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The internet likes to joke about whether a pirate could beat a ninja, but the people at Spike TV and Pipeworks Software take this stuff seriously. So seriously that they made an entire TV show based on the premise of which historical badass could beat the other. The Idea of the show Deadliest Warrior has “Video Game” written all over it, so it should come as no surprise that there have been several game adaptations. While these originally launched as downloadable titles for XBLA and PSN, they’ve been compiled together on a retail disk along some bonus materials, and the whole package is called Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat.
This is two games in one, the first of these to hit the market was Deadliest Warrior: The Game which let players choose form a selection historical warriors including the afore-mentioned Pirate and Ninja, but also added in a few more like Spartans, and Vikings. Each warrior has a distinct, historically accurate style with a (Mostly) unique load out of weapons and armor. There are some strong similarities between a few of these characters, especially the Spartan and the Roman, but the general selection spans a big gap, from heavily armored knights to nimble ninjas or native warriors. Players should be able to find a character that matches their preferred style of combat.
While the historical authenticity and whimsical “What If” theme are enticing, the game doesn’t have particularly good fighting mechanics. As with other fighting games, players choose a warrior at the start, and then proceed to fight the others in one-on-one combat. Three buttons are dedicated to Low, Medium and High attacks, with others dedicated to Block, projectile attacks and special moves. It gets very button mashy due to the fact that the characters only have a couple special attacks and there isn’t much of a combo system. They all have a short-range weapon, a long range weapon, plus a limited supply of projectiles, so there’s a bit of variety in the combat, but not much. Matches can generally be won by hammering away with basic attacks with the occasional well-timed special move. There isn’t much of a story for each character, although progressing through the game will unlock new weapons and armor for each one.
Things get a little worse in the other game on the disk. This one Deadliest Warrior: Legends casts players as famous historical figures like Joan of Arc or Genghis Kahn, rather than generic warriors. This time around, the traditional fighting game health bar is gone, and players fight until they’ve managed to strike a lethal blow. It adds a good deal of realism to the fights, but it also means that a single lucky blow can end the fight very quickly. Since everyone has projectile weapons, this means that matches can last only a second or two thanks to a single arrow hitting the right spot.
This sort of lucky shot is especially common in the single player mode where AI all too easily falls for the tactic of firing all of your projectiles right at the start of the fight. Human opponents are more cunning, but the element of luck plays a strong part in matches for both games.
Compounding that problem is that unpleasant truth that the multiplayer is sparsely populated. The game supports matches of up to 4 VS 4, but it’s hard to find more than a one-on-one match on XBLA at the time of this writing. It’s a very interesting possibility to have eight historical warriors duking it out at once, but this is something players probably won’t get to experience.
This pack is going to be of interest to those gamers who don’t have their Xbox hooked up to the internet, or who have very limited hard drive space. It comes with download rights for all of the DLC packs for both games, but the games themselves are played right off the disk.
Unfortunately, most fighting game fans aren’t going to care for Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat. It has simple mechanics, no online community, and a relatively small roster of playable characters. The two of them combined offer 17 characters, but that’s a far cry from the likes of Street Fighter X Tekken which boasts dozens of fighters and lets players find out who would win in a fight between a sumo wrestler and an android, or a transsexual dominatrix versus a bear.
However, the true audience for these games is fans of the TV show Deadliest Warrior. This pack not only has the two games, but also comes with a separate disk that has six full-length episodes of the show – episodes that focus on the historical characters featured in the game. The episodes aren’t divided into chapters and the sound quality is a little low, but this is a nice bonus, especially to get some insight into the inspirations of the characters and their weapons before exploring these fights in the games.