Giant Bomb Review

40 Comments

Afro Samurai Review

3
  • X360
  • PS3

Afro Samurai's exciting and graphic combat is its strongest suit, but that fighting is bogged down by enough issues that make it tough to recommend.

Never Not Smoking
Afro Samurai is a stylish sword-swinging action game that uses its M for Mature rating to great effect. Buckets of blood spill out as you hack enemies in half with your blade, and Samuel L. Jackson turns in some sharp voice work in a dual role as both the lead character and as Ninja Ninja, the lead's alter-ego who talks about what's really going on with plenty of character-appropriate cursing. If the actual action could back all this up, Afro Samurai could have been a great game. But repetitive action, camera troubles, and boss fights that feel like they were designed by someone who actively hated the rest of the game step in and mess up what starts out feeling like a perfectly good time.

The story of Afro Samurai the game is taken from Afro Samurai the anime, a five-episode arc that focuses on the lead character seeking vengeance against the man who killed his father. Naturally, you run into a lot of obstacles along the way in the game, and the game also takes a few liberties with the original story to better fit it into a game. The general progression has you moving from place to place in a linear fashion, hacking up hordes of ninjas, androids, and other foes. The game has a combo system that's reasonably deep, but unnecessarily so. You'll do just fine by mashing away on the two sword attack buttons. You can also drop into a slow-mo focus mode, and charged up attacks here can split enemies in half. The catch is that the enemies will try to dodge the attack, so you'll have to aim your sword strikes a bit before unleashing them. This leads to cool moments like cutting off the legs of a ninja who jumped in hopes of avoiding your slash, or catching enemies at diagonal angles because they tried to dodge to the side, and so on.

The action of cutting up enemies is exciting, though it's never too challenging, either, so it starts to get repetitive. The attempts to break up the core action leads to a handful of boss fights. Most of these fights aren't so great, instead forcing you to rely on simple tricks or attempting to properly time esoteric moves that are rarely handy outside of one specific fight, like Afro's ability to reflect bullets or split rocket-propelled grenades with his sword. The boss fights don't always give you great feedback when it comes to instructing about what it wants you to do, and these moments are also usually the spots with the most annoying camera issues, too. It might be enough to make you quit playing before you've seen the conclusion.

The game also forces a few platform-style jumping sequences on you. Here, you'll at least have control of the camera, but rotating around to figure out where you're going next, or missing some minor jump because you couldn't see it properly make this part of the game a bit of a dud.

You'll do a lot of fighting in villages like this one.
Looking at Afro Samurai purely from a gameplay angle makes it sound pretty bad. Also, it doesn't last particularly long, as the stats screen claimed I had been playing for around five hours when I completed it. But there's something to the game's style that makes it stick out. The models and environments sport a nice set of textures that give parts of it a hand-drawn feel, and the multitude of ways that you can separate your enemies' body parts keep the fighting fresh. A few breakout moments, like one where you're fighting a sword-toting robot while you're both falling out of the sky, help the game stand out, as well. Of course, the audio is also a nice addition. The music is listed as being "inspired by" The RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. While not every track is a hit, and you'll hear a bit too much repetition from the music, it sets the mood appropriately. The voice acting is also very good. Samuel L. Jackson has the most dialogue, and he shines as the foul-mouthed Ninja Ninja. The rest of the cast also does well, and even though the basic enemies utter the same phrases a bit too often, there's something about hearing an enemy shout "motherfucker!" as you're cutting him in half that never gets old.

Afro Samurai achieves a decent balance, providing enough style and combat to work more often than it doesn't. But considering how short it is, and how annoying parts of it can be, you'll want to approach this game with some caution, especially while it's being sold for full price.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
40 Comments
Posted by Rio

Didnt mind the actual show, but Im not gonna bother with the game, thanks for the review jeff.

Posted by McPlated

Maybe there should of been more sword fighting robots...like the entire of should of had sword fighting robots.

Oh well...
Posted by Captain_Fookup

nailed it, good review.

Posted by AllThatBacon

So it's a "get it when it's $20" kind of game, eh?

Posted by artofwar420

I feel I would enjoy this game despite its faults. Somehow.

Posted by Binman88

Thanks for the review; I guess we were expecting a somewhat mediocre score like this after watching the quick look video.
I hate when developers damage a game's appeal with uninspired gameplay that essentially detracts from the whole experience (I haven't played it but that's the impression I got of the platforming).

