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Xbox One's Ryse: Roman conquest of emotion

Patrick Garratt played an Xbox One game. Crytek talks about the challenges of Ryse: Son of Rome's development and letting you act as a "Roman badass".

"We pushed the actors and stunt performers to the limits. We had stuntmen that have worked on a lot of famous stunts, and they were like, 'This is cool s**t. We haven't done cool s**t like this in a long time.'"

If you want to get an idea of the obstacles developers are going to face going into the next generation, take a look at Ryse. Crytek's Ryse: Son of Rome is a system exclusive and a November launch title. Microsoft flagged it heavily in its press conference yesterday in a "Roman Medal of Honor" demo in which you, Marius Titus, storm a beach with your blood-thirsty Roman buddies. Whatever else it may be, it's exceptionally pretty, but while the level of visual detail in both character and environment effects presents the player with hitherto unseen console experiences, creating them presents the developer with the necessity of acquiring next-level skillsets.

"It was very challenging, but it gives the fights emotional context," Microsoft combat expert James Goddard told me last night after I'd played through the sequence seen in the press conference.

"When you stab a sword into someone they look as though they're in pain, and sometimes they look surprised, like their life is over and they're like, 'What just happened?' Then they're in pain. That kind of facial performance capture and performance capture for the moves, it's wide open now. We can do so much more than we could before."

He added: "There was a lot of mo-cap. We pushed the actors and stunt performers to the limits. We had stuntmen that have worked on a lot of famous stunts, and they were like, 'This is cool s**t. We haven't done cool s**t like this in a long time.'"

Goddard repeatedly compared the process to creating movies. Don't be fooled, though. While plenty of wiz-bang is probably a given for early next-gen titles, there is a game in there.

"The big thing we're going for is 'brutally intense," said Goddard. "Six inches to six feet. Very close quarters. Make it feel as though you're a Roman badass. Very visceral and deadly. Less boom-bastic and more in your face."

Ryse was certainly in my face. Burning men flung themselves from the decks of galleys and torn sails flapped in air full of particle effects as I murdered my way through ancient Omaha, but as the fireworks distracted me I was repeatedly dying. If you don't take Ryse seriously as a combo-based fighting game, you're going to find it arduous.

Crytek wants you to see the whole thing, however.

"A big thing surrounding combat was 'mashing to mastery'," said Goddard. "We don't want to punish you for being casual. As you get better you get cooler stuff, until you're really shredding through people.

"If you mash the buttons then your moves come out and you look fluent. If you're timing all your hits as you're landing then you're shredding through people, and it gets faster and faster, getting to executions quicker. If you time your deflect perfectly, for example, your opponent will spin around and be completely open to a counter-attack."

There are a lot of QTEs going on. You hit B to enter an execution sequence after you successfully land a few strikes. Again, though, if you screw them up you won't be stopped.

"There's no win or fail: you get the execution," said Goddard. "But if you get the timing right you get perks. Someone might give you health back, for example. Some might give you more score or experience.

"If you do the Legendary timing, which is in the first few frames of each button appearing - you have to know your executions; you can tell which one it is based on the animation - then you might come out with a way higher score bonus plus 150% of your perk."

Ryse is going to include a great deal of blood, and it's going to include it at a visual fidelity console gamers have never experienced before. Graphics aside, though, Ryse is about killing people with "hundreds" of executions and full-powered combo combat. The shield, for example, isn't for blocking.

"It's to smash people in the face," said Goddard.

Ryse ships for Xbox One as a launch title this autumn.

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