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by Take Two Interactive

screen036.jpg (4352 bytes)The use of Vikings in games is few and far between. With multiple systems, including the defunct ones, it is one theme that has not been used much at all. There have been Vikings in games in the past such as every NFL game ever made and the classic Lost Vikings. No game has yet to display the brutality of these Nordic people that has made their name so famous. Rune has changed that, bringing hack and slash fun with it. Having Viking ancestors myself, I looked forward to playing such a game and possibly rekindling some of my ancestral valor.

screen050.jpg (7525 bytes)Rune was first brought to PC owners and became popular enough to warrant an expansion to it. With the PS2 being more powerful than most PCs that are in homes right now, it was just a matter of time before such a game was brought to the home console. The story is based on Viking mythology and the game play mechanics are based on Tomb Raider with new additions. This is a game that reaches for Valhalla but ultimately falls short. With other ports from the PC given lots of exposure due to the time invested to make whatever game it is better, Take 2 should have seen how to make a PS2 port right.

screen084.jpg (6072 bytes)The shining aspect of the game is the story that keeps true to Nordic mythology. The game begins with Ragnar finishing his trials in order to become a man, which is essentially a training level to help you become acquainted with the mechanics of the game. Once through the training, the story unfolds as Ragnar is chosen by Odin to protect the sacred rune stones from Loki the Nordic god of mischief. In order to do so he must rely on a variety of skills to progress in each level. Skills include swimming, climbing and even jumping from vine to vine. Not only will your reflexes be challenged against the elements, but your melee skills will be tested against the mass of enemies that you will face. Frost Giants and Hellhounds are just a few of the enemies that Rangar must face. Sticking true to the barbaric fighting practices of the Vikings, the weapons include the usual swords, axes and maces. Not only does Rangar have to protect the rune stones, but he also has the ability to harness the power of these rune stones to augment his swords and shields with various abilities.

screen021.jpg (6185 bytes)The visuals found in Rune, while not bad, could use some more time spent to polish everything up. Characters are designed well and Rangar appears the most fleshed-out. Some of the heads are rather blocky when compared to the rounded bodies. Some details the programmers placed inside the game add to the atmosphere, such as whenever there is a skirmish with an enemy Rangar’s weapon will become saturated with blood to the point that the blood will drip from the blade. The animations are fine until there are more than three characters on screen, and then everything becomes choppy. There are plenty of times that it happens. The environments in the beginning are quite small, which makes you question the length of the game, but as the game progresses the levels get huge. The brightness of the level could have been tweaked a little -- it seems that everything is just too dark. The levels have many areas in which the area that you need to enter to progress is hidden by the dark shadows.

screen067.jpg (6520 bytes)In Rune all characters’ facial movements follow along with the dialogue, eliminating any of the kung-fu movie dialogue style. To go along with the voices are the accurate sounds of clanging metal and the grunts of combat. To tie in the sounds, visuals and story is a musical score that adds to the overall ambiance of the game, making the game much more fun without becoming the distraction found in many other games.

screen096.jpg (6532 bytes)You are probably asking yourself how can games with a unique story and good audio and visuals only get three stars, so here are the reasons. First is the issue of control. Rune as multiple pre-set controls, so you would think that there would be a control for those that are used to the controls found in other third person games, but I found myself settling for a setup that was less than ideal. If there was a way to arrange the button mapping to my liking then control wouldn’t be that much of an issue. The load times are quite long, even for a PS2 game. The load times can reach up to a minute at times. One issue that was quite an annoyance is right after you are through the training excercises at the beginning you are treated to a cut scene and credits for the game, which slows the pace of the game to a crawl. It also doesn’t help that the auto save disrupts the game constantly.

screen017.jpg (7323 bytes)Rune has so much going for it that it is a shame that easy problems to fix have not been dealt with. I would rather wait a few extra months in order to get a more complete game. Rune does not have that finished feel, but if you are looking for some mindless violence, rent this before you spend your money.

Jake Carder   (09/10/2001)


Ups: Unique story; great voice and muxic; vast level design.

Downs: Lack of control customization; LONG load times; major breaks in action.

Sony PlayStation 2


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