In Ryse: Son of Rome, you assume the character of Marius Titus, a Roman soldier who must seek revenge for the murder of his family. This God-of-War-esque, third-person hack-and-slash has fantastic graphics but monotonous gameplay, making Ryse a beautiful showcase of what a next-gen console can do but not all that it should do.
Broadway-caliber voice acting: The story may be unoriginal, but the voice acting is superb. The majority of the story is carried by the supporting characters, though, not Marius. The cast's performance lends some merit to an otherwise bland script.
Visually impressive: Graphically, Ryse is a stunning game, worthy of showing off the Xbox One's next-gen hardware. From the gorgeous vistas and realistically detailed backgrounds to the convincingly gruesome fights, it is an impressive game to behold.
Responsive co-op: Ryse's co-op mode lets you team up with a friend's mission objectives. There is not much difference, except you can buy items with gold earned from missions. The in-game purchase option allows you to skip the grind, but the buying system randomizes the loot that you get.
A mundane plot: Ryse's developer took plenty of artistic license in portraying the old empire. Even so, the plot runs bland, with some particularly uninspired moments between battles.
Monotonous combat: Ryse combat is straightforward: You can cut up your opponent via two types of attack (light and heavy), and you get a button to block incoming hits and a button to dodge them. By squeezing the trigger at the right time after a combo, you enter a mini-cut scene to watch Marius decimate his foe. These brutal finishers are great to watch the first time but get massively tedious over the entire game. There are some much-welcome breaks in between--battles where you work with other soldiers to mount an assault or defend a castle by repelling invaders--but they are far too few.
Beautiful but monotonous, Ryse: Son of Rome has all the calling cards of a launch title. Impressively presented but lacking any true depth, the game feels like it was made to demonstrate the prowess of the Xbox One system. You may get a few hours of fun from it, but the enjoyment will wane pretty fast.