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Jan. 2, 2002

GW Xbox > Xbox Previews > Preview Page


Circus Maximus

Kodiak Interactive


Racing Combat


Circus Maximus will attempt to bridge some amazing genre gaps while still being scrumptiously fun.

Kodiak Interactive is developing one of the most ambitious games we've seen on the Xbox to date. Reinventing a genre is very hard to do in today's monotonous video gaming world. We seem to be so set in our ways that on the rare occasion that a new style of game comes along we pass it off as being stupid or too "out there" to ever get our head around to the concepts of the game. Jet Grind Radio was a prime example of this.

Well, it appears that Kodiak Interactive will attempt to reinvent the tried and true racing genre with their upcoming Xbox title, Circus Maximus. With roots in both the racing and fighting genres, Kodiak has got a very large hill to climb with this ambitious Xbox title, but as it stands so far, they're doing a hell of a job.

Circus Maximus takes place back in the days of the Roman Empire, the days where public human slaughter was looked upon as an excellent source of entertainment. You take part in one of the greatest forms of entertainment ever known to the man, that is, the chariot race. You play a rookie slave who is looking for fame (and freedom) and decides to try his luck in the chariot races. Through the course of your journey you'll have the opportunity to refine your chariots in many different ways. You'll have the opportunity to purchase new equipment after each race with your earnings for your previous performance. These enhancements will advance your chariot in various aspects, whether it be speed, offensive attacks, or defensive maneuvers. The real twist of Circus Maximus comes in the actual mix of genres that Kodiak is trying to achieve. Each chariot will come complete with its very own set of one driver and one warrior to fight off the competition. During gameplay you can switch between the driver and the warrior at any time.


The gameplay in Circus Maximus is spread throughout four unique game modes, circus, tournament, academy, and empire will round out the group. Circus is basically a quick play function that allows you to quickly hop into the driver's seat of a chariot and gallop off on your way to victory with only a few button presses. Tournament is comparable to the standard career mode that you'd find in most racing games. You'll work your way through the ranks of racers slowly moving your way up into the limelight of the mother of all cities, Rome. Empire represents the multiplayer aspect of Circus Maximus. You and up to three other buddies can tackle the courses as either four teams of racers or two teams each consisting of two friends. You and your pals can decide who wants to be the driver and who would like to be the warrior and contend against your other set of friends or take on a set of computer controlled players. Academy will put you in a kind of a training mode where you'll study under the strict tutelage of the rough edged, Sallus.

Prior to beginning upon your vast quest you’ll be put to the challenge of choosing your team from one of twenty-two unique drivers and combatants. These characters are all broken up into eleven unique teams ranging from Team Amazon to Team Gladiator. Each character has distinct characteristics such as levels of courage, health, weight, and combat abilities. These options should offer the player a choice of participating in the traditional racing game or playing Circus Maximus with more of a slant towards fighting. Each player will have to make this decision for themselves at the beginning of a new tournament depending on their personal preferences.

The graphics of the game are shaping up nicely thanks to some heavy-duty study time that Kodiak has put into Circus Maximus in an attempt to warp you right into Ancient Rome. The game features Alias|Wavefront's Maya Software which will allow for very clean and detailed character models as well as nicely detailed and textured tracks. From the movies and screenshots that we've received from Kodiak the in game graphics are shaping up fairly nice for a first generation Xbox game. One thing that caught our eye is how clean the characters managed stay during their ride. Personally, I'd like to see some grime and dirt wedged in between my characters armor and skin to give them that rugged look after a race. With all the dirt flying around thanks to the particle effects used in the game, we'd like to see some of it stay on the characters. While the aforementioned complaints are very small, with the level of detail that this game is striving for, it definitely isn't out of the question.

Team Africa

The environments will all be nicely detailed and will definitely give the player some amazing variety when playing through the world of Circus Maximus. Being that your character begins as a lowly, scum-sucking slave, you'll begin in the frozen wastelands of Germanium. You’ll slowly work your way up to the hot, desert sands of Alexandria and will eventually progress to the Circus Maximus arena in the great city of Rome. Through your journey you’ll be faced with a total of 19 vast tracks and 7 varying environments, all of which will vary in prestige and difficulty. Regardless of where you race, all of the locales featured in the game will be as authentic as possible thanks to the amazing research which Kodiak is putting into their first effort on the Xbox.

During the course of the race you'll have much more to deal with then petty enemies. Throughout your adventure you'll have to deal with various obstacles on the track, whether it's fallings trees, or the inclusion of track specific hazards. Another difficult aspect to the gameplay of Circus Maximus is the management of power ups. The fact that you can only maintain one power up at a time forces Circus Maximus to jump into more of a game of logically predicting upcoming events. Trying to decide whether you'll need an offensive or defensive boost could decide whether you arise victorious or plummet to the bottom of the totem poll at the end of a race [Note, ancient Romans didn't use totem poles - Ed.]. During the course of the race your HUD (Heads Up Display) will present you with your health as well as the health of the enemies encompassing your chariot.

Team Greece

One of the few fuzzy aspects of the game arises in the controls. From what we're hearing the controller layout could be a bit cumbersome for a few of the rookie players who choose to venture into Circus Maximus's vast world. The left analog stick will be used to control the movements, but pushing it in will perform a taunt and pulling back on the stick will perform a duck move by the driver of the chariot. The D-Pad will allow you to toggle between the warrior and the driver by pressing up and will also allow you to take a peak at the competition behind you by press the down direction. The two triggers are used to perform a hard turn in their respective directions and when pressed together will slow your chariot. The right analog stick will make your warrior lean in the direction of a turn to help distribute weight within the chariot, and by pressing in the right analog stick you will whip the horses spurring them on to move just a bit faster. X will execute a block, B is a standard attack, and Y is a double attack. Black will execute a high attack, white will perform a power up attack, and A will accelerate your chariot. It looks as though our good friend Sallus will be pulling overtime to teach the in depth controls to new players.

With all of the staples of a good racing game firmly intact in Circus Maximus, Kodiak looks to have its sights set very high with such an ambitious game. Whether or not Circus Maximus will be able to bridge the gap between the fighting and racing genres remains to be seen and only time will tell whether the general gaming audience will be able to adapt to the complex controls of the game, but the fact remains that we'll be along for the bumpy ride as Circus Maximus is released this coming February.

Gamer X
Is terrified of Romans.

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