Everyone must have heard of Conan… Conan the Barbarian? Big bulky warrior with his biceps the size of a football! Created by Robert E. Howard in 1932, Conan debuted in an art form and he has successfully appeared in films and games, and to give you the ‘beast’ of a look he had, Arnold Schwarzenegger played him back in 1982, so that does give a look at how big and built Conan was meant to be. So here we are taking him onto the Xbox 360 with the simplified title, Conan.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect from a game, as they tend to go: good book/comic, good film and finally, bad game, but I was pleasantly surprised how involved I got when playing Conan, it was actually fun. As simple as it is, you take the part of the Barbarian himself and you must travel the Hyborian world in search of Conan’s armour, and to do this, you must absolutely crucify anything that gets in your way; except the half-naked women… we’ll tell you about that later. So, let’s go and find our armour shall we?
Controlling Conan is relatively easy, but the camera does take a while to get used to as it’s not moveable with the right analog stick, so it sticks to you and can become frustrating at times. The controls are easy to get to grips with, the right analog stick making it possible for you to roll in the direction you want to go; forward, back, left and right. It’s a handy control when you get into some intense battles with scores of enemies. Armed with your polished sword, you get to absolutely slaughter your enemies with a vast array of moves, ranging from using your bare hands, a single weapon or if you’re feeling really angry, grab two weapons to rack up those kills.
The enemies vary from simple pirates without any armour, to guards with armour who are a lot more skilled and actually defend themselves pretty well, but it’s still easy to put them to the sword once you’ve got that first hit when they have dropped their guard. The weapons range from your average sword that you get, to the guards sword, which is a lot bigger and more effective, to bladed sticks in which you can slice and dice your enemy… as long as they don’t get you first. What has to be said is that the game has been given an 18 rating because of the gore and the way you can literally chop the enemy across the waistline in half, behead them or more brutally literally slice them in half from the head to toe. What is actually quite fun is body slamming the enemy to the ground, or even pile-driving them into the ground - the hands are a beautiful weapon.
When your enemies are disposed of, the majority of them give you runes; but I think I’ll stick to the regular and more useful term, orbs. It’s very easy to pick up; green replenishes your health, blue replenishes your magic and more importantly the ones that are most frequent are the red orbs, and these give you points to upgrade your abilities on offer. Once you buy a move, you can constantly keep buying the upgrades for it and using the menu to do so is very easy to do so. You have your ‘Ready to Learn’ ability which is great for people like me who just want to upgrade anything and everything whilst not looking for anything in particular, but you can do that if you wish with the other options. With your ‘General Move’ option you can upgrade your throwing, punching and stomping moves, while with the ‘One Handed’ option you can stun the enemy with an elbow to the face, or a suplex, ‘Two Handed’ is just practically what you can do with two of your hands on a weapon such as a special execution or an uppercut to smash their jaw. It’s all very simple to do, and if you’re like me who just enjoys all the gore in the game, the upgrading won’t matter much.
As mentioned earlier on, the camera can take some time to get used to, but there are a few problems with the frame-rate. For example, when Conan climbs down a ladder which is a straightforward scenario, the frame will freeze like there’s a big boulder keeping him from moving, something which is a bit of a shame, but it’s only a minor niggle. With the frame-rate pretty much ’alright’ throughout the game, it’s a shame that the developers, Nihilistic Software, didn’t polish up the games visuals. The graphics aren’t intended to look true-to-life, but as much of a beast Conan was intended to be, his pecs are the size of an Xbox 360 console on each side whilst his veins look like he got bladdered and someone got a black marker and drew on him. The cut-scenes are absolutely nothing to shout about as the flow with the actual in-game action, but one particular detail that Nihilistic have taken part in is the ‘top half’ of the women hostages. Conan shows his huge pecs, six-pack and strong muscles, while the women hostages that are tied up are topless and you can see their ‘breasts’ and they look pretty much perfect for an animation. They’re topless and have a white cloth wrapped around their waistline just covering those bits that they don’t want you to see. They are grateful when you release them… “where’s my clothes?” for example, you’ve rescued her, slaughtered about 100 enemies and she’s bothered about her clothes because she’s half-naked.
As far as the sound is concerned there is nothing much to tell, the voice acting is pretty much as you would expect it, the women with girly voices and your voice is deep and you sound more like a normal bloke with a rock thrown down your throat. You can always tell when a battle is going to occur as there is no music when you are tracking for a whole 10 seconds before you bump into the enemies, and then the build up kicks in and you fight with the sound of an ancient theme, but it’s always the same through and through.
Conan is no doubt an enjoyable game, but it’s one of those that could have been a lot better. The graphics aren’t too bad nor is the sound, but if more time was spent on them, maybe Conan would be that more enjoyable. It’s good to chop peoples heads off, slice them in half and impale them onto spikes, but even though the game is gory, the puzzles (if you can call them that) are really basic; pull levers, push pillars to make a bridge and so on, and with doors locking behind you, there is no way to get lost. It’s an enjoyable game with a few niggles here and there, but I know the younger generation would enjoy it, but being an 18 rated game, it’s hard to see the ‘older’ audience forking out the £40RRP for Conan with many other titles due for release soon. Conan is fun to play and it’s gory, but to be honest it‘s not worth its £40 RRP, maybe £25. I was expecting Conan to be poor, but it was nice to get a shock of playing a good title.