Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance

aka: Gladiator: Schwert der Rache, I, Gladiator
Moby ID: 14164
PlayStation 2 Specs
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Description official descriptions

Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance is an action game that takes place in the times of the Roman empire. You take control of Invictus Thrax, a Roman slave, who ascended through the ranks to become champion of all gladiators. Favored by the emperor, Invictus was to be granted his freedom. Mysteriously though, the emperor was killed and replaced by a crazy man named Arruntius. Arruntius, so full of himself, has decided to destroy Rome and replace it with a city named Arruntium. As the game begins, an epic event is staged with Invictus as the gladiator. Invictus fights bravely, but he is killed by an unknown and possibly un-human creature. In the afterlife, Invictus meets the sons of Jupiter. They inform him of how Arruntius' power came from help of the gods of terror. They charge him with the task of eliminating Arruntius and restoring Rome to glory.

Gladiator is essentially an 3d action/combat game which features hand to hand combat with weapons, combos and magic. The action also includes maneuvering around, from gliding down ropes to jumping traps. Challenges are scattered around the game world, which when defeated, unlock magical powers granted by the gods, such as Pluto's power, which raises spirits from the dead to help you in battle. A unique feature of the game is the execution maneuver. Upon the near death of certain enemies, you can execute this maneuver which will result in a cinematic random brutal execution by Thrax.

The game's graphics try to recreate the atmosphere of gladiator films such as Spartacus. A wide range of characters are featured from opposing gladiators to mythical enemies like cyclopes, demons. and skeleton warriors. Audio features include a blend of soft and hectic tunes, and voice over acting.


  • Месть гладиатора - Russian spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

148 People (114 developers, 34 thanks) · View all

Design (Lead)
Programming (Project Lead)
Player Programming (Lead)
Programming (Lead Assistant)
Platform Programming (Lead)
Graphics (Lead)
Background Graphics (Lead)
Characters (Lead)
[ full credits ]



Average score: 65% (based on 20 ratings)


Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 14 ratings with 2 reviews)

Entertaining hack n’ slash fare, with limited lasting appeal.

The Good
Gladiator Sword of Vengeance is an old fashioned arcade style button masher, pure and simple.

This reminds one of like-minded titles that did the rounds on Micros from years past, such as classic hack n’ slash romps’ ‘Sword of Sodan’ or Palace’s ‘Barbarian’. Well, at least for this reviewer anyway. Decapitated heads would gleefully roll across the blood strewn pixel painted backdrops much to players’ twisted delight.

It seems Acclaim’s goal here was to reinvigorate this tried and tested theme and coax it back to life with some modern styling, whilst rigorously adhering to the original formulas. I think they succeeded on this level.

How to best put Gladiator in a nutshell, well, it easily evokes movies based on Greek mythology like 'Clash of The Titans', 'Jason and the Argonauts' etc., where here you take control of the lead protagonist, a hardened warrior slave (Conan anyone?) called Thrax, from a quasi third-person overhead kind of perspective, battle myriads of nasties (including skeletons, Ork's, and more besides), while showcasing some obligatory over-the-top blood letting like something from a Monty Python picture, in the form of “Death Blows”, where as the red stuff sprays in abandon like an unattended water hose.

To elaborate on these, when your fighting with the clusters of enemies, there will be a sort of ringleader amongst them, where by when his health gauge turns from yellow to red, there is a short opening to push a button on the controller which will perform a kind of Mortal Kombat-esque fatality sequence. The game cuts to an animated scene in darkened setting showing Thrax stabbing or dismembering the opposition using various brutal techniques. Something nice here, and very much unlike the aforementioned game and its sequels, you don’t have to perform a plethora of hand panicked stick and button combinations just to see these things.

When the game begins, you are armed with only a humble broad sword, but as you go on, collect an axe and gauntlets to bring some extra variety to the onslaught. You are obligated to use all of the weapons during your quest at different points, as at times certain enemies can only be defeated with certain weapons.

