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     " Luckily, being made of sterner stuff, death is more like a weekend bender hangover. "

      Title: Rune: Viking Warlord from Take 2 Interactive

      Format: Action game for the PS2

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: When we say action, we mean it. Hack, slash, and mash your way through the world of Ragnar, young Viking at large. The end of it all looms close and the gods (lazy bastards that they are) have chosen this young mortal to combat the wave after wave of pitiful opponents you will face. With an imposing array of weapons at his disposal, he will fight his way to victory or a bloody, forgotten death. For those who missed it on the PC, hereís a port to your PS2.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: The graphics here are a little rough around the edges. The characters and creatures come out of it looking a little planed, with not quite enough polygons in there. The backgrounds vary. The less complicated they ought to be, the better they fare. Towns, and other areas with detailed backgrounds donít do so well. There are some nice touches graphically. When you attack a creature, your weapon gets bloody, and stays that way. Running around with a bloody edged axe, slicing the heads off of goblins is, in my opinion good for the soul. 3 out of 5

      Sound: The voice acting is not terrible, and the sounds of combat come out pretty well. The music ranges from good to simply unobtrusive. When you get around to fighting evil Vikings, theyíll start yelling some humorous things. When you suddenly hear "You fight like a woman!" from out of nowhere, you know youíre in for a fight. All in all, thereís nothing here that will annoy, or even intrude onto your game. 3 out of 5

      Game Play: Nothing like a little hack and slash gaming. Thatís pretty much what youíve got here. The array of weapons basically boils down to swords, axes and maces. A mace is a mace is a mace, with the main differences being the damage done and the magical powers attributed to the specific weapons. Each weapon does have its own magical power, fueled by the runes that you find strewn about (As we all know, Odin just kind of chucked a bunch of runes at Midgard, all of which now lie in convenient power up points). Combat (forming the bulk of the gameplay) is pretty fun. The game tracks where your hits occur, allowing for chopped off limbs and heads. Better yet, you can then use those hacked off body parts as weapons. Albeit rather dumb weapons. But imagine distracting some poor whelp by throwing the head of his one time buddy at him. The controls are fairly good, although when you really get into the tough battles, youíll easily find that you lose all precision and degrade into simple button mashing. The biggest problem with playing this game is how seldom you actually know what youíre doing. The levels, while short (more in a moment), can sometimes get less than linear. Sometimes requiring you to go past your objective to wait for an event. Sometimes requiring you to solve an obscure puzzle. Sometimes, just requiring you to find a well-hidden breakable wall. All this leads to a whole lot of wandering around going- Okay, what the hell do I do now? Those kinds of moments can really drag a game down, and action games depend on their ability to create non-stop action. 3 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: The levels in Rune are generally really short. Some of them take less than ten minutes to beat. On some of the shorter levels, this means extremely linear levels. The longer levels are generally longer because a pathway is slightly hidden from you requiring you to wander about as mentioned earlier. The environments, although graphically less than splendid, are fairly good for period. The halls of Hel are appropriately desiccated. The Viking halls and long houses look about right. After a while it all becomes moot, as you search about for your next enemy to kill. With the exception of a few barrels, and the occasional story/puzzle piece, the environments are not interactive, and therefore become boring swiftly. 2 out of 5.

      Multiplayer: Two things that I must talk about in Multiplayer. One good, one bad. Good: In a three-player game- the fourth, black screen is used for the score. I cannot tell you how cool it is to have somebody finally use that available space for something. Now rather than just a black splotch on your screen, you can look over for a moment and see whoís got the most kills and whom you need to go after. For the bad, the game has one hit one kill weapons. This in and of itself isnít bad, but if you include those with weapons that are not one hit, in the same game, you end up with the one guy with a one hit weapon and the others left to wonder why that guy kills them so damn quick. This very quickly ruins the fun for the Ďother guyí. One hit weapons are all well and good, just make sure everyone has them. Otherwise the multiplayer is pretty much straight up. The levels are fairly good, with some interesting points to them. The action is average, with swordplay being the main difference between this and any other Action Multiplayer. 3 out of 5

      Replayability: Once youíve made it through, thatís going to be it. Thereís nothing here to keep you coming back for more. Maybe a multiplayer game or two will spice things up, but there are far more entertaining ones out there. Any replays you do decide to take will be much faster as you wonít have that pesky "what now" phase to go through, youíll already know. 1.5 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: Can I just ask why donít the Godís ever do their own dirty work? I mean, especially in a Norse setting. The gods were vicious and cruel, if they wanted to strike a guy down, very little would stop them from doing so, especially if the guy was mortal. But no, instead they decide- "ah hell, itís Midgard. Let one of their schmucks do it." This is where you come in. Apparently some nasty Viking has taken it into his head to worship Loki and bring about Ragnarok (everybody wants to bring about the end of the world. Canít somebody bring about something different? Like dinner?). Towards that end, he kills you and your whole family. Luckily, being made of sterner stuff, death is more like a weekend bender hangover. You immediately stand up, dust off, and start fighting your way out of Hel. From there itís a non-stop battle to the bitter end against the many minions of Loki. All things considered the story is fairly standard. Even if set against a Norse background. Still, there are a few twists and turns, some justice and just deserts, all that sort of thing. It has fairly good continuity and wonít leave you sagging. 3 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: It may take a while to learn how to best chop off the heads of those foolish enough to challenge you, but youíll get there. The instructions tell you how it all goes down and work pretty well. Once youíve got the controls, the rest is pretty easy. You should be tasting the blood of your hapless enemies in no time. 4 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: The game already faces dreadful pacing slowdowns in gameplay, to have the load times be so long is just cruel. It gets worse though. Every time the game loads, it saves it at the beginning of the level. So you sit there for two minutes waiting for the bar to fill, when it does you sit up, tense yourself, muttering, "Go time". Only to be treated with a screen that says, "Now saving, do not remove memory card" causing you to slump back down for another 30 seconds while it does its business. This kind of slowdown is just unforgivable. Especially when coupled with the fact that a lot of levels are really short. Meaning that you get about ten minutes of gameplay, much of which is spent just running down the bloody hall, before you have to sit through another load time. Highly annoying. The game doesnít even push any boundaries to speak of. None worth a load time like this. 1 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Rune: Viking Warlord is not too bad a game. Youíve got a big buff Viking tearing down the halls with an axe the size of a large child, cleaving things in twain. However youíve also got horrendous load times, often boring or confusing levels, and blasť graphics. These drag a game that might have been great into mediocrity. Which is too bad, because more games should feature axes the size of large children.

      The Good: A wide array of weapons to use, along with a wide array of bad guys to use them on.

      The Bad: : Rough graphics, horrible load, and a lot of pace slowing.

      The Overall Ugly: For action buffs, it may be worth a look, for others, just stay away.

      What it's Worth: 20, at best.

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