In many ways, Spawn and other comic book characters can be broken down into simple, recognizable and often very similar archetypes. Most of them are orphans. Most of them are good innocent people whose laudable intents were turned against them. Most have one inhibited weakness while their other senses and powers are amplified to compensate.
Spawn: Armageddon follows the story of a government assassin that dies and returns from hell. But instead of doing deeds for the underworld, he uses his newfound powers to violently exact retribution and his own brand of justice in New York; a kind of modern personification of the Old Testament's eye for an eye rule. All of this constitutes as decent gaming material. No holds barred, there's no excuse for this good guy not to exercise full force on his opponents.
Once you pick up and start playing Armageddon, you'll notice that the design is not quite as revolutionary or hard-edged as its source material. That can be a blessing or a travesty depending on what skill level you possess. Armageddon is a short game. On a weekend afternoon, most people will probably be able to finish it by dinner time.
To its credit, the controls are easy to learn. Spawn carries an axe that serves as his melee weapon. For projectiles, he can pick up and use a plethora of guns, rocket launchers, all the modern whiz-bangs you'd expect to find on the streets of New York. Spawn is also equipped with chains that can lash out at his enemies. And suitably enough, Spawn also has what are called hell powers; a comic book rendition of magical spells. These need to be recharged by powerups placed throughout the game. Like most action games, putting the right attack together can result in a combo. While the combo system here isn't terribly sophisticated, the bottom line is there are plenty of ways for Spawn to wreak havoc.
The game design is also fairly straightforward. Some fallen angels are trying to harm the humans of the mortal world. Spawn is here to use his ethereal powers to save them. Each level is crafted with an objective in mind and the progress is linear. You won't be bouncing back and forth. The short playing time will make it tough for non-fans of Spawn to take up. All you get to do after completing the game is unlocking extras. Frankly, there aren't too many here either. You might find more extras on a DVD set of Spawn, if one existed. It would have been nice for Namco to strike up deals with the media conglomerates to include some movies or tie-ins with other Spawn properties.
In general, Armageddon's landscapes are dark and moody. Many New York locales are modeled including the obligatory Central Park. The visuals lend a certain ambiance to the tone of the game. The shadow effects remind me of the Grand Central scene in Spider-Man.
The disappointing part of Armageddon is its length and its lack of variety. You won't get too much playing time to see the visuals and there is no compelling reason, apart from aesthetic appreciation, to revisit some of the locales. Perhaps the most disappointing part to action fans will be the level of difficulty. Most enemies are simply overwhelmed by Spawn's arsenal. They're either too weak to withstand any hits or their attacks do little other than annoy this rebel hellion. Good, bad, mortal or immortal, Spawn's only significant foe would appear to be Spawn himself.
Because the design is so straightforward, unfortunately the developers are prodding their customers straight into this fault. All you really have to do in Armageddon is jump a few platform puzzles and mow enemies down towards the end of the level. There aren't any multiplayer features included either.
Games that possess icons, like Superman, Buffy, or Terminator, often attract two sorts of fans. One camp will have bought everything released for that titular character to date. The other side of the coin will not likely be impressed unless the product itself is gripping. Armageddon's greatest appeal to Spawn fans will be its visuals and an opportunity to don the cape on a modern console machine. GameCube owners beware as Armageddon has been reported to lock up frequently on that system. Lock up or no lock up, though, non-fans are looking at an attractive but typical third person action game.