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Due Spring 2003 for Xbox, PlayStation 2, Gamecube.

ValensFireAffinity.jpg (5723 bytes)Gladiator games sure seem like they’ve been a long time in coming. After all, it’s been over two years since Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe duped the academy into thinking that Gladiator was anything more than a remake of Braveheart set in Rome (which, ironically enough, was a remake of Spartacus set in Scotland). With America’s seemingly insatiable lust for all things Gladiatoresque, it seems like we should have had a deluge of coliseum based games on all systems.

Mongrels.jpg (5762 bytes)We’ve really only had one sub-par Gladiator game come out in the last few years, the dismal Circus Maximus. Everything about Gladiator life is suited to the video gaming industry; you’ve got the restless fans screaming for blood and carnage and more instruments of death than you can shake a fist at. I have little doubt that if Jim McMahon weren’t hampered by societal standards, he’d make gladiator games the most popular event on cable. But because people actually get a little squeamish when the subject of killing for sport comes up, gladiator battle is the one sport that can really only thrive in a virtual world.

BarbarianVsSecutor.jpg (5827 bytes)Gladius is the story of Ursula and Valens, two ‘young heroes’ who recruit and train a group of warriors to compete in the Gladiator games. You know you’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t admit that you’ve always harbored a secret desire to run your own gladiator school. As the game progresses you learn of a plot to bring back an ancient god who will wreak havoc upon all mankind.

Screenshot5-01.jpg (5881 bytes)I only got to spend a little time with Gladius, but what impressed me most about the game was the incorporation of the stadium fans. This game takes crowd pleasing to a whole new level. Depending on the arena, different crowds are going to react differently to fighting styles. The Romanesque crowds are going to reward heroic confrontations whereas the Barbarians are going to be more pleased with backstabbing and sneak attacks. The turn-based RPG elements of the game threw me off a little because I was really expecting an all out brawl in the arena. RPG fans should feel more than at home in this world. The battle animations were impressive, and the few deathblows that I witnessed were sufficiently creative.

UrsulaVsSamnite.jpg (6603 bytes)The thing that makes me hesitant about this game is its incorporation of magic and mysticism. It’s as if the developers felt that it wouldn’t be a ‘real’ RPG if gamers couldn’t execute at least a few spells. The magical elements really seem to take away from the game’s potential to put players into the world of Gladiators and Roman decadence. With all of the competitions and the management of your gladiator schools, it seems almost as if it’s too much to worry about the revival of an evil ancient god. If LucasArts can effectively balance the historical and fantasy elements, it may prove to be an exciting game, but we’ll just have to wait and see. The game will also feature exhibition battles against the computer or 4 player co-operative modes. Gladius should show up on all three platforms by the spring of 2003.

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Jason Frank (06/28/2002)