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Conan

Let us tell you of the days of high adventure... aw, go on

To be honest, neither Robert E Howard's original pulp fiction, the Marvel comics or the Hollywood Schwarzenegger romps (and we're fans of all of them) sprung to mind while we got stuck into a lengthy hands-on with the immortal harbinger of doom this issue; this is very much THQ's Conan. Voiced by Ron 'Hellboy' Perlman, and sporting an uncanny resemblance to Daniel Craig, this muscular lump prefers to rape and pillage first and ask questions later. Which is... good.

We're been jokingly branding this 'Conan of War' around the office, and while comparisons with PS2's classic classical Greek hack-'em-up are well founded, Conan's combat system is infinitely more sophisticated. Okay, so you've got your staple light and heavy attacks and harvest red orbs from fallen foes to pump up your attributes, but if God of War's move tree was a sturdy pine then Conan's is a freakin' giant redwood - packed with gory finishing moves with such imaginative titles as the 'double death stomp'.

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Riddle of steel
Mullet boy can also scavenge a variety of weapons, from lengthy spears to flaming torches and two-handed broadswords, lending the admittedly simplistic hack-'n'-slash combat an element of freshness. You can also lob discarded imple-ments at baddies for comedy takedowns, dual-wield different weapons if you so desire or even take on the hordes of darkness with just your potato fists - but whatever method you adopt, the blood is guaranteed to flow in ruddy great rivers...

Beware though; the assortment of stygians, wraiths, bandits, lions and giant apes you'll be forced to battle won't sit idly by and wait to be impaled on Conan's sword, so it makes sense to grab yourself a shield and defend yourself. In fact, blocking isn't half as boring as it sounds; specifically because it lets Conan pull off super-gory QTE counter-attacks like hacking someone's arms off, tearing coils of intestines from their tummies or lobbing them into the air before cleaving them in two seperate bits.

Finally, we found ourselves on a galley besieged by the monstrous Kraken, chopping off its tentacles as the beast attempted to haul us to a watery grave while turning our crew into sludge zombies. It looked great, even if the sheer imagination of God of War's boss scraps was sadly lacking...

It's cynically, almost painfully, derivative. But what it does bring to the hack-'n'-slash table are sumptuous production values, a sweeping soundtrack and surprisingly fleshed-out (chortle) chopping action, suggesting this enjoyable romp will win the manly barbarian a fresh new legion of fans. Oh, and did we mention the gratuitous boobies yet?

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