Rune: Viking Warlord Review
The action genre is rapidly growing with titles such as Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Spy Hunter on the horizon for the PS2 this fall. So why not capitalize early on a genre that hasn't really seen an abundance of anything unique in particular. All three aforementioned triple-A titles share the same genre, but in essence are liable enough to start their own. Devil May Cry has already spurted through the mold of typical action titles, due to its intriguing combination of gun shooting and sword slinging action. In fact the mix is so well done, that the game has received enormous critical acclaim from the Japanese press, and outstanding hands-on impressions from the US press. Metal Gear Solid 2, on the other hand is nothing like Devil May Cry, or any other action title out there. Instead it's a stealth operative title, which casts you as David "SolidSnake" Hayter. Being of course stealth based, this results into tactical measures, as well as serious tip-toeing, something that in a 'fast approach kill everything in sight' title such as DMC, does not occur. Then we have perhaps the weirdest action title, Spy Hunter. It features some tactical necessity for those escorting missions, but more or less is a 'getaway clean' title. Despite the name, Spy Hunter doesn't exactly have you infiltrating military bases or anything else along the 007 lane. Instead you use your vehicle to destroy an evil organization called NOSTRA. So it takes the fast action approach of 'shoot anything that moves.' But is there room for more? Like I stated prior, the action genre isn't exactly overflowing with peerless titles, so I guess the answer is "yes." Or in Rune: Viking Warlord's case, it should be "no."
I haven't seen too many Playstation 2 games that looked as bad as Rune. You couldn't ask for anything crappier in Rune, whether it's the rough character models, or the atrocious pixilated water, or even to the hideous texture detail. Rune is an awful looking title in every regard. First of all, it's quite visible that Human Head has little to no experience with PS2 architecture, establishing themselves as an inconsistent PC developer (read: Rune and Rune: Halls of Valhalla) a title such as Rune should've A) never been released on the PS2 or B) needed another developer. Using a highly modified Unreal Tournament engine, Rune is a debacle that has smeared its ugly rear all over a decent engine that features sharp textures, and good character detail. Pretty much everything that Rune doesn't have. Looking at the environments is like looking at a first-generation Playstation title, everything reeks of lack of detail, and worst of all for some reason the surface of the water is composed of various colors of green pixels, therefore completely dislodging a transparency effect all together. Not to mention that Rune has a severely inconsistent frame rate that can never steady itself at least 30 frames, with every move of the camera you'll notice jerking, something that can cause nausea. I'd give the graphics a lower score, but since its 3D and moves, I spared it a few points.
This Rune title is no different than the PC versions, aside from the multiplayer aspects, and presentation, and...Well okay they are different, but only because of the shoddy job that Human Head did of porting their own game title. PC games such as Rune have never been my thing; in fact the only genre of PC titles I'd touch is first person shooter and racing, that's about it. I'm pretty negative about seeing PC titles ported over to consoles *cough* Xbox *cough*, and Rune is one title that justifies why PC to console ports just aren't meant to be, well in most cases anyways. The game plays iffy, it's an absolute drag from start to finish and offers absolutely nothing to keep me interested, from the detained storyline to the action itself. From time to time the game just comes off as a hack n' slash title, and that's a big no-no these days. Other times it's just a vexatious title all together. Its got absolutely nothing going for it; a boring story that makes Summoner's look like Final Fantasy, absolutely terrible gameplay with little to no inspiration, and replay value that's as dry as cardboard. I should also mention that in many cases, the game is glitchy, it has locked up on me many times, not to mention the loading times absolutely suck! Every segment of a stage takes more than a minute to load! It is extremely annoying. Just stay away from Rune; you'll be glad you did.
Packaged as a CD-Rom title, Rune offers voice acting for many of the characters you will come across. Too bad that pretty much all of them have only a sentence or two to say. The quality and clearness sounds watered down and at times muffled. Though voice acting is decent, it's not a crowd pleaser by any means, but chances are it won't receive many --if any-- boos. The background audio is present, but doesn't do the job. It sounds cheaply done, and just isn't my cup of Joe, and chances are won't be yours either. Some more impressive environmental sound effects would have been nice, crisp quality voice acting would've been a plus as well, but as they say, "woulda, coulda, shoulda." The sound is just as repulsive as the game itself.
Perhaps what sucks even more, is Rune's unimaginably bad control scheme. I have no idea what Human Head was thinking when they decided to tell us gamers to get adjusted to something as uncomfortable as this. Using the left analog stick to move your character side-ways, backward and forward is stupid. Which leaves you to use the right analog to turn your character. Here's a thought; the strafing side-to-side inclusion should've been placed for the L1 and R1 buttons, it makes more sense to do so. Even if you change the controls, they are still sluggish, and just poor overall. On top of a ridiculous control scheme, the camera has unbelievably bad problems, that aren't even worth describing.
By now, if you're too stupid to notice, this review is telling you to stay the hell away from Rune. It's one videogame that should've been cancelled, and Human Head needs to seriously get their act together if they want to survive in the console world. Featuring some of the blandest PS2 visuals, and a story that's about as boring as it could possibly be, Rune: Viking Warlord is one of those games, we'll all pretend never happened. It's a debacle from start to finish, even though I couldn't stand playing the game for more than 20 minutes. It just reeks of pre-first generation, and a rushed cash-in attempt, although I really don't see how a low-key PC title can really cash-in in the console world. I'm not the one to be saying this, but it needs to be said. A word of advice to Take-Two/Rockstar: try to stick with what you've got, successful formulas such as Midnight Club, Smuggler's Run and Grand Theft Auto. Let's not ruin a great image with flops such as City Crisis and Rune.
8/23/2001 Arnold Katayev