NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 10/29/2013
Compared to other comic book characters like say a Spider-Man or a Batman, Spawn has only appeared in five games, but there’s a fair amount of variety in that hand full of titles: traditional side-scrolling action games, a 3-D adventure/fighting game hybrid and a multi-player focused arena action game. Each of the games have also come from separate companies as well: Acclaim, Sony, Konami, Capcom and finally Namco (now Namco-Bandai).
2003 was a busy year for Spawn in the world of video games. During the summer of that year he appeared as a guest fighter for the Xbox version in the highly anticipated fighting game sequel, Soul Calibur II. Later in the Fall the character would steal the spotlight in his latest (and to date) final solo outing from the company that brought us Soul Calibur: Spawn: Armageddon for the PS2, Nintendo GameCube and Xbox.
Armageddon is a character action game trying to ride the wave popularized by Capcom’s stylish action hit released two years prior, Devil May Cry. I’ll put an emphasis on the word TRYING, as Spawn’s last outing fails to capture any of what made that title a classic.
I would try to sum up the story in Armageddon, but despite the fact that I played the game from start to finish, I had no idea what happened. Upon researching into game, I found the story is adapted from the comics, however the developers at Point Of View didn’t do that good a job of communicating to the player the plot effectively. Levels are transitioned and hopefully understood with a small word description stating Spawn’s motivations and why you’ve suddenly gone from an alley to an opera house. There are fully voiced cut-scenes sparingly used as well, but even with those I couldn’t follow what was happening in the plot.
Upon immediately picking up the controller, you get that Armageddon REALLY wants to be Devil May Cry, only with an ax. Yes, Spawn’s basic melee attack has him using his trusty….ax? Okay, real talk here, does Spawn use an AX?! I haven’t read a Spawn comic since the late 1990’s. Adding to your arsenal are a wide assortment of guns, starting off with basic pistols and making your way up to mini guns and rocket launchers.
For the first time in Spawn video game history, you’re given magic without the penalty of the 9:9:9:9 depleting magic meter. Instead you have a standard meter that depletes with use but can be refilled with consumable items obtained in the environment or felled enemies. The magical arsenal is unlocked at the very start of the game and you have abilities ranging from a projectile attack to an ability that lets you slow down time. Despite having these spells though, you can get through the game easily using the projectile attack exclusively (at least I did).
Where Spawn: Armageddon fails to meet the standards of other character action games is the lack of variety in combat. The only melee weapon you ever have access to is the ax, and it only has the one three hit combo whereas in Devil May cry, which I hate to keep bringing up, you get additional weapons each with their unlockable move set. Here you can only upgrade your guns to hold more ammo or cause additional attack damage, but this is a waste as your basic magic attack trumps these weapons in all encounters.
Early on the game is fairly monotonous as your pushed from one bland encounter to the other, but I would gladly trade this for the horrific levels towards the end stages. You have very limited camera control in Armageddon and the later levels rely heavily on some of the worst plat-forming in an action game. One section in particular in Hell requests you to wall jump between two walls with fire pillars above your head with no way to see them. Death results in you starting the entire level over again as there are no checkpoints to speak of whatsoever.
I think what it comes down to in Spawn: Armageddon is that it had potential to be at the very least a solid character action game but fell completely flat. The developers were clearly trying to imitate the model Capcom started in 2001 and didn’t know quite how to match that success even on a rudimentary level.
Armageddon indeed, Spawn.