It’s a fortunate fact that we tend to view every movie licence as a cheap cash-in prior to playing it. Fortunate, because when it turns out to be any good, it’s really quite a pleasant surprise. Take Beowulf, for example: he’s a mighty monster-slayer with the strength of 30 men, hero of the Danes; a man every woman wants and every man wants to be. He has ambitions even above his lofty station – he’d love to be Kratos and he does a good job proving his worthiness to go toe-to-toe with God Of War’s brutal protagonist. Kratos was there first, so he will have to suffer endless comparisons with Sony’s master of monster mutilation. But if you’re going to play second fiddle to someone, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
Beowulf didn’t get off to the best of starts, though. After a toffee-bottomed power walk, we made our way up a cliff face, had a brief giant crab-thrashing competition with a clan rival before walking out on top of the surf. We knew Beowulf was the son of a sea goddess, but such clipping issues should have been slain by Tiwak long before the review stage.
But our gut cynicism and initial impression began to wane as the story took us overseas to meet Hrothgar, King of Denmark. With a small band of Thanes, you’re confronted by wave upon wave of crabs and barbarians, and it’s here you’ll begin to learn the many combinations you can perform with just a few simple buttons… and how satisfying they can be. Tap the left mouse button with any directional key and you’ll unleash a barrage of swift strikes that will spray great gouts of blood into the air. The right is a slower but more powerful attack that tends to knock them flat, while pressing the scroll wheel will perform a takedown and allow Beowulf to grapple with his opponent.
Decimating mere mortals is his bread and butter, but, like Kratos, Beowulf’s main course is boss battles. These come thick and fast and your Thanes are no match for them, as your second boss battle will prove. The infamous Grendel monster makes light work of introducing every one of your men to the heel of its size 54 foot, before you have a chance to pin it to the floor and yank the creature’s arm right from its socket.
The bloodthirsty action, special abilities and boss battles might only keep you distracted for a couple of hours at most, but the same magic ingredients that Sony conjured have been replicated by Tiwak here. Beowulf is a living legend and thus, the game appropriately feels as if you’re playing out an epic movie, adopting mid-battle cut-scenes and interactive sequences that create an effective cinematic experience. Bolstered by strong voice acting (convincing accents included) and a curious rhythm action game you can use to spur your men on, Beowulf surprisingly manages to steer its longboat away from the generic morass of movie licences to stand out as a respectable title in itself. He might not be Kratos, but it’s good to get a worthy substitute for the PlayStation 2’s God Of War on the PC.