This Is Madness

PSP players: tonight, you game in hell

A game based on 300 has no excuse not to kick ass. Just picture yourself leading 300 Greeks (that's 1,800 abs) against the massive armies of the Persian Empire, led by the evil, pierced and preening King Xerxes. Since your Spartans are the deadliest soldiers in the world, the Persians' only chance is to smother you with sheer numbers—so every level should force you cut a bloody swath through the hordes of invaders, taking on 5, 10, even 20 at a time, doing as much damage possible to back them off for another day.

Throw in surround sound and a stylized look to match the film—which most critics compared to a video game anyway—and you'd have a pretty sweet game. It codes itself; it's a slam dunk! So you'd be forgiven if you saw 300: March to Glory in the store and said to yourself: "Self, there's no way they could screw 300 up!" and bought it on the spot.

Well, remember what Mom said happens when you ass-u-me?

Against all odds, Warner Bros. Interactive managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with 300: March to Glory. It's so utterly bad you almost think the developers meant it to be awful. How else can you explain the bungling of the biggest no-brainer movie-to-game conversion in history?

It's hard to say where to begin, but what's most notable is how the game thumbs its nose at your expectations every step of the way. For example: after watching 300, you'd expect to see, you know . . . 300 Spartans (not to mention a few million Persians). That is the title, after all. Well not so fast—the PSP isn't cut out to draw armies of thousands. The endless Persian hordes now respectfully invade four at a time, and your 300 Spartans now number about two.

Or one, if you don't count yourself.

After watching 300, you'd expect balls-to-the-wall action, a melee of swords, spears and arrows, with no shortage of severed heads pinwheeling though the air. There's some of that (as much as can be expected from a 4-on-2 scuffle), but you also get some sneaking missions, too. Yes, the same King Leonidas who kicked ambassadors into wells and screamed about dining in Hell in the movie now tiptoes past sleeping guards, which begs the question: Did the developers even see the movie?

None of this would matter if the game were fun anyway—but it's not. In fact, it's so tedious you start wishing the Persians would just take over, pierce everyone's nipples and be done with it. Leonidas runs and fights like he's underwater, and there's no reason to use anything but an effective three-hit attack you learn in the first level—which makes the fighting mind-numbingly repetitive.

The only part that's even mildly amusing is when you get to slaughter Xerxes' harem-cum-freak show. When a two-minute sequence of laying waste to midget tumblers and lesbian strippers is the high point of your game, something's wrong.

This is the sort of game that should have been on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, which could manage things like massive armies and faster gameplay. Instead, it feels like a slapdash budget title. If you're craving swordplay on your PSP, try the Sega Genesis Collection, which sports the hack-and-slash classic Golden Axe—along with 27 other games, all for the same price.

300: March to Glory from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PSP. $29.99. ESRB Rating: M (for Mature). Score: 4 (out of 10).

 
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