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Friday, October 5, 2007

Conan preview and trailer

A novel/comic book series that was popularized in a series of 80’s movies starring a certain “governator” in the titular role, Conan the Barbarian is experiencing a revival of sorts, at least in the video-game universe. Funcom is currently developing an MMORPG for the PC called Age of Conan. On the other side of the fence, however, THQ is publishing their own game featuring the Cimmerian hero.

Simply called Conan, the game takes a straight-forward action approach to the license, drawing heavy inspiration from games like God of War to make for some intense moments. Conan doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to the Schwarzenegger films, as it draws exclusively from the works of Robert E. Howard.

The combat feels a lot like God of War. The camera is controlled by the game, with the right thumbstick dedicated to performing rolls and dodges. You perform combos by combining quick attacks with stronger ones, block and perform reversals. Additionally, the game has an orb collection system that allows you to collect red orbs from defeated enemies to spend on upgrades and new moves. Also like in God of War, the game has some real-time sequences where you have to push a button at the right time in order to perform certain actions, like tapping the B button to pull open a heavy door and so on.

One main difference between the two is that Conan allows you to pick up and use the weapons of your fallen foes. Single-handed blades can be dual-wielded, and two-handed blades add extra power at the cost of some speed. You can throw weapons at your enemies too, adding some range to your weapon repertoire. Using the B Button, you can perform “camel punches” and grabs, letting you throw enemies into others to others as well as objects in the environment.

Xbox 360 Conan Trailer:

In terms of speed and pacing, the game does move noticeably slower than GoW. The action doesn’t feel quite as smooth as a result, and loses a bit of fluidity when it comes to performing combos and one-hit kill reversals. However, since the build was in preview form, this issue could be cleaned up before the game ships. The game wears its M-Rating on its sleeve, as the violence level is quite high, as those familiar with the license would expect. You’ll chop through hordes of enemies, spewing blood and hewing limbs and heads at every turn.

Graphically, the game looks pretty good. The character models and environments are done in the style of Frank Franzetta, renowned fantasy illustrator, resulting in a very stylized look. The lighting effects and textures boast the same quality, lending a comic book feel to the game. The sound effects sound pretty good, the score is impressive and the voice work features Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Blade: Trinity) in the title role.

Conan may seem a bit derivative, but the action is actually quite fun in a gory guilty-pleasure sort of way. Look for it to hit later this October.