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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Namco

 

Developer

Point of View

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

November 21, 2003

 

 

- Decent fighting system
- Spawn's death scene is kinda cool

 

 

- Boring, repetitive environments
- Overall tedious gameplay
- Quite buggy

 

 

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Spawn: Armageddon

Score: 5.4 / 10

 

I never thought I'd actually say this, but there are lessons to be learned from the movie industry. The cavalcade of recent comic book films have proven one very obvious point: good movies (Spider Man, X2) do well, whereas crappy ones (Hulk, Daredevil) do not. It's a sad day when the video game industry can't even learn the same lesson, because Namco's Spawn: Armageddon is yet another mediocre comic book adaptation.

 

spawn preview          spawn preview

 

Spawn: Armageddon doesn't even try to hide it - it's a Devil May Cry clone. This in itself is not a crime - it's been scientifically proven that Devil May Cry is pretty much the ideal way to do a 3D action game, and many other titles, like Rygar and Castlevania, have borrowed liberally with decent results. Spawn, however, quite deeply parallels the Capcom bestseller  - the levels all begin with a single paragraph of text describing the mission, with an option to upgrade weapons; the music is mostly atmospheric that flairs up into generic techno rock when there's action going on. Though alas, Spawn can't toss his enemies up in the air and shoot them, which shows a surprisingly amount of restraint on the developer's part. The only real difference is that they ditched the static camera in favor of one that focuses on Spawn. If that wasn't enough, Spawn takes a page from the recent Spider Man video games by letting you collect comic book covers and unlock various art galleries, although you'll need to play through the game on all three difficulty levels if you want to earn everything.

 

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Since the source material was very good, the combat system works reasonably well. In addition to his axe for melee combat, Spawn can use his chains to attack enemies at a distance. He also has special powers that allows him to shoot lasers, bombs, and slow down time, dubbed Necroplasm. If that weren't enough, there's also quite a bit of weaponry, ranging from the standard dual pistols to more cryptic guns like the Brimstone cannon. For some reason, all of the weaponry has limited

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ammo, and since most of these guns have some weaknesses, you're probably best off not using them too often. There's, at least, a lot of different ways to dispose of the bad guys, although everything does feel a bit slow compared to the more twitchy action games, perhaps due to the game only running at 30 frames per second.

Unfortunately, beyond the fighting, there's not much good to say about Spawn. The levels themselves are quite dull, comprised of the usual environments of abandoned cityscapes, abandoned warehouses, abandoned shipyards, and...um...Hell. There's not much to do except beat up all of the enemies, move onto the next screen and repeat. The most exciting it usually gets is when you have to hit a few circuit breakers to open the door to the next area. Boss battles are spread throughout, and those are made infinitely more annoying due to the crappy hit detection. The platforming segments don't fair much better. Spawn has a reasonable assortment of acrobatic maneuvers, including the ability to double jump, hover with his cape, and bounce off walls. Unfortunately, the wall jump only seems to work in pre-scripted spots, and while Spawn has the ability to grab onto ledges, it works arbitrarily and results in lots of missed jumps. And while Spawn can use his chains to grapple onto certain spots, this mechanics isn't never fully developed and just isn't very interesting. The tedium begins to come apparent the first time you die and have to restart a level from scratch (there are no checkpoints and some of the longer levels can take up to twenty minutes to beat.)

It doesn't help that the game is quite glitchy. The first time I played the game, it froze after a cutscene. The second time, I encountered an enemy that I couldn't kill, necessitating the restart of the level. And then there was the time when the camera got stuck in some scenery and only by playing with the camera controls for a few minutes was I able to regain control. Not that any of these have any amazing detrimental effect on the game, but it just hammers in the fact that this a rushed, shoddy game from pretty much every angle.

 

spawn preview          spawn preview

 

Graphically, Spawn looks excellent but the rest of everything else is pretty nondescript. Some may find the hellish enemy designs cool, although personally I think you'd find more imaginative doodles in the algebra notebook of a bored high schooler. The cutscenes have some excellent voice acting (Spawn's VA isn't to be the same as in the animated series, although he sounds like just like him.) Unfortunately, these cinematics are few in number, and aren't that engaging anyway.

Devil May Cry 2 got a lot of heat for feeling bland and uninspired compared to its predecessor. Spawn: Armageddon, being even more vapid, actually makes that vaguely lackluster title seem like a work of absolute genius. Spawn fans may be happy that they get a game based on the character that, unlike the PSone and Dreamcast outings, doesn't suck outright, but most everyone else is better off skipping this one.

- Kurt Kalata

 

(January 12, 2004)

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