"Mask of Death is a surprisingly charismatic and entertaining venture, despite lacking originality and polish."
I try to set all assumptions aside prior to reviewing games, but with a title like “Marlow Briggs” and a cover resembling a poor man’s Drew Struzan poster, it’s hard not to set your expectations low. But like the charmingly tawdry action films of the eighties and early nineties, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is a surprisingly charismatic and entertaining venture, despite lacking originality and polish. Its God of War inspired gameplay may not bring anything new to the genre, but it offers enough explosive action and humor for a quick weekend thrill.
If blowing up half a jungle with acrobatic moves and magic powers sounds intriguing, then Marlow Briggs certainly delivers. The game wastes no time with elaborate narratives and tosses you straight into the action. While visiting his girlfriend in Central America, Marlow is killed by an evil industrialist and left for dead. A mysterious Mayan mask brings him back to life and he sets out to defeat his killers and rescue his girl.
" From the moment you start rolling around the environment via the right analog, it becomes clear that combat is in every respect lifted from the God of War series."
Before you know it, you’re fighting giant spiders, possessed scorpions, ninja assassins, monster wasps, and whatever else the game throws at you. It’s a very classic hack n’ slash premise and it works wonderfully for the most part. From the moment you start rolling around the environment via the right analog, it becomes clear that combat is in every respect lifted from the God of War series. The mechanics are virtually identical, but they lack the same precision and weight of Kratos’ maneuvers. This isn’t a particularly bad thing though as Marlow’s moves are undoubtedly impressive and fun, but it’s a shame that there’s isn’t more variety…particularly when it comes to the weapons, which are indistinguishable from GOW.
Level design is a hybrid between Uncharted and Tomb Raider (just don’t expect the same aesthetic finesse) with simplistic environmental puzzles thrown in to break up the nonstop fights. There’s plenty of platforming and timed orb-collecting races, but the occasional turret sections feel strangely out of place. They’re incredibly simplistic, they take too long, and seem like they were just shoved in as padding. Fortunately, the intense combat remains the core focus throughout, with challenging mini bosses around every corner ensuring fast and frantic pacing.
"There seem to be only a few enemy types that are used interchangeably with bosses being the only exception."
Visually, the game looks quite attractive with lush, dense jungle environments and complex industrial architecture. When the camera zooms in you can see some very ugly and flat texturing, but it’s generally well covered with strong lighting and vivid special effects. While the overall style is fitting and much better than what you’d expect when looking at the screenshots, the lack of enemy variety is disappointing. There seem to be only a few enemy types that are used interchangeably with bosses being the only exception. This may not be a deal breaker in any way, but considering how much the game borrows from GOW, it’s hard not to draw comparisons and crave for something more diverse.
Ultimately, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is to God of War what Bad Boys is to Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop, a lesser alternative that lacks the brilliance and character of its source material but still manages to be entertaining while it lasts. It’s definitely worth the asking price, particularly if you’re a fan of third person action games, but there’s little chance you’ll play it again once the credits role.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Review on: Xbox 360