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The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  Point of View
Publisher:  Universal Interactive
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  12-16-02

If youíre looking for a game that includes stunning graphics, well designed, fully responsive controls, great voice acting and an engrossing story to really draw you in, then youíd best keep looking because The Scorpion King: Rise of Akkadian is definitely not what youíre looking for. There are so many things wrong with this atrocity I could go on listing them off till the crack of doom. Since Iím sure you, like myself, have far better things to do with your time, letís restrict ourselves to only the most offensive of the batch for our purposes herein. But let it not be said that I didnít warn you. The development team at Point of View have a hell of a lot to answer for.

OK, kids, ready? Itís time to get into some of the major factors that make The Scorpion King such an utter disaster (above and beyond the now standard $50 price tag). Letís list them off:

Horrible controls.

Since this is better broached under the "gameplay" bullet, letís restrict this to the training session at the start of the game, wherein you learn the exciting and highly effective moves youíll be forced to utilize throughout the remainder of your Scorpion King experience. This should give the unwary just a taste of what it means to be "The Rock" (or at least, so the developers would have us believe). As might be expected, each training session teaches you a small and discrete subset of moves. However, for some unknown reason, the people who also gave us Smashing Drive (ahem) saw fit to disallow any of the moves you learned in your prior training sessions in subsequent ones. To be more clear about it, what this means is if youíre supposed to be learning a throw, you canít even throw a punch or kick Ė nothing but the move at hand. An eerie portend of horrors yet unseen? Perhaps. But wait, the worst is yet to come.

Awful cameras.

Now we all know that The Scorpion King is based on a movie starring apparently popular WWE wrestling personality Dwayne "Rock" Johnson. It also might have been anticipated that Point of View would seek out Mr. Johnson to make an appearance in the game, whether by reproduction of his likeness or more direct participation via voiceover (in this case, both). What no one would have expected is the apparent ego clause Johnson or his agents managed to sneak in to sweeten the deal for himself. Unbelievably, and in a true paean to "star" vanity, the game camera spends most of its time focusing exclusively on a face-on view of Mr. Johnsonís goofy mug, to the extent where the usual third-person-from-behind view is subverted, so that you seem to be taking the perspective of your opponent, rather than the ostensibly playable character! In other words, rather than seeing your enemy, so you can direct your attacks, you get a lovely view of Mr. Johnsonís steroid-enhanced pectorals, while he/you remain on the receiving end of your (for all intents and purposes) invisible opponentís blows. You have to manually manipulate the view by means of the "C" stick to right this, but just like that old standby of drunken camera placement, Castlevania 64, this state of affairs lasts for mere seconds before reverting the viewer to his proper place as a happy spectator of Mr. Johnsonís antics (as he continues to receive hits, mind you). This is obviously a major flaw in design, since as you might imagine, it makes it rather difficult to fend off the endlessly repeated hordes of enemies, dogs, giants, etc. Beyond the expected difficulties of effectively utilizing kicks, hits, and throws in such a milieu, even throwing items at them proves an exercise in futility, since wherever theyíre going, they obviously never connect with the intended targets.

Graphics;

About which the less said the better. Graphically speaking, The Scorpion King could easily be compared to some very early Playstation titles (you know, the ones with the long plastic box, that were usually direct ports of computer games?). Cut scenes containing any animation whatsoever only manage to look awkward (as do the movements of Mathayus throughout the game Ė check out his prancing queen "shoo" hand movements when he opens those doors with the round locks).

Storyline.

You know those badly dubbed Z grade kickboxing and T&A movies your father watches late nights on Cinemax? Then you know what to expect here (but at least he didnít pay $50 for the privilege!). The "plot" of The Scorpion King is, to my understanding, a prequel to the movie, attempting to explain how Mathayus came to receive the titular designation. Playing as Mathayus, you have to perform several ludicrous and apparently pointless "missions" in order to "prove" to the current king that you are worthy to be one of his assassins. Whatever. Oh, and by the way? I donít know anything about Mr. Johnsonís acting ability, in cinema or the ring, but his voice acting performance here is horrible. If his delivery were any more wooden, Johnson would be a forest unto himself. Maybe he should look into dubbing anime.

