Spawn: Armageddon Review

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Publisher: Namco
Developer: Point of View

Platform: Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

Al Simmons was a professional assassin for a corrupt government agency before he found his conscience and was terminated. Sent to Hell for his sins, Simmons made a deal with a demon that transformed him into a Hellspawn – a general in Hell's army with a prominent role in the coming Apocalypse. For the moment, Simmons (as Spawn) lurks in the dark shadows of New York City. Spawn: Armageddon begins as Spawn is startled by a tremendous blast of green energy that rains down from the sky into the center of Manhattan.

Kyle Ackerman

Ironically, Spawn: Armageddon is less about the lead character Spawn than it is about suddenly spawning enemies. While Spawn himself is a terrific anti-hero, Spawn: Armageddon is best described as the framework for a good game. Much of the game involves Spawn entering a non-descript room or area and fighting a group of simple-minded enemies. More enemies spawn nearby, so Spawn fights those. Finally, something tougher will spawn. Spawn kills it and moves on to the next room to start the process over again. If Spawn falls at the hands of any of these enemies, he battles through the whole sequence all over again!

Spawn Looks Like A Denizen of Hell
But Responds to Control Like a Hostile Djinn

Spawn himself is the best part of the game. Spawn's characteristic cape is gone (except when he glides) as it obscures the player's view, but Spawn wields the axe Agony, a manifestation of his rage focused through his cape. Spawn's moves, from swinging his axe to perching on a high spire, look smooth and after combat, blood continues to drip off Agony, leaving a trail of red droplets as Spawn runs. Despite the fluidity of the animations, the controls are really "mushy." Spawn doesn't respond quickly or easily to button presses, especially if he (or an enemy) is in the midst of an animation sequence. At least when Spawn speaks, the voice work for the character is excellent. In fact, Spawn is the first game character I've encountered who growls more viciously and frustratedly than I do when he misses a jump and is forced to restart a sequence.

The jumping portions of Spawn: Armageddon are another serious problem. The game is largely combat, but there are platformer elements. The camera controls are poor, so it's very difficult to see much above Spawn, or change the angle in constricted areas. At the same time, Spawn can jump very high, and can use his chains to pull himself up even higher, so Spawn's destination is often completely out of sight. There are glowing tokens to help you find your way, but sometimes even these are out of the field of view. The unresponsiveness of the controls and the camera make it very difficult to make jumps in areas such as the Evening News level, and really irritating. Also, there are areas that seem like obvious platforms onto which Spawn can jump, that aren't part of the playable region. These camera problems mean newly spawned enemies often hit Spawn before he notices them.

Imps, Gorillas and Cthulhoid Laments

The enemies themselves would be gruesome if the graphics of Spawn: Armageddon could support the detail of the artist's nightmare. There is a creature encyclopedia that will reveal information about enemies Spawn encounters as he slays more of them. From the encyclopedia you can see that Hell Leeches are vicious slugs with the heads of babies that vomit projectiles, but in the game they seem like formless slugs. There is an effort to make enemies unique so that each foe merits a different strategy, but with few exceptions everything can be dealt with by using Spawn's assortment of firearms (as long as he has sufficient ammunition). There are also Hell Powers, fed by collected Necroplasm, which can be used to fire mystical blasts, shield Spawn or even slow time. These can be useful, but Necroplasm runs out quickly.

The various monsters create some cool moments. It is fun to have Spawn shove a shotgun to an Imp's head and blast it back to hell, or detonate a floating security drone. Fire Demons leave behind hearts that (if not hacked to bits) will regenerate the demon. There are also some bizarre foes. The Spider Tank, an all-terrain experimental military vehicle possessed by a demon is more funny than frightening. For all the efforts to make the enemies unique, the bad guys follow simple, pre-set patterns – usually just running right at Spawn. As long as the player sees the enemy first, they'll usually only do serious damage if a group pins him against a wall or each other. Unfortunately, the sheer number of foes and confined spaces will eventually get the better of Spawn. And a careless death to the twelfth wave of enemies means starting the whole level over. Wave after wave of enemies is occasionally punctuated with huge boss monsters such as the ultimate soldier, Cy-Gor (a giant, cybernetic gorilla).

Spawn Can Attack Through Solid Walls!

Even the environment is against Spawn. While it can appear hellish (Spawn even visits Hell), the problems are more often unintentional issues like collision detection. A Spider Tank plowed through a pile of destructible boxes without noticing or breaking them. Enemies (and Spawn, once the player figures it out) can shoot through pillars without a problem. This can work to your advantage, as you can often stand with a floor or boulder between you and Hell's minions, killing them slowly with your chains while the AI has no idea how to reach you. Even going through doors can be surprisingly difficult – a problem when the environment is made up of lots of small areas connected by doors. Transitions to new spaces are even more difficult when doors aren't involved. Spawn can change facing and the terrain often looks different, such that you send Spawn running right back from whence he came, back into the fond embrace of monsters he's battled before.

Spawn: Armageddon starts off hacking simple imps and seems like it has the potential for entertaining but simple violence against the denizens of Heaven and Hell. The game becomes frustrating once Spawn enters the subway, and nearly intolerable once he decides to investigate Central Park. At that point, not only do the waves of enemies seem endless, but Spawn is targeted by blasts of fire from the sky. If you do keep going, you'll get to experience both Hell itself and a space station manned by the forces of heaven. Should you finish the whole game, Spawn: Armageddon challenges you to locate all the comic book cover art scattered throughout the game.

Spawn: Armageddon isn't unplayable, it just hasn't quite gotten around to being fun. Or working well. The entertainment to be had is extensive, button-mashing combat, exploiting the patterns of numerous (but simplistic) enemies. If the game takes more than an afternoon to complete on normal difficulty, that's because of frustrating repetition, not extensive content. The real draw to Spawn is the licensed character, but Spawn fans looking to watch Spawn create carnage may be better served by purchasing the Xbox version of Soul Calibur 2. The death effect in Spawn: Armageddon is a nice way to end a level. Spawn's master, Malebolgia, sends a hand through the crackling Earth to pull Spawn's corpse back to Hell. Unfortunately, in the game, this means you'll have to replay the level, and Spawn's torments will continue.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on January 11, 2004 10:41 AM.

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