The combat here is one skirmish after the other, a handful of nasties attacks, you deal with them, migrate a bit, and then repeat the process. Trigger buttons are used for controlling the flow of your attacks, where as one sets up the primary attack target and the other the secondary, and you can alternate for fast switch kills.

You can perform a number of combination attacks, but A - I don’t want to sound as if I am regurgitating the game manual, and B - To be brutally honest, you can get away with just employing the two standard attacks, and when coupled with an auto-fire controller, you can shred through the herds and not destroy your investment in the process.

Along the way you have to face some slightly tougher guardians, which require some sort of specific routine to defeat, but is usually none too taxing to figure out. You are rewarded with a special ability upon defeating such individuals, for example the initial power you receive is that of Hercules, which adds another gauge surrounding your health one, that you can fill up by slaying nasties.

To activate it, you simply push a button on the controller, and flames will proceed to emanate from your body, and your attacks proceed to become much faster, fiercer and deal further, greater damage too all comers. This lasts for a limited time, and is visualised by the red gauge depleting in its circular counterclockwise motion, until it runs to the beginning.

Others include the power of Pluto, which uses the same gauge, but you have to defeat more nasties for the gauge to change colour again, and it fills up in the same manner, and so on. Upon activation, it attaches ghost warriors to opponents you attack and drains their life force, and if you do away with enough enemies this way, it sends their health back to your own, to top you up. This becomes important in the latter stages of the game, when general heath pickups are far less numerous. The visualisation here is rather charged up and exciting. Finally, there is the power of Titan, which, well . . . isn’t too difficult to imagine the stopping power.

Apart from the slicing and dicing, other play elements include occasionally pulling levers to open up new areas, and the game always draws’ attention to such things. Also at times, you have to destroy enemy generators, sort of like in ‘Gauntlet’ I guess, but the generator will have a marking on it, indicating a power has to be employed to destroy them, e.g. a fist symbol represents Hercules. Failing this, the nasties never stop spawning.

Something interesting worth noting is the environment, while you can freely move around the defined areas, to negotiate jumping, it is done automatically by pressing a button at predefined points. This is also for other situations which see you utilising flying fox type devices to move to new areas. The ways in which your path is controlled, even though the environments appear to be quite expansive, sort of reminded me of how old games like ‘The Last Ninja’ series presented the flow of action, though this still feels much more free flowing in stark contrast.

Much emphasis has been put in power-ups in this game, and at regular intervals you find “challenges”, which appear as podium-like things which you can interact with, that subsequently takes you to a confined arena for the challenge.

This normally consists of defeating a quota of nasties, or destroying all objects -, e.g. barrels, in a predetermined time limit, and so on. Rewards consist of such things as increasing your health gauge, upgrading weapons, making new helpful items become available etc.

Something worth noting is the “smart” camera behaves itself here, and I can’t recall an occasion when it was intrusive to the play. You also have control over the zoom ratio of the action, which can easily be adjusted with the right thumb-stick at any time during the game.

The audio side of things here is actually quite well done. The British actors which voice over the various character’s are consistently good, and deliver their respective lines with great aplomb. A particular standout - the suitably sinister, yet decidedly sultry Deimos – Goddess of Terror.

Music for me wasn’t really memorable, which means, like a good film, I strictly serve to subtly create the mood and atmosphere, and conversely heighten the tempo when necessary for the fevered violence. Spot effects include various metallic clangs and bangs, resounding grunts and growls, and some particularly juicy samples during the death blow sequences which rounds out things nicely.

In terms of visuals, this is very solid. Pixel shading means this abounds that lovely soft overtone, and everything from the blades of grass gently swaying in the wind, to warriors composed of shadows is a pleasure to soak up the graphic splendour. Environmental effects from dark cloudy skies to glaring sunshine are effectively realised and employed. The visuals aren’t overly gaudy, but instead strike a good balance between detail and functionality.

