Review: Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat
Publisher: 345 Games
Developer: Pipeworks Software
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 04/17/2012

After being mildly impressed with the series’ original entry, Deadliest Warrior, Pipeworks released a follow-up attempt in 2011. In order to keep up with annual releases, 345 Games has gone back to re-release a disc-based version of both games to entice gamers who haven’t gotten into the series.
Picking up Ancient Combat nets gamers both Deadliest Warrior and Deadliest Warrior: Legends, along with bonus content I will get into later. I was able to review the original installment in 2010, and here is a summary of what I had to say about the title:

Deadliest Warrior
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.

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.

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.

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

You can read all of the details in our Deadliest Warrior review.

Deadliest Warrior: Legends
Before picking up Ancient Combat, I had missed out on Legends completely. After some time spent on the title, I feel Legends hits the same mark as its predecessor, making certain aspects more enjoyable, while falling short in other areas.

The biggest difference in the approach taken by Legends, is the replacement of generalized “classes.” Instead of a generic ninja or pirate, the cast of Legends is replaced by famous warriors from the history books. Legends features the likeness of warriors such as Sun Tzu, Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great and more. This allows the game to have more of a “story” element as the game pulls from the recorded history of these warriors at certain points of the game. However, these elements aren’t utilized as much as they could be. While it is disappointing, it is somewhat understandable considering the fantasy warfare aspect and the game’s ties to the show where the entire premise is an impossible what-if encounter.

In another move in the right direction, Legend’s visuals are enhanced a notch. The menus are really clean, the character models are very slightly bumped up in detail and the game as a whole has more visual flair. Perhaps the biggest improvement in this area is in each character having a designated stage. Each stage reflects the point in history and locale of the fighter and some of them, such as William Wallace’s sieged village bring out the visceral nature intended by the game. It works well as a downloadable title, but, still, don’t expect the titles to push the 360 to its limit.

Going in the other direction; however, is the game’s sound, thanks mostly to the voice acting. Each character is personalized with voice acting, which, most of time, misses the mark. Some bits just sound average, while others are painfully corny. When you add in the fact the mouth animations do not match up with the sound bytes, players will most likely be mashing start to skip any of these instances.

Outside of the voice acting, what is provided in Legends is servicable. You have your epic-sounding menu music that gets repetitive, weapon clashes and grunts and groans one would expect from such a game. Overall, the title is on par with its predecessor, with the exception of voice acting.

Otherwise, players are getting a revised version of the original installment. The game plays just as well as it did before while mixing in a few new elements.
In battle, the two-button finishing move combination is replaced by a new grapple mechanic. By pressing X and A at the same time, players can go for a grapple that results in a rock-paper-scissors style encounter. The Y, X and A buttons are mapped to the head, torso and legs of the opponent. If the opponent can guess the same button pressed by the attacker, the grapple is broken. However, successful hits to the arms or legs cripple that body part and a succesful hit to the head initiates the game’s “fatalities.” If the arm or leg is already crippled and a grapple breaks through to that body part, a fatality is also initiated.

The sequel also introduces ring out victories. Pressing Y and B at the same triggers a shove move. This comes out slightly quicker than a grapple and creates space between the opponents. However, the stages have certain areas around the edge where a shove will force them off the stage and to their death. To balance out the possibility of instant death with these moves, they leave the character open to attack and consume a large amount of stanima.

Also in battle, players can hold right bumper to trigger an “aiming mode” for projectiles. While holding the bumper, Y aims for the head, X aims for the torso and A aims for the legs. This actually proved useful in targeting specific body parts and going straight for the instant kill when at long range.

While the sequel still maintains the challenge and online modes of the original, it also introduces a Risk-style strategy mode, where players build armies and take over territories and attempt to reach castle strongholds on the map. Strongholds are decided using the game’s fighting engine and overtaking strongholds allows the player to trigger an ability used on the battlefield. It’s a welcome addition to the series that makes the characters seem like the generals they were even though it isn’t as fleshed out or interesting as it could be.

On a few personal notes, it seemed like Legends took longer to load in between fights than the original title. In some cases, with instant headshot kills, I spent far more time watching a load screen than actually playing a game. Also, the achievement lists lean toward the dedicated/expert side of the fence. While this will actually make getting these an achievement, those looking for quick points will want to look elsewhere.

In the end, Legends takes more steps forward then backward. Still, these are baby steps compared to what could have been implemented in the title. The presentation is noticeably bumped up, there is more to do and it is servicable as a downloadable title. Just like the original, it’s not perfect, but the pros outweigh the cons, especially in local multiplayer.

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

Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat Extras
Looking at the whole package, Ancient Combat is a disc that crams both installments into a single format. Popping the disc in loads the two games into the My Games blade, which allows the disc to be compatible online against players who have the downloadable versions – a nice approach.

For $30, players get both games, a $25 value, plus all DLC released for both games, which starts the savings for those who never picked up either downloadable version. As a bonus for those who know they enjoy the titles, more than 30 new weapons have been implemented and a new graveyard stage is exclusive to Ancient Combat. When you consider the disc version gives you more for your money, the series becomes more attractive to first-time buyers.

Those who enjoy the show are also treated to a second DVD, which features six full episodes of the Deadliest Warrior television show, with content that hasn’t been aired yet. Overall, those who are fan of the show will find a lot of perks to enjoy, but, really, if you are that big of a fan of the show, you’ve probably already dropped the $25 of the games.

The bottom line is this package is best for those who haven’t experienced the series the first time around and are willing to take a chance on something a little different. The games, overall, are fun multiplayer affairs and the multiple modes and unlocks do give a single player a few things to do. There are better fighting games to buy at the $30 price point, but the Ancient Combat package gives players, and especially fans of the series, a sheer amount of content.



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