simulation program that performs 100 combat simulations to determine who would most likely survive an encounter between the two types of warrior.

The game bypasses all of this data crunching to put the control into the hands of the player, with the selectable warriors mostly representing what the television show featured in its first four episodes – an Apache warrior, a Viking, a samurai, a ninja, a Spartan warrior, a pirate, a Medieval knight and a Roman Centurion. On the Xbox 360, the experience gets a little more of a fantasy treatment, creating four landscapes that reflect various periods of time and locations, along with an unlockable locale that pits combatants against each other in the data studio of the show (aside from the name, this is truly the only other nod to the television production). Players are able to tackle all eight warrior types in an arcade mode, play multiplayer locally or online, participate in single battles against the computer, use a practice mode and extended play eventually unlocks survival options. None of these will dramatically change the way the player plays the game (aside from the survival mode where all hits dismember or decapitate, which is admittedly pretty fun), but the options give some nice depth depending on whether the player wants a quick game session or one that has a little more substance to it.

Looking at the gameplay itself, the controls are simplistic, yet the gameplay is very complex, successfully recreating the uncertainties and random nature surrounding a fight. Unlike other fighters where a normal match lasts 60 or so seconds and contains a number of strikes, a fight in Deadliest Warrior can end in a single blow, which is the reason many are comparing the title to Bushido Blade. While this is certainly realistic, it may put off some gamers that claim some unfair results and, understandably, it is a bit frustrating to lose one second into the match because a Viking pinned your head to the wall using a spear. It’s a game rage gamers may want to steer clear from, but this spontaneity is what really separates Deadliest Warrior from the rest of the crowd and makes it so enjoyable amongst a group of friends.

Each warrior receives a close-range, mid-range and long-range weapon – a player can simply launch a projectile with the press of B and both the close- and mid-range weapons have their own commands and combo sets. Using A, X or Y, players can strike low, middle and high respectively and the combo strings only rely on four button presses at most. Players can also block, parry and execute a few special moves, but very few maneuvers require more than one button press to execute, making the title very beginner friendly. The combo stringing can seem a little stiff at times; however, given the nature of the game, strategy and adaptation is what will get players further than others.

What is most impressive about Deadliest Warrior‘s gameplay is its dynamic nature. Not only can a warrior be felled in a single blow, but there are other status effects that drastically change the gameplay. In realistic fashion, most warriors can only sustain five blows at most in a round, and, on top of that, warriors can also be crippled and dismembered through the course of battle. If this happens to the upper body, the combatant won’t be able to support a shield, leaving them wide open, and they will not be able to operate long-range weapons or a few other attacks. When the lower body is damaged, the warrior will move with a dramatically slower limp and they will not be able to execute some moves that involve spins or kicks, for example. Lobbing off the arm or leg completely results in the same results, but also a blood loss that rapidly drains the warrior’s health and, of course, if the head comes off, it’s all over for that round. These effects not only make sense and freshen up fighters on the Xbox, but these really intensify multiplayer gameplay as they are most definitely “sharks sensing blood in the water” moments.

That being said, the gameplay isn’t perfect, though. The control gives each warrior free movement through the environment, which does result in some moments of awkward positioning, especially when the camera pans around, which creates some frustrating moments when the camera is at your back and your opponent is running straight toward you. Also, while it does its job, the gameplay might be too simple for some players, as there isn’t exactly a large list of actions and combos to perform – it might be shallow, but it works, especially in this $10 title. Regardless, even with a list of minor complaints, the gameplay and control still shine as one of the highlights of this title.

Fans of the show and history will get a lot of mileage out of the title, as each warrior and piece of equipment comes packed with a short, historical detail and the loading screens will also pull forth a number of factoids based on the typical life and times of the warriors, adding a nice touch to the game. There is also a fair number of unlockables to keep players coming back and the arcade mode allows players to unlock a new weapon of each type and a new armor for each warrior to provide some limited customization and expanded strategies. Most of the replayability comes with how much fun the player has in ripping apart the fighters, but anyone with a group of friends willing to try the title will get some extended play out of Deadliest Warrior.

The gore factor should also keep players glued to the screen as lobbing off extremities and executing the game’s “fatality” cutscenes never seems to get old, as it provides something a little more different as opposed to the Japanese-developed 2-D fighters from Capcom and SNK-Playmore on Xbox LIVE Arcade. This further ties into the game’s appeal as well. Deadliest Warrior has a lot going for it on paper: It is a one-on-one fighter, it contains a wide variety of fighters throughout time (and ninjas), it is based on a popular television show and it is a bit more mature than other titles on the service. At only $10, this should further entice gamers and, thankfully, there is a competent game holding up these attractions.

While the title is fun to play and it has a number of unique factors, though, the presentation doesn’t always hold up in the title. The character models are quite serviceable and each one looks just like a person would imagine them. Unfortunately, the animation doesn’t quite hold up as well, some of the blood flow looks a tad ridiculous and some more detail would have been nice to see. The visuals are further complicated by a framerate that isn’t always steady (I encountered brief freezes on numerous occasions) and the environments are average at best, which I could account to, again, a lack of detail. I also encountered some really weird physics, but these occurred after a match and didn’t effect gameplay. The sound and music is quite forgettable for the most part, but the trademark battle jingle and a few of the crippling sound effects really standing out. Otherwise, most of the music and effects are just there. They do their job and in no way are they awful, but very little in the sound department really shines.

In the end, though, the gameplay really comes through to make Deadliest Warrior an enjoyable title. While it borrows concepts from other gaming titles, they are concepts we haven’t seen in quite some time and many of today’s gamers weren’t around during those heydays (and it’s not like I would shame anyone that hasn’t played Time Killers). This is a simple, yet deep title that is worth your 800 Microsoft Points, especially if you are looking for a solid one-on-one fighter that breaks the typical Capcom or SNK conventions.

The Scores
Story/Modes: ENJOYABLE
Control and Gameplay: VERY GOOD
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: VERY GOOD
Originality: GOOD
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal Factor: INCREDIBLE
Miscellaneous: VERY GOOD

Short Attention Span Summary
Deadliest Warrior is perhaps the first game that does pirates versus ninjas a little bit of justice. While there some technical hiccups in the framerate mixed in with some lacking presentation, the title definitely fits the bill as an enjoyable fighter on the Xbox LIVE service. The controls are simple, but thanks to the crippling/dismemberment system and limited customization, the gameplay is also just as deep and strategic. The $10 price is just right for what you get and the multiplayer mileage you can get out of the title makes the deal even sweeter. It’s a game you can pick up and play in quick bursts and get some gory enjoyment, but don’t expect it to be perfect. Even so, Deadliest Warrior is a package where the pros definitely outweigh the cons.



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