rane500's Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars (Xbox) review

Serious Contender for Worst Game of All Time

Jebus this game is terrible. I mean seriously, who green-lighted this? Who sat in a boardroom full of adults - adults in suits - and said, "I've got it: chariot racing!” Even with perfect execution this would be a very silly game, and the people that made this game obviously couldn't hit perfect if it were the ugliest drunk left in the bar after last call. Star Wars: Episode One managed to inspire a desire for pod racing games, but where would we get chariot racing? Ben Hur? Yeah, I'm sure little Timmy just couldn't wait to try that out after catching it one Monday afternoon on Turner Classic Movies.

Okay, so what have we got in the game itself? Chariot racing in ancient Rome. We have blocky and poorly drawn teams from around the world flogging jerky and wooden looking horses through a landscape containing collision detection on par with a blind grandmother driving a 1972 Chevy Impala. We have a flat soundtrack that barely makes itself heard over the gritty and poorly sampled sound effects. We have a control scheme that requires no less than 14 fingers! What genius! Did anyone in development or testing even bother to play the game? I mean honestly, if a company won't even subject their own employees to their own product, what chance do we have? I'd like to think perhaps someone did play the game and decided it was so terrible the only way to save the public was to make it impossible to play, but that's using a sense of universal faith in game developers as a species that died in 1982 - the moment I first played ET.

What, you think I'm kidding? Allow me to illustrate the insanity. The control scheme for Circus Maximus uses both joysticks, both triggers, and several buttons simultaneously. Okay, time for some class participation: go get an Xbox controller. If you don't have one, find a picture. Ready? The left stick steers the chariot. Okay, that's pretty important. The right stick controls the warrior riding shotgun, and you'll need to extend him left or right to fight off opposing racers...that's important too. The black, white, Y, and B buttons make the warrior attack, which becomes a bit problematic when you realize attacking without extending won't hit anybody. Oh, and you'll need to hold the the A button down the entire time to move the chariot forward at faster than normal speeds. Can't forget that. I believe they meant for you to only need that action occasionally as the chariot will drive at an average speed on its own, but relying on cruise control in a race is about as intelligent as attempting to slap box your way through a heavyweight championship. The finishing stroke? Both triggers are a necessity for making sharp turns or reigning in the horses to dodge low-hanging branches, which the courses contain in spades. I'm not even going to comment on the logic of low-hanging branches on a race course for people standing upright in what is essentially a glorified packing crate with wheels.

Now, for those of you that were following along you'll notice that's every freaking button on the Xbox controller outside of Start, Back, and the d-pad...although I guess I should feel lucky the developers couldn't think of some active function to cram on those as well. Now I know what you're thinking, but I'm here to tell you that there is no way to edit or alter this control scheme. I did manage to find a way to hit all the needed controls to win some races, but after about ten minutes my hands were cramping and my roommate was laughing at how insane I looked. This is the core reason I think no one actually played the game before shipping, even taking the overall crappiness into account. (Either that or Kodiak Interactive employs mutants with three hands in their testing department.)

Of course even if you can figure out how to work the controls you'll still hate this game. It's incredibly repetitious; after two races I couldn't remember which track I was on because they all looked the same: featureless, boring, and with backgrounds that look like the original Genesis version of Road Rash. You get money from the races to pay to get to the next one, but all that does is extend the torture. I will certainly give them credit for having the balls to make you pay for the continued privilege to suffer horribly.

Parents, take note. If you want a way to get your kids to stop playing video games, Circus Maximus could be the perfect tool...although a game this bad may also convince them that there is no just and loving god.


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