| Gladiator

It was a cracking film, Gladiator. It had a bit of everything. Well, okay, it didn't - it just had a lot of burly men fighting each other with swords, but there's nothing wrong with that. And it was fun trying to spot the bits where Oliver Reed had to be made in CGI due to his inconvenient death halfway through filming.

Anyway, the game naturally skips past the build-up - Russell Crowe snivelling over the feet of his hanged wife, Commodus trying to sleep with his sister, and all the rest of it. No one wants to play that stuff in a game. They just want the amphitheatre action, the big swords and the baying crowds. Which is exactly what Gladiator the mobile game gives us.

First I'll sum up the important bits. Gladiator is developed by Fishlabs, a studio that's proved itself a bit good at doing 3D mobile games by making the likes of Rally Master Pro. And Gladiator is a 3D fighting game that doesn't do anything to dent that reputation, being as it is a very good-looking game.

Not only are the 3D modelled characters detailed and smoothly animated, but they also connect satisfyingly with one another, as you'd expect, with a clatter of sword on armour. These characters - you can play as a selection of slaves then gladiators - remain locked onto one another most of the time, so you can circle your opponent by tapping up or down on the joystick ('2' or '8') or move away from them to pull off one of the ranged attacks. The camera moves in to capture the close-up combat, then swoops back to give a view of the ranged attacks. It's all very beautifully done.

You might be wondering, though, whether a fighting game can work when you're mashing buttons on a mobile rather than an arcade cabinet. The mobile's limited control interface is more damaging to this genre than it is to some, but Gladiator is still surprisingly slick and accessible.

Rapidly hammering the '5' button and trying to pull off a special attack by holding one button and shifting the joystick down then to the left is pretty hard-going on the thumbs, but generally the game hits the right balance for a mobile scrap-fest. Up close you have the option of normal, heavy and stun attacks, and you can also defend by moving away from your opponent. From a distance you can fire a harpoon at them, or pull off the special attack, which calls for you to stop a bar at just the right spot for maximum damage.

It's nicely done - and best of all, you can cheer just after you've spilt some gladiator red sauce all over the sand to score additional 'fame points'. These points - and a blue bar which fills up after successful attacks - earn you lots of perks in and out of the ring: damage bonuses, extra continues for if you're defeated and a better overall reputation.

Fame points are a particularly big part of Arcade mode, in which you pit your chosen character against a succession of five gladiators. Make it to the end and they're freed, but the points determine how well you've done it and give you something to beat next time. Or you can play again with a newly unlocked character, or take part in a Survival match or Bluetooth two-player game instead.

The thumb gets pointed down, unfortunately, for Gladiator's slight lack of variety. While each fighter is different in appearance and fighting moves, going through the same ones as different characters isn't that entertaining. But then that's fighting games for you - you have to be pretty hardcore to play one for hours. If a straightforward gladiatorial slay-'em-up is what you want, Gladiator is as fun as they come.


Top fighting game that puts you in the gladiatorial arena and pits you against a plethora of gladiators. Fight through to unlock new characters, up to Maximus himself, or challenge a friend to a bloody fight to the death