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Viking: Battle for Asgard review

As splattery and graphic as an early Peter Jackson movie

As you might have guessed, this being a game in which Brian has megaphoned in the narration and which has a rating on the box broadcasting its whorey-goriness, Viking isn’t subtle. The platforming element is so light you’ll only notice it when you accidentally press jump in a mid-fight fumble. The puzzle parts extend as far as a glowing arrow and hammering that poor oldaction button again. But who cares when the finishing moves - triggered with a single tap of a button and shown with slo-mo aplomb - are a biology lesson by broadsword? When heads, ribs, limbs and offal are pinged across every screen, and when stumps seep enough blood to transfuse a hemophiliac blue whale? Exactly. These guys aren’t just dining in hell tonight; they’ve ordered coffee, booked a room and have already stuffed the monogrammed dressing gowns into their little wheelie Samsonites.

As you might have guessed, this being a game in which Brian has megaphoned in the narration and which has a rating on the box broadcasting its whorey-goriness, Viking isn’t subtle. The platforming element is so light you’ll only notice it when you accidentally press jump in a mid-fight fumble. The puzzle parts extend as far as a glowing arrow and hammering that poor oldaction button again. But who cares when the finishing moves - triggered with a single tap of a button and shown with slo-mo aplomb - are a biology lesson by broadsword? When heads, ribs, limbs and offal are pinged across every screen, and when stumps seep enough blood to transfuse a hemophiliac blue whale? Exactly. These guys aren’t just dining in hell tonight; they’ve ordered coffee, booked a room and have already stuffed the monogrammed dressing gowns into their little wheelie Samsonites.

While these pre-rendered dismemberments are easy to pull off, getting to deliver the final blow isn’t always so simple. While the lowliest grunts can be diced with a few blind stabs at the buttons, the Legion promote enough freaks to ward off any complacency in combat. So special moves have to be earned, learned and used, while defeating any of the myriad of sub-bosses requires that you master the ducks and dodges. And with a generous smattering of restart points even the Kratos-inspired Quick Time dispatches for these ‘end of area’ nasties don’t shred your nerves.

The combat system too copes well with the massed battles - even if the camera sometimes struggles. It immediately locks onto the nearest enemy, but a jerk of the analog stick will soon see it picking up the guy behind, or to the left, or the right, making it ideal against groups but also suitable for mano-a-mano mash-ups. But don’t expect any of Dante’s acrobatics, juggles or perfectly timed counter strikes because with a block that works in 360 degrees and doesn’t demand precise timing, this is a fighting system designed to be mastered by all, not memorised by just a few solitary hardcore.

The camera does cause more substantial problems, however, when Skarin stoops his bulbous frame into a ‘stealth crouch’. To emphasise the effect, the camera drops in low over his shoulder, instantly placing any low scenery such as fences or boxes that you might be hiding behind smack into the centre of your view. It’s not really a problem on the open spaces of Midgard but when you’re sneaking through a packed enemy encampment, it can be annoying.

More Info

GenreAction
DescriptionA deeply satisfying action game with visceral gameplay and a tight story.
PlatformPS3, Xbox 360
US censor ratingMature
Release date25 March 2008 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
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