Game: Spartacus Legends
Publisher/Developer: Ubisoft/Kung Fu Factory
Describe This Game in Three Words: Stabby Stabby Stabby
Plot: You run a gladiator school (ludus) back in gladiator times. Now you buy slaves and train them into living weapons to fight in the arena for gold and fame.
Up, Up: Modern fighters rely so much on their power of their characters. Hell, I would rather watch the last Mortal Kombat and Injustice as movies than actually play them. It's kind of invigorating to just leap into something completely unmolded by story like you do in Spartacus.
As a fighter it doesn't rely on special moves or flashy powers. Instead, there's an honest learning curve to teach you basic fighting technique within the engine. Since the goal is to continuously level up your character by earning silver and fame to upgrade their equipment and attribute perks, the game truly becomes an engaging test of skill rather than learning which character to cheese. It's an incredibly fair game in that sense, and reminds me of the old 16-bit title Weaponlord in both its brutality and realistic weapon fighting style. It's just simple and bloody and brilliant.
Oh, and it's free. Seriously. The game is free. You can literally buy your way up the ladder if you want, but actually getting and playing the game is totally free.
Down, Down: It's easily the bloodiest fighter I've ever seen. While it lacks the last MK's inventiveness when it comes to executions, suddenly slicing a man's head in half is an awesome and stomach-turning sight.
If that's doesn't bother you, the online fights (Which are really the best) seem to have a tendency to glitch near the finale, leaving you and your opponent unable to touch each other at all. That could have been first day server blues, but it happened enough to necessitate a restart of my PS3 at least once.
It's also a little disheartening to see no female character option. Though never a major part of gladiator combat, women did appear in the pit to fight other women. At least until Septimus Severus banned the practice in 200 AD. Since fighting games are the one area where female characters have always participated on the same level as male ones, it would have been nice to have the option.
Left, Right, Left, Right: It's as simple a fighter as you could want. You move in three dimensions easily, different directions plus attacks gives you variety, and you pick up combos pretty quick. It's a little hard to recover from an onslaught sometimes, but that's keeping with the realism, I guess. Oh, and the d-pad makes you taunt. I'm telling you because the game keeps harping on taunting without really making it clear how you do it.
B,A: The most over-the-top announcer in all of gaming has been found. I was barely ten seconds into the training fight when I landed a spectacular blow (By accident) and hear a deep masculine voice shout, "JUPITER'S COCK!" Now that's how you motivate a player!
Start: Truth be told, this is really only for somewhat juvenile and overly violent people that want to make their murders up close and personal rather than through the sniper rifle. If that's not you, skip it. If, however, you have even the smallest desire to give it a try, I can't stress enough that the game is free, and it gets the blood boiling like nobody's business.