Out of all the launch games for the Xbox One, Ryse has been the one I’ve been keeping an eye on.
Since E3 2010, Crytek has been teasing it, and I’ve been watching with good reason. Debuting as “Codename: Kingdom,” we saw a battle-hardened Roman soldier, and I was hooked. Crytek’s allure is its capability to toe the line of what can be done and stepping dangerously over it, especially when it comes to graphics.
The next year, Microsoft announced that “Rise” would be a Kinect exclusive, and it piqued my interest. At the time I had purchased a Kinect and bought into the vision of a new revolution of gaming. In 2012, it was relabeled as “Better with Kinect,” which I was fine with. By this time, I had lost interest with Kinect controlling a character and enjoyed the “Better with Kinect” games, allowing extras to be accessed via voice. Imagine my surprise when Crytek and Microsoft again delayed what is now called “Ryse” and then announced it would be a launch game for the Xbox One. My heart stopped. This is it! This will be the game I’ve been waiting for.
Ryse was the first game I put into my brand-spanking-new console. Once the loading screen finished, I was floored by the expansiveness and beauty of the graphics. The sound was unbelievable. The music was orchestrated and powerful. This is it! I will be a Roman soldier! I started to play, and as I was following the tutorial, I was having a blast.
Ryse is a third person hack-’n'-slasher with finishing moves and leveling. The finishing moves are especially brutal but take some skill to execute correctly. If you mess up, no problem. The move will still finish, but you just won’t get as many points to level up. As you hack through barbarians and other baddies, a skull floats above their heads. This is the signal to begin the finisher. By pressing the right trigger, the camera zooms in on the bad guy, and they soon glow blue and yellow. This will be your prompt to press either the X and Y buttons, respectively. Depending on how quickly you recognize the movement or color, your score will raise exponentially higher. This is the bulk of the campaign. Ryse attempts to mix things up a bit by making you throw spears, use a crossbow, and lead a garrison, but those moments are few and far between. The campaign story is compelling, and one could get sucked into it like the dramatic shows on television today.
Although at times the gameplay can get stagnant, the real draw is the graphics and sound. Again, Ryse looks unbelievable. You can almost see your reflection in the armor. There are trees and grass swaying, buildings and rocks textured to almost perfection — even leaves blowing and birds flying out in the distance. The water and fire move with what looks like a randomness that enables you to be enveloped into the world. There is a definite sense of “next gen” in Ryse. The sounds and music are superb. Crytek definitely knows how to present a game and it shows.
The multiplayer is a sort of respite from the campaign. It’s a one-to-two player (co-op) gladiator-mode set in a coliseum with enemies coming from all sides, all wanting a (literal!) piece of you. The campaign does get pretty heavy at times, and this offers a break but and provides for simple hacking-and-slashing that helps makes Ryse what it is. As you play, you level up and are able to unlock more gear for your gladiator. You are not pitted against one another; instead, you are working alongside each other conquering different and unique objectives. The arena constantly changes to keep you on your toes, from a wooden platform to forest, all changing as needed to keep you and your co-op partner interested. This was a highlight of the game for me and allowed me to rest from the campaign when I felt overwhelmed.
Remember that Michael Bay movie, Pearl Harbor? It’s an absolute special-effects beauty of a movie, but the story just seemed a bit too long for one sitting. This is how Ryse was with me. It’s extremely beautiful, looking and sounding like what a next-gen game should, but if you decide to go through the campaign on one go, it becomes tedious. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy playing long stretches every once in a while, but at points I just had to take a break from the campaign and play some multiplayer. I recommend you do the same.