There is one and but the one word for Ryse: Son of Rome, to my mind, and that word is "preposterous". It's not a criticism. Ryse is preposterous in the same way that a rhino hitting a wedding cake is preposterous - preposterous like hurling greasy piglets and live electrodes into a massive golden bathtub.
It's a game set in Pre-Gun Times, when the only way to go about slaying a man was to strap on a draughty leather codpiece, fold some rusty metal round your head and belch invitingly at the guy while standing in front of a thousand, equally enraged men in similar attire. Would you like to know how to suck at it? Would you like to know how to be the most odious and unloved Roman warrior in existence? Friend, you have come to the right place.
1. Grandstand despite imminent stabbing
There's a button in Ryse multiplayer that makes your gladiator show off to the arena crowd, boosting an audience enjoyment gauge that opens up fancier execution moves. When first I discovered this during a hands-on with Jonty, I was utterly in love. I've always been the stagey type. "CAN THOU SMELLETH WHAT THE ROCK HATH COOKED?" I bellowed, waggling my stupidly huge forearms at the stands as Jonty scuttled forward efficiently and kicked a barbarian into a whirly wooden thing with blades on it. The barbarian's friend, meanwhile, poked me in the armpit with a spear - but I wasn't done strutting my stuff.
"Aren't you entert - I mean, ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?" I hooted, striking a Mr Universe pose, whereupon the barbarian thwacked me across the back of the head with his shield. That would have been my cue to get down to business, had the spirit of Russell Crowe not beamed itself direct from darkest Australia into my head. Was there time for a gladiatorial monologue? There would have to be. "Yes, good citizens, 'tis I - Rawkus Stonkus Flakkus, SISTER TO A MURDERED HAMSTER, UNCLE TO A BUTTERED WIFE, and I WILL have my VENGEANCE, in this life or, as now seems extremely probable, the next."
2. Get stuck inside each other
Among the few technical issues that beset Ryse at present is a little problem of overlap. Attack the same chap as your bulging roided-up acquaintance, and there's a chance you'll meld into one another like colliding jellies. Were this a competitive multiplayer game, the resulting four-armed, four-legged blob of screaming iron and flesh would probably strike terror into the foe's heart, but the AI doesn't seem particularly bothered. If this happens to you, now might be a good time to roll sideways - it's obviously rather hard to work out who's hitting what when you're up to your elbows in the other guy's bodyfat.
3. Don't wait for the executions to end
It's a rare enemy in Ryse who's granted the privilege of an old-fashioned death, tumbling to his knees in one piece. You'll sweep most of them up into a multi-part execution move, a string of slow motion strikes during which you can tap a button at telegraphed moments for more XP. Hilariously, the slow motion only applies to the attacker and his victim, so co-op partners get to look on in embarrassment while their friends play underwater football with glowing body parts.
Also hilariously, it's possible to move on before the camera's done gloating over the carnage - keep hammering the buttons, and your gladiator should fly off-screen and ram triumphantly into somebody you can't yet see. It's more like walking an extremely large and excitable dog than inhabiting the person of a classical thug, frankly.