And last but not least, Gameplay.

The basic gameplay format is this. Mathayus walks through a doorway. Instantly, you hear a cry of "hey, you!" (yes, what I am describing will happen literally every single time you enter a new area, no exaggeration. The only variation Iíve encountered is a very Brooklyn-accented "Whatta YOU doiní?", which is hardly an improvement, not to mention a probable anachronism). Of course, there is no one in sight of the camera but our hero, Mr. Johnson. After all, who wants to see anyone else, right? The invisible opponents will suddenly surround you, to which you can respond with some mildly effective kicks (B button), generally ineffective punches (A button, which 9 times out of 10, will be blocked with the efficiency of a master, as evidenced by the blue swirly effect accompanying your, say, 10 punches in a row), or mysterious "special moves", which seem to take quite a toll in stamina. So unless, like myself, you get your jollies out of kicking the sh*t out of the various vicious dogs (cat lovers of the world unite!), your basic gameplan is to hit A and B together for the visually absurd "throw" moveÖover and over and over again, ad nausaeum. When combined with the frequent randomly generated (and never intentionally accessed) "charge" moves (which indubitably send "The Rock" hurtling in absurd and amusing vectors AWAY from the action: according to the manual, the "charge" is accessed by hitting ANY attack button while runningÖbut since this effectively describes the entire game, you never know when youíll end up charging) and a few kicks to the head while theyíre getting up, near exclusive use of this move tends to get you through fight after fight with as little personal injury as possible. Not being a big wrestling fan, Iím not sure if "The Rock"ís M.O. is picking people up and throwing them over his head until they concede out of dizziness, but regardless, it makes for a less than exciting, if not absolutely absurd gameplay paradigm. Better still, the programming in The Scorpion King is so generally poor, that rather than showing an obvious grab and throw maneuver, characters appear to leap and somersault over Mathayus without your actually having touched them per seÖand this isnít to mention how these same characters (or yourself, when knocked down) will appear to vanish into the ground. My personal favorite was when I went to kick one of them in the head as he was getting up, and he shot into the air like a human football going for a field goal. At least this sort of thing helps lighten up the proceedings by providing some unintentional amusement. But after getting into fight after fight after fight, the laughter tends to fade into boredom and disgust. My favorite part was the unexpected "timed fight!" which appeared mysteriously about 45 minutes into the game, which puts a quickly receding time bar above your head as youíre surrounded by several dogs, giants, thugs, and anonymously fired arrows pelting you from all sides; virtually ensuring that only the most braindead among us (i.e., those who are truly involved in this crap) will actually pass beyond this point. Needless to say, I didnít, nor did the prospect of restarting the entire level from my last save (quite a few of these nonsensical dog-pile-on-the-rabbit style fights back, I might add) appeal to me in any way whatsoever.

Iím sure fans of the erstwhile Mr. Johnson will appreciate the chance, however meager, to recreate his antics (however poorly) in a personal sense. Iím also sure that they, unlike myself, have actually seen the doubtless Oscar nominated film from which this game derives. Without that reference point, I admit that there is the chance that I have somehow "missed the point", and blindly stumbled into something doubtless too deep and insider for me to really "get". But somehow, I doubt it.

The bottom line is, only fans of "rock ní wrestling" need apply (does anybody else hear "Classy" Freddie Blassieís "Pencil Neck Geeks" right now, or is it just me?), and to be honest, theyíd be better served by cranking up some tacky nu-metal (cool! Linkin Park! Tool! DUDE!) and watching one of those cut-rate WWE DVDs cluttering up the shelves at your local mall; or supporting the cause of ghost writers everywhere by reading Mr. Johnsonís autobiography, "The Rock Says: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment" (by "the Rock" and Joe Layden ("Contributor")). While Iím sure none of these activities will appeal to the more culturally refined among us, they still doubtless will prove a more exciting waste of time than playing this disaster of a game.

Highs:

  • ummÖ "The Rock" does the voice?

Lows:

  • Essentially, everything;
  • Poor camera angles and control of camera.
  • Awful controls per se.
  • Pathetic, early PS1-level AI and graphics

Final Verdict:

"Hey, you! Donít buy this game!"

Overall Score: 2.0

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