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Beowulf - first look

Right off the bat, publisher Ubisoft's adaptation of Beowulf - based on the upcoming Robert Zemeckis film, which in turn is based on a centuries-old epic poem - commits an unpardonable sin in the eyes of literary types. You might already be familiar with the story's progression: Beowulf, a mighty Scandinavian warrior, battles and slays a man-eating monster named Grendel with his bare hands. He then beheads Grendel's vengeful, horrific mother and - finally - dies fighting a dragon some 30 years later. In the film/game version, however, Grendel's mother isn't some horror to be slain - she's naked Angelina Jolie, doing her awful accent from Alexander (which means she's also a demon, we guess). Rather than getting killed this time around, she opts to seduce Beowulf, giving him the throne of Denmark in exchange for a son.

The game after that point spans the 30 unaccounted-for years between Grendel's mother and the dragon. The kind of king Beowulf becomes is up to you; depending on how you use his powers and build his kingdom, he'll develop as either a heroic beacon of virtue, or as a "carnal," brutal savage well-suited to rule during the Dark Ages. It's essentially the old light side/dark side choice, and your choice will shape the story; will you take the slow, stifling and ultimately more rewarding path, or the quick, easy path to blood-drenched victory? The characters around Beowulf have their own opinions, and they'll try to push you one way or another, but it all really comes down to how you play.

Beowulf is being built using the same technology as Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, although from what little of the game we've seen, the bulk of its action looks to be straight-up, third-person hack-and-slash. That's not to say you'll be on your own, however, as you'll be able to command up to 20 "thanes" - warriors who've pledged their loyalty to Beowulf - to take out enemies and watch your back. Not only are they essential to helping you battle all the cursed monsters Grendel's mom has unleashed across your kingdom, but they're also at the center of various minigames, in which you'll order them through difficult tasks or help them sing drinking songs to lure Grendel and other monsters. They're also play a very large part in deciding Beowulf's path.

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