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Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: January 16, 2004
With honor and chastity being such unfashionable traits in today’s cynical world, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn may just be the superhero of choice for a new generation of skeptical teens and misanthropists. His hard-edged attitude and less-than-admirable demeanor make for an ideal alternative to strait-laced characters such as Spider-Man and Superman, and one that would seem well suited to a video game environment. Despite failed PlayStation and Dreamcast efforts, Namco hopes to win over fans and casual players alike with an exciting menagerie of the young franchise’s lore. This latest offering is cut from the same mold as countless other action titles beforehand, particularly Devil May Cry, and the developers undoubtedly hope to recreate some of the magic that made Capcom’s hack-and-slash effort the stunning success that it has been.
The story of Al Simmons is a tragic one; conflicted between two vastly different lives, one as a devout husband and the other as loyal assassin of the United States Security Group. Though his profession was one of cold, calculated murder, he wasn’t without a conscience, but before he could turn from his dark path, a fellow operative ended his life. Having made a deal with the Lord of the Underworld, Simmons has been condemned to an existence as a Hellspawn until the day of the Apocalypse. However, a strange event in the heart of New York City may just allow him to restore his human form, where he may reunite with his beloved wife, Wanda.
Armageddon is broken down into a series of missions that will take you from all across New York, and even into the depths of hell itself. You’ll battle everything from demonic flying beasts to hordes of infuriated angels, but regardless of the creature, each will leave behind their spirit in the form of small blue spheres. Similar to Devil May Cry, these souls can be collected and then traded at the conclusion of a mission for additional ammunition for your firearms, upgrades to your weapons, as well as your upgrades to your health and necroplasm gauges (as discussed later).
Spawn’s only melee weapon is his trusty Agony axe, an extraordinary blade whose powers are directly linked to Simmons’ own tortured soul. This is great for dispatching of hordes of surrounding enemies, as combining the attack button with other commands can allow you to pull off advanced attacks and combos. Conversely, your trusty chains act as the primary ranged weapon, though there are several others that will eventually make their way into your possession. From pistols and shotguns to rocket launchers and even unearthly cannons, there’s no shortage of firepower in Armageddon.
However, with so many weapons covering each end of the spectrum, the value of the smaller arms is called into question. A machinegun may seem almost worthless when compared to its bigger brother, the chain gun, but the weapons in the game do ultimately balance themselves out. Granted, the powerful, quick-firing chain gun can mow down enemies in no time, but considering that it takes a few seconds to get going and also prevents you from moving and jumping, it becomes next to useless when enemies are in close proximity. Other mighty firearms carry similar restrictions, not to mention the fact that they’re usually slow to reload and less accurate than a trusty pistol.
Alternatively, Armageddon supplies the player with a complement of special Hell Powers that function as magic spells would in a role-playing game. Some of these abilities inflict damage to your enemies while others simply augment your offensive and defensive might. Nevertheless, use of these skills does not come freely, as each one drains your necroplasm gauge. The exact amount varies from one power to the next, though upgrading the meter when given the opportunity will allow you to use them more and more often.
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