Posted by Carlos1408

Great Review Jeff, spot on!
Yea the game has its appeal, but the camera and boss stuff sounds anoying
I think I'll skip this one

Posted by dtran1212

this game is sucky sucky

Posted by RHCPfan24

RENTAL! Great review as always, Jeff.

Posted by EnemaEms

Playing through a rental copy of the game and I am enjoying it a lot. It isn;t worth $60, but once it hits the $35 price range, I'll pick up a copy. I enjoy the graphics and soundtrack a lot, and the gameplay is just some mindless fun.

Posted by JJOR64

Dang.  I thought this game would get a 2 out of 5.

Posted by FLStyle

I won' be picking this up, thanks for the great review.

Online
Posted by Sephiroth9997

SURGE!

Edited by Venatio

If I ever find this game for really cheap, Im gonna buy it but at full price? No thanks

Posted by alConn

screams "Rent" to me

Posted by stealthdf2

i have actually played this nad yes the camera can be annoying it is still a good game. I cant stand all you suckups sticking ur head up jeffs ass wit hyour comments "spot on jeff good review" when you havent even played the game. this game is like Ninja gaiden crossed wit ha badass anime with awesome art direction. get a clue ppl and do not base your gaming experiences off reviews. nothing against reviewers but all reviews are really just supplemental opinion pieces

Edited by WuJenZ

The unforgivable aspect about the camera is that some of its woes could have been cured by simply allowing control over the way the camera rotates on the x-axis.  I refuse to even play 3D action games with this limitation (I'll put up with it for a an entrant in a series, like Suikoden IV, but those exceptions are quite rare).  If Surge patches x-axis inversion into the game I'll give it another go (the voice acting is too good to not rent it).

Posted by MichaelBach

I would download a demo of it just to try it out. But for a purchase.. not so much...

Posted by IceColdGamer

A rent for me then. Thanks.

Posted by imayellowfellow

i liekd the gore

but seems like a rental or cheap 20 dollarer

Posted by Karmann

hmm, seems like my "guilty pleasure" kind of game, might pick this up if I find it in a bargain bin.

Posted by c1337us

I thought this might get a 2-3 star after watching the play through vid. I think it'll make a decent rental for me. Dont think I'll be buying it though.

Posted by CraigAA1028

The game is mindless fun. Nothing complicated. A decent hack and slash. Rent it if you like the show.

Posted by Media_Master

Looks repetitive

Posted by Scooper

THIS IS THE VOICE I USE WHEN I READ THAT REVIEW!

Posted by kernando

not really a video review but ok...

Posted by mcdrew77

thanks for the info in the review. Bumpy walls are the bane of Samurai everywhere.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

I might pick this game up for $10, but only when I don't have anything better to do but frankly, I think I'll always have something better to do than play this crappy, short game.

Posted by Dudacles

Is the anime good? The game looks fun, and if I could get into the anime, maybe my interest in it will grow.

Posted by ProfessorEss

Very much in line with what I thought of the game.
Super beautiful and some nice production values but one too many little annoying gameplay issues.

I had fun with my rental but I'm more than ready to return it.

Posted by gunswordfist

Very good for the very first giantbomb review I've ever read Jeff. Now I really know what to think of Afro Samurai before I think about getting it.

Posted by IrishBrewed

some weird reason I enjoyed the game...minus the stupid run in circle boss fights

Posted by voghan

This game is probably a good rental for anyone that enjoys hack and slash action.  The game reminded me a lot of the first Ninja Gaiden.  I just think we expect more out of games now.  I enjoyed cutting fools up but did find I got stuck a bit too often.

Posted by ExtremeBlade

I loved the anime but I figured this is about how the game would go. I'll rent it from GameFly.

Posted by Pathos

Lol, Jeff and Ryan on a couch playing a game featuring Wu Tang magic, just like the animated TimeTrotters. ;p

Posted by apoloimagod

LOVE THE VIDEO REVIEW FORMAT!!! Good job guys! I think I would rent this game, looks like it might be a bit entertaining.

Posted by F1

The front page has this game at 1 1/2 stars.
???
Weird...

Posted by Geno

Did the rating for this game change? It used to be 3 stars I thought.

Posted by LordAndrew

There was a bug causing the incorrect star rating to show.
Damn, that platforming stuff is a real bummer because the rest of the game looks pretty damn cool.

Posted by Dirune

Nice to have the voice actor for Kratos shouting objectives at you.