Gladiator style games and movies have really hit the big time in the last few years thanks to such blockbusters as Gladiator and Troy, and thanks to these, great games like Shadow of Rome are made. This game tells a great story whilst letting the game play flow with some very gory action.
Shadow of Rome contains two varying modes of gameplay, the main one being the fighting style of the game that takes place in the arenas and various levels and the second being the stealth style which takes on the role of finding clues in order to help solve the mystery of who killed Julius Caesar. This allows the game to stay a bit longer in your PS2 as it's hard to get bored of the variety within the game. The fighting parts of the game obviously are more notable than its stealthier brother, yet both are essential for making the game what it is. It is also the fight scenes which give the game its most striking feature - the amount brutality contained within the game. Within the various fighting arenas and levels not only are there a myriad of weapons with which to fight but there is also the choice of severed limbs and decapitated heads of defeated enemies to pick up and throw at anyone else that dares comes near you. And it's not just severed limbs and heads that can be thrown at your foes - any of the weapons that are available can be thrown - and this is an essential tool for progressing through the game. This is because another great feature of the game is the lack of durability of the weapons - all of them can only be used for a short while and at a certain point will break, so keeping half an eye on the strength levels of your weapon is essential, once they are low you need to make sure you're are not going to go unarmed, and this is always a good time to throw your weakened weapon, as a direct hit can sometimes result in a fatal blow giving you those extra key seconds to arm yourself once again.
Graphically, Shadow of Rome is amongst some of the better games that the PS2 can offer, and some of the cut-scene videos are also amongst some of the best you will find. However, some are quite long but tell a good enough story to make them worthwhile watching. It is very rare that you come across a game with very few graphical glitches but Shadow of Rome is one of them. Wherever you seem to go and whatever you seem to do the graphics, especially the scenery, seem to stay intact, which in turn makes this a beautiful game to play.
Sound wise the game is also very strong, you get all the usual clatters and clangs in the sword battles, which is what you would expect, but it's the sickening cries and howls that come out when slaughtering your latest opponent that really make it stand out. Some of the sounds in the chariot races are also very good, you can really get a sense of the atmosphere within the arena thanks to the sounds of not only the clashing chariots but also the cheers and jeers of the crowd, it's about as close as you will get to actually being there.
The story itself follows two young associates, Agrippa and the younger, smaller Octavianus. Julius Caesar is murdered at the start of the game and it's Agrippas father who is, seemingly, mis-accused. This causes the muscle-bound Agrippa to become a Gladiator in order to halt the execution of his father at the hands, or sword, of whoever wins the gladiator games. Meanwhile, it's Octavianus' job to find out who was really guilty of the crime as he also suspects otherwise, this being the stealth parts of the game. As the game progresses the story unfolds in front of you making it more like a soap than a game, but this still makes you want to carry on in order to find out what happens next, and although not strictly historically accurate the story is a still strong feature of the game.
As a whole Shadow of Rome is a very, very good game, it combines varying styles of game-play that will keep the gamer on his toes, and the game is long enough to keep you playing into the small hours of the morning. There are also enough options and extras that will make you want to come back for more, even if it just is for a free for all in one of the arena battles. There are however small annoyances contained in the game such as the control system where different buttons do different things at different times, but sometimes not always when you want to. Also in the easier mode of the two, the enemies seem a bit "stupid" and sometimes just stand there while you hack them to death, and when attacking large groups, 2 or 3 of the enemies stand off until you have killed the others, which is not a major fault, it just seems unrealistic.
Overall though Shadow of Rome is a great game that contains enough game-play for hours and hours of very bloody fun.