Just like old men who smoke pipes and wear tweed jackets with patches on the elbows, we here at SPOnG have enjoyed a rich academic grounding in all the classics (from Latin, um, to Greek) and were rightly pleased at the prospect of an exciting gaming adventure in Romanland. Capcom often ventures into Japanese historical grounds, but Shadow of Rome offers something a little more tailored towards us PALeteers: an Onimusha 3 for British public schoolboys and really, really old Italian gents. At least, on the surface. But as we dig a little deeper, scraping off bits of mud with one of those little toothbrushes and other archaeological things, Shadow of Rome is not quite what it seems.
Or perhaps it is. It is
actually a shadow
of Rome: a flat, soul-less outline, rather than Rome itself. So for anyone looking to find a genuine depth in the game's potentially awe-inspiring setting, alas there's not much there. For the most part, it might as well be set in ancient Japan. It's a full-on hack' n' slash adventure, somewhat awkwardly punctuated, and punctured, by bits of traditional stealthery; but unfortunately it doesn't quite have the edge to completely drag you along for the ride. And so, in terms of functionality, the backdrop is largely irrelevant. The action is entertaining in short bursts, but you never get the chance to explore anything other than the limits of your own disgust.
Indeed, Shadow of Rome is a horrifically violent game. Of course, that's completely allowed, because them Romans were bloodthirsty fight-mongers of the highest order. And, as much as it pains us to say, the ultra-violence is in many ways one of SOR's most appealing features. In a gladiatorial arena, hacking off some Christian's arm and then trying to slap a tiger with it; before looking to the crowd for cheers (and health-giving cheese, obscurely) is quite acceptable, and thoroughly satisfying, behaviour.