I think it’s the Centurion, personally. He is the Deadliest Warrior. Those emotionless eyes detail years of painful conflict (as opposed to slightly lacklustre modelling), his basic sword combo brings a family-sized serving of pain and the guy’s shield has ever-so-slightly more durability than two ice cream wafers smooshed together – which is more than you can say for the wussy Knight, at least. It’s definitely not the Pirate, that’s for sure: he might drop the F bomb every now and then, but he couldn’t take out an Apache if his life depended on it. Which it does, seeing as this is a one-on-one fighting game. Don’t pick the Pirate, basically.
But where are the other Deadliest Warriors, such as William Wallace, Jesse James and Al Capone? How come Vlad the Impaler can’t square off with Sun Tzu? This game just never quite goes as all out as its TV show inspiration (a ‘who would win in a fight’ faux-documentary currently airing on Bravo), refusing to let you take sides in a confrontation between the IRA and the Taliban. Then again, maybe the developers are just preparing themselves for a sequel.
This is a fighting game designed to appeal to people who don’t have the patience or desire to learn the genre’s intricacies, people who want immediate gratification. At points the approach almost works: if you want to hack off arms, legs and heads then Deadliest Warrior has got you covered. Its closest source of inspiration is probably 1998’s ‘one hit and you’re dead’ Bushido Blade, though it gives you a bit more health and adds in loads more gore.
There are eight Deadliest Warriors to choose from: Apache, Centurion, Knight, Pirate, Viking, Spartan, Samurai and Ninja. Characters are divided into two primary types, those who have shields and those that don’t. The latter are generally the nippy ones (Ninja, Apache) and can leap around with more bounce than a monkey on a pogo stick, but the armoured chaps can block attacks. It’s a risk/reward kind of thing, you see.
Fights can be over in just a few seconds – a well-placed spear can lop a head clean off – so players tend to opt for defensive play. A round starts, you and your opponent circle each other for a bit, then you mash a bit of light/heavy attack before flicking the right stick and hoping your Deadliest Warrior jumps out of the way of the inevitable counter-attack. Dodge, Centurion, dodge!
There’s not much more to it, really. If you can attack someone from behind then they’re pretty much dead, and you can switch to a mid-range weapon if you want to try and attack from a distance. There are a few other things you quickly pick up, too, such as how you should dodge away from shields, not into them. And you need to be wary of enemy projectiles, while always keeping an eye on your stamina bar. It’s all standard stuff. Try not to die, basically.
It gets boring fast. Having your Deadliest Warrior’s arm sliced off and watching him carry on as if nothing had happened is funny the first few times, but then it becomes dull and commonplace. Heads will keep rolling, but in terms of game design it’s a bit of a cheap parlour trick – offering geysers of blood to make up for a lack of quality mechanics.
Single-player has you crack the skulls of all eight Deadliest Warriors; A mirror match half-way through gives you a bonus costume, and the occasional bonus stage has you hacking down pig carcasses or fighting in an instant-decapitation round. Succeeding in these gives you a new weapon that has roughly the same stats as the previous weapon, and that’s the only real impetus for progression.
Finishing the single-player as every character does unlock the survival mode, though, which is actually even less exciting than it sounds. The only reason for doing this is getting the associated Achievement, but you probably won’t bother.
Like all fighting games, Deadliest Warrior is at its best when you’re playing with someone else – two Deadliest Warriors locked in a gladiatorial duel to the death and also the best of three rounds. You better keep it local though: the online netcode turns the game into a slideshow, and one time my head seemed to pop off all by itself. And in the game, too.
You’ll also have to watch it load, which takes almost as long as each fight. Loading screens also have a mishmash of useless tutorials – they might as well just write ‘don’t die’ on the screen in bloody letters – and the odd fact about each fighter that’s painfully obvious and probably lifted from the top of a Wikipedia page: now that’s edutainment. It also plays the same audio flourish over and over and over and over and please kill me and over again.
The Deadliest Warrior only costs 800 Microsoft points, but you could definitely spend them on something better. It’s fun for all of 20 minutes, and then you’ll either be ready to delete it forever or will have moved on to a better fighting game. Either way, don’t bother. You’ll have more fun watching the brilliant-but-awful TV show and then playing something – anything – else.