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Four player fighting games have always been a bit hit and miss. I don’t know how many of you ever tried the various incarnations of this genre on PSX and DC, but I think I tried all of them. I even tracked down the illusive Thrill Kill, what a waste of time. Anyway, I have a group of mates who get together with me once every few weeks to, putting it quite simply, smoke and drink ourselves stupid while playing a load of four player games. Hell, we even had eight player Pro Evolution Soccer going the other week all on the same side playing as England in the world cup. Despite the ridiculous criticism from our girlfriends (or wives in some cases, you know who you are) that we could actually go outside and play for real with that many people. Tch, what do they know? Now, at this stage I could bang on about the joys of four way play (no puns please) and how that’s what really separates your console gamers from their less social PC gaming cousins, but I won’t because that’s not really fair. However, you must admit good four player games have a very long life span because that random human element means they can be played forever. Think of the great games we’ve played and played and played. Back on the PSX it was Quake 2, ISS, Poy Poy, Bomberman and Micro Machines that we played the most. Now it’s TimeSplitters, Sega Smash Tennis and Pro Evolution Soccer, with a bit of Bomberman Kart (when will that get a US or UK release I wonder?).

As you can see, not many fighting games. “But what about Barbarian, then?” I hear you cry. Well don’t worry about that for now because it’s rubbish.

Why are all four player fighting games traditionally poor when there are tonnes of decent two player beat ’em ups out there? Well, that’s it in a nutshell. With two player fighting games you basically are always facing your opponent, or rather you character is only going to ever be directing attacks at the one opponent, maybe I should say. This means essentially that there is plenty of scope to build a combo and attack system without the added complication of attack direction, since even though the game is presented in 3D, the game engine is based very simply around two combatants facing off against each other. Add three or four and this concept breaks down; having to cope with real 3D affects combos, now they have to cater for direction, for example how do you cope with someone attacking from the side and the front at the same time? What about attacking in one direction while being attacked from another? How would blocking work then? Could you start a combo then switch direction? If there are several of you could you team up and grab someone while someone else beat them up? Etc, etc.

At the end of the day, none of these questions have been answered before now, except maybe Smash Bros. on the Nintendo and it’s various sequels, but definitely not on the PS2 or PSone. Multi-player beat ’em ups usually descend into a pointless button bashing frenzy very quickly and Barbarian is no exception.

Sadly the word ‘generic’ has never been more appropriate. You basically run around the various arenas taking it in turns to beat each other up (since the blocking system is pretty pointless), occasionally accidentally hitting the magic button for a special effect or two and it gets tiring very quickly. It even has the cheek to promote it self as having role playing elements, but it’s a con. They mean pre-match story boards with phrases like “Keelya’s father had many allies, on her quest for vengeance she sought out Tyros known for his simple sense of judgement, as is the custom in Barbarian a test of mettle was in order. They fought…” Get the picture?

It’s gutting really, I love four player stuff so was really excited to get hold of
this, but it turned out to be a damp squid. Try as we did, we just couldn’t rate it. You simply wait for the buzzer, hammer the buttons until you die, wait for everyone else to die then pick up your pad ready for the next round. It wasn’t long before we were searching for that trusty Pro Evolution Soccer disc again. That makes Barbarian another disc to use as a coaster then. Oh well, at least my coffee table will last longer.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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