Circus Maximus

a game by Encore Software
Platform: XBox
Editor Rating: 6/10, based on 1 review
User Rating: 6.0/10 - 1 vote
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Overview

Ah, the smell of blood under a hot sun. There's dust in your nose, the wind is whistling by your centurion's helmet and you feel the sting of a whip as some crazy Amazon just removed your left eye. Your horses are starting to tire, you and your driver almost plummeted off of a cliff, your health is almost depleted and a frickin' Minotaur is going to kill you momentarily. Yup, and if you think about it, you actually signed up to enter this race. Could your life get any worse?

It could if you paid $50.00 for this game.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Welcome to Road Rash, 42 B.C. gladiator-style. With the success of the movie Gladiator, it was only a matter of time before somebody thought of a game based on this bloody era of Rome's global domination. That's right you scholars you! This game takes place at the height of the Roman Empire, a time when the strongest world power was Rome. In an attempt to keep the masses entertained, gladiators were put on display to do battle for the entertainment of Rome's citizens. As you may recall from the movie, there was a scene where the gladiators squared off against chariot-riding warriors in a reenactment of the battle of Carpathians.Well, somebody's mind was working that day and I am almost certain the idea for a chariot combat game was born. But for this reviewer, just because you can make a game, doesn't mean you should. But I digress'let's get down to the nitty gritty.

Circus Maximus (CM) takes a novel approach to the racing genre and puts you in both the driver's seat and the fighter position (located behind the driver) of a two horse war chariot. Players view the action ala the 3rd person view and must learn the fine art of finger gymnastics as literally every button on the Xbox controller is used during the actual racing mode.Now, when I first popped this game in, I found that the control setup was enough to make the average gamer literally throw the game away. Yes, it is truly that confounding. Players use the two analog sticks in unison in order to control the game's driver and warrior while the six buttons on the right are used for the four varying attacks, a block move and the game's acceleration. You should also know that the right analog stick's button activates the driver's whip, which will make the horses run faster. The two trigger buttons are used for hard turns and together they form the chariot's brakes. And if all of this is too much for you, you can activate the game's autopilot to take over the driving, so you can practice beating on your opponents. I struggled with this whole control scheme for over an hour before I felt relatively comfortable and even then, comfortable really meant, 'barely manageable.'? Thankfully, everyone I encountered who was also playing the game shared in my predicament.

Once the game really gets going, a certain amount of tenacity is required to experience any real progress. Now, like all games, a player must remain vigilant in order to advance. This is the bedrock principle of all games. But in CM, even when on the third lap of any race, the game feels quite boring and repetitive to the point of actually wanting to turn off your Xbox and have a conversation with your dog. The game's environments, which vary by way of the conquered lands of Rome, (Germania, Britannia and Cyprus to name three of the seven) have a bland feel to them. It's almost as if the developers thought that because of their 'Original'? game idea they didn't need to put the extra effort into making the game look visually stunning. Basically, the idea is to work your way through the tournament mode's tracks finally ending at the Circus Maximus, the pinnacle of all chariot races.

The game also features a few power ups, which made me dislike the whole idea even more. For example, during a race it is possible to sustain damage to your chariot, even to the point of losing a wheel. Well, low and behold if you collect the health 'pickup'? your chariot is miraculously repaired and characters' health replenished. There were other icons that allowed for some strategy such as the 'speed'? pickup, which gives your horses a needed push. There's also a '2X'? pickup that allows you to dole out twice the damage and the 'Throw able'? pickup, which enables the warrior to hurl his/her weapon at the enemy. Lastly there is a 'shield'? icon that of course shields you from all but the 2X attack. You would think that they would have modeled these icon/pickups after the Roman Gods, thus at least keeping the game in the same sort of vein.

Fortunately, the game does have a couple of redeeming features. Sometimes spectators will toss out traps at your chariot in order to slow you down, and sometimes you can run over those same spectators. If you manage a particularly bloody attack or happen to ride on one wheel, the crowds will throw Dinari (money) at you. Money is good, from every social standpoint. You can unlock different breeds of horses, which all have different strengths and weaknesses depending on the type of race you run. While some horses are very fast, they usually lack stamina and vice versa.

Each track has own set of opposition that wants to turn your face into an ashtray if you stand in their way. The opposition is a motley crew of characters that never could decide which way the game would go. On one hand, you have actual historically correct characters straight out of real countries like Greece and Africa. On the other hand, you have Amazon warriors from some mystical land and even a Minotaur from who knows where. This really kind of made me scratch my head. Was I playing Ben Hur, or was I living vicariously through Clash of the Titans. Personally the idea of spreading the character base so thin was a poor idea. I would have preferred to fight/race a much more fantastic cadre of opponents. Teasing me with the fantastical characters was ultimately a let down since I was leaning more towards playing a game that incorporated a mythological feel.

The game boasts a training mode, which will help you learn the finer points of brutal, bloody, pointless combat. The trainer 'Sallus'? is reputedly one of the greatest Charioteers that ever raced the Circus. Sallus provides you with several challenges to hone your racing skills. As you continue on through the game, he will issue even more challenges. Other modes include a quick race 'arcade'? style and the Tournament mode, which is what is described in the above paragraphs. There is also a multiplayer mode, which is described below.

Graphics

The only standout features of the games graphics were the charioteers themselves. The armor looked good as did the chariots themselves, but the movement the warriors used when attacking was too jerky and lacked finesse. Level design was fairly poor, as the courses became more of a burden then anything. From a visual standpoint, this game could have been put on the Dreamcast, as it's colors and textures clearly appeared bland and almost dreary. Sadly, whether the programmers didn't realize the potential power of the Xbox or if they just chose to ignore it, they made a graphically inferior game.

Audio

Huh? Audio? Well, let me be the first to say that the game is lacking in the epic/period piece type music one would expect from a game set in Ancient Rome. Music does cue up, but the idea of it playing and ultimately climaxing as the end of the race draws near must have slipped some minds as it never occurred that way. The crack of the driver's whip and the rumble of wheels didn't exactly do the game any favors since it sounded fairly plain. Also, I didn't think that there would be such similar sounds coming from wooden wheels when driven over varying terrain. Hmmmmmm'

Multiplayer

Up to four players can race in Circus Maximus, not that you would want to race that many, since the level of detail is reduced to almost nothing in terms of the actual race course. I wished that the game used the Xbox's communication cable so you could hook up two systems, but it doesn't and that's a pity, since the multiplayer aspect had some real possibilities.

Bottom Line

The idea of a chariot/combat game certainly piqued my interest'too bad that interest couldn't have been held for a longer period of time. The game suffers from too many negatives (controls, graphics, audio) to make it really worth purchasing. Yeah, I liked the idea behind the game, but merely having the idea and making the game were eons apart, literally. I'm sure that someone out there will find this game to be highly entertaining since variety is the spice of life, but if you insist on playing this game then I insist that you rent it first.

Download Circus Maximus

XBox Download

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
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