The Bad
Admittedly, this game isn’t dreadfully difficult. Anyone who is not completely ham-fisted with the controller could most likely beat this game in eight to ten hours without too much trouble. Moreover, because the game is somewhat linear, I can’t find any good reason to revisit this myself.

The Bottom Line
Whingeing aside, I really didn’t mind this game. The visuals are easily as smart as ‘Prince of Persia Sands of time’, and the combat here can be considered much the same in truth. Actually a good way of describing this, is Prince without any genuinely deep thought required, where as the focus is almost solely on combat, without any of the platform bits or proper puzzle elements.

I just couldn't find my way to slagging this game off, even though it is rather shallow and unoriginal, I found it to be a decent diversion between keener games, and hacking Ork’s into shish kebabs proves to be almost therapeutic in a way. So, if you can get this game for budget (which I did) it offers some good fun while it lasts, just don’t expect anything in the way of long-term value.

Xbox · by Nick Drew (397) · 2007

"Are you not entertained?" Um... a little, maybe.

The Good
Imagine a game whose story merges Ridley Scott's Gladiator and any classic Ray Harryhausen film. Imagine that the same game plays out like a 3D version of Golden Axe and you have Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance.

Gladiator begins with the death of its protagonist. After the mysterious death of Emperor Trajan, the lean and hungry Consular Arruntius has seized the throne. Renaming Rome Arruntium, Arruntius has turned the city into a theatre of blood. As a final nail in Trajan's coffin, Arruntius has arranged a spectacle for the mobs which will end with Trajan's personal gladiator champion's death. Enter Invictus Thrax, the Invincible Thracian—the man who was born a slave, made a gladiator, and would have been freed by Trajan.

The game play begins with Thrax's last moments on earth. Operating as a tutorial, Thrax runs through the intricate gauntlet that was the streets of Rome slaying opposing gladiators on his way to the coliseum. Here the player learns Gladiator's combat system. Thrax automatically targets his nearest opponent with the second nearest opponent having a secondary target. Mash away on the X and Square buttons to engage the primary target then hit L1 to switch to the secondary. With practice, Thrax can bounce back and forth between opponents performing various three-stage combinations. Here Thrax also learns how to use the action button. If Thrax is near something he can use or do: a rope swing, a jump, etc, all he needs to do is press O and it's done automatically—no problem at all.

So then Thrax bites it and the real game begins. In the Elysian Fields, Thrax is confronted by Romulus and Remus, who wear the eerie comedy/tragedy drama masks, and is charged with the task of restoring the spirit of Rome. This involves traveling through the Roman Other Worlds and confronting Phobos and Deimos, Mars' errant children and the Dark Gods supporting Arruntius.

With the Elyssian Fields acting as a hub world, Thrax travels to different planes, taking the fight to the Gods before restoring the glory that is Rome. Thrax has three main weapons: gauntlets, an axe, and a sword. In the afterlife, he can find stronger versions of each weapon as well as four-stage meters for each weapon. These meters reward Thrax when he performs specific combos and avoids enemy blows. Basically they turn him into a whirlwind of death. Thrax can also find urns which lengthen his lifebar, unlock more power-ups, and recover hidden artifacts which unlock more rewards if he can find them all.

All of the weapons and items are earned by completing time challenges, which can be mandatory or optional in a way not obvious to the player. Most of the challenges involve killing all the opponents in a small arena, sometimes with a shortened lifebar or with a weapon restriction. The other challenges involve breaking all the barrels in an arena by powering up and unleashing Battle Magic.

There are three types of Battle Magic with which Thrax becomes proficient: Herculean strength and prowess, Pluto's command of the dead, and Jupiter's control of lightning. After earning the powers, Thrax charges a blood meter through combat and then unleashes it by hitting Triangle (which also cycles through the available spells).

Thrax meets a variety of opponents: walking skeletons, Cyclops, other gladiators and more. There are some smaller bosses along the way and Thrax has the option of dispatching them with a bloody finishing move—automatically, just by pressing the action key.

Gladiator has great graphics and a respectable camera system. Voice acting is very good. Music is stellar—very original, haunting stuff here, and sound effects are fine.

