It's easy to accuse film licences of being soulless sub-average dribble, but that's because, usually, it's true. You wouldn't believe the amount of generic third-person action/adventures we have to sift through each month and, with the exception of truly original titles like The Thing and Indiana Jones, tie-ins are basically merchandise. They're designed to sit alongside mugs and lunch boxes and hoover up as much of your hard-earned as possible. That's the unspeakable truth. Deal with it.
We'd like to say that King Arthur is different. We'd like to say that the potential of the licence has been realized and it's a brilliant game, but we can't. It's bad - and we don't mean in the Michael Jackson sense, we just mean it isn't very good. We understand the restrictions of such a hefty license, but such a severe lack in quality is downright unforgivable, especially when they're asking for forty sweet pounds in return.
Even though they went out of fashion ten years ago, King Arthur plays like a 16-bit-era side-scrolling beat-em-up. Each level (well, they're more like 'funnels' really) is a corridor of scripted moments that you must navigate without any deviation whatsoever from a set pattern. Here's a breakdown of the first level; run, hit, run, hit, cutscene, run, hit, end. Or was that 'hit' then 'run'? To be honest, we don't know - the whole game boils down to endless slashery peppered with unexciting set-pieces and the odd explosion.
Some scenes take place on horseback but, remarkably, they're even more troublesome than the on-foot stuff. Horses aren't famed for their manoeuvrability at the best of times, and these ones have the turning circle of a battleship, topping the already tedious button mashing off with thoroughly awkward character movement. Any sense of involvement is immediately shattered when you eventually figure out that the game is literally dragging you through one muddy siphon after another. "But please Mr. Game Engine, I want to finish off the last of those marauders!" "No, sorry - a cutscene has to start now, so we'll spawn you over here regardless." Terrible.
There's little else to say. You wander through levels, you bash the light, heavy and medium attack buttons, block once in a while and are pushed through the game until you reach its unfulfilling conclusion. It also looks like arse with some of the muddiest, most uninspiring visuals we've ever, ever seen. OK, so you've got the enviable task of recreating a boggy marsh in Dartmoor, but at least shovel some soul into it? When the best thing about a game is being able to watch ragdoll corpses floating down a stream, you just know that something's gone horribly, dreadfully wrong.
King Arthur will be out for PS2 in April