The Bad
Every so often I experience a disconnect when I'm playing a game—it becomes quite clear to me that I'm just pressing buttons. Gladiator is pretty easy and for the most part it plays itself. The lock-on combat system automatically targets an enemy, orients Thrax towards him, and moves Thrax at him when you press one of the two attack buttons. Unlike Mortal Kombat, as I said above, finishing moves are one-button. There are no tricky jumps here, just press one button.

Combos are completed by pressing the X and Square buttons, no funky controller moves, just those two buttons. The manual laughably advises players to avoid button mashing in order to get the most out of the game... really. Dude, if you only have two buttons to use, they're gettin' mashed. As Thrax's weapons become more powerful and he gains more magic, the game gets easier. He becomes a cyclone and is visually obscured by swirling graphical effects. As long as the player keeps pressing buttons, Thrax keeps killing—relegating the player to a spectator position, cheering Thrax on by applying pressure to the controller.

In order to challenge the player, the game attempts to outnumber Thrax which works to some extent (it definitely challenges the PS2), but also gives him the opportunity to use the weapon meters and charge the blood meter. I'm not sure why play-testing didn't reveal that some of the hardest battles were one-on-one. Lastly, I was amazed at the scripted Boss behaviors. Aren't we past jumping on Bowser's head three times?

The Bottom Line
It's amazing how little time Thrax actually spends in any gladiatorial contest. Most of the game is spent slaying Greco-Roman mythological creatures and exploring interesting landscapes. If more time had been spent on the combat system, and more emphasis placed on interactivity, this would be quite a game. As it stands now, it's a brief, bloody excursion to a Rome that never existed.

PlayStation 2 · by Terrence Bosky (5398) · 2004


Advertising Campaign

Acclaim billed this game as their bloodiest ever, but how do you get that message out? Bloodvertising! Acclaim planned (not sure how this turned out) to place advertisements in UK bus shelters that would bleed. For six days, cartridges behind the ads would spurt red dye which would spill out on to the ground (and cleaned up at the end of the one-week campaign).


Watch the credits for humorous "outtakes" and other surprises.

German Releases

Two versions of this game were released in Germany: an uncut version with the red USK age rating logo and a "modified" version which qualified for the USK 12 age rating. The modified version is easily recognised by the German subtitle Schwert der Rache (i.e. Sword of Vengeance), the uncut German version still has the English title, although the package blurb and the manual are in German. The games are identical, there simply is one gory version and one with reduced violence for the "younger players".

Historical References

  • In this game, Romulus and Remus are presented as the children of Jupiter. In traditional mythology, they are identified as the children of Mars and are responsible for founding Rome. Romulus is said to have killed Remus, so we can guess who's wearing the comedy mask and who's wearing the tragedy mask in the game.

  • The Dark Gods of the game, Phobos and Deimos, are called the "errant children of Mars." Errant maybe, but they belong to the Greek mythic tradition which places them as the children of Ares. They represent the aspects of Fear and Terror. Interestingly, Acclaim has much of this information on their web site.

  • Historically, Emperor Trajan reigned from 98-117 AD (or CE). This game is set in 106 AD/CE but the story allows for any discrepancies. Trajan's achievements were set in stone, the famous Trajan Column, and he was followed by Hadrian, famous for the Hadrian Wall.


Sales of this game were clearly far below the expected levels. Enough to have contributed to Acclaim's bankruptcy? You decide. Lot number 2013 in the "pick the bones" auction of Acclaim's assets consisted of Nineteen Thousand One Hundred Seventy Three (19,173) unsold copies of Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance for PC.

Information also contributed by ClydeFrog and partykiller.


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by The Ring Hawk.

PlayStation 2, Xbox added by Kabushi. Windows Apps added by Koterminus.

Additional contributors: Terrence Bosky, Xoleras, Klaster_1, DreinIX, Cantillon, Patrick Bregger.

Game added July 23, 2004. Last modified January 2, 2024.