There’s no doubt about it, the act of bullfighting is a very divisive subject, and quite rightly so.
To some it’s nothing more than blood sport, a vile act that sees entertainment in the suffering of a living creature. To others, it’s a fine art; a deadly dance between a powerful beast and an elegant Torero. Regardless of your stance on the matter, bullfighting has taken place for many hundreds of years and is still very popular in countries such as Spain and Portugal where it is seen as a traditional spectacle.
Having never watched nor being familiar with the intricacies of the “sport”, I was intrigued to find that Spanish developer RECO Technology had released the first bullfighting game to come to consoles, simply titled Toro. My curiosity may have gotten the better of me however, as after spending some time with the game I can only describe it as terribull.
It is quickly apparent upon loading Toro that it is not a looker. The graphics are almost PS2 quality, with horrendous character models, poor animation and blurry textures. Audio is similarly weak, with poor sound effects and sparse music throughout the whole sordid affair. The audio and visuals could be forgiven if the core gameplay was solid, but unfortunately I can’t describe it as anything other than a shambles.
Jumping into career mode, you’re first taken through a tutorial that explains the basics. Unbeknownst to me, the typical bullfight actually consists of three stages. The first and second stages play fairly similarly, with a quick time event thrown in-between them depicting you sticking some barbed sticks onto the bull. The third stage sees you once again completing a quick time event before lining up a cursor with a mark on the bull’s neck. With one press of a button, the bull is then seemingly killed and the fight is over. In the first two stages you simply hold the left trigger to face the bull, and then taunt it with the right shoulder button to make it charge at you. Once the bull is charging, it is then your challenge to press a combination of buttons in order to execute a move. Completing successful moves one after the other creates a combo chain, increasing the score you gain for each move, but should you fluff a manoeuvre and get gored, your points will be lost. Completing manoeuvres also angers the bull, filling a meter on the bottom left of the screen. Once the meter is full, yet another quick time event takes place, with the bull returning to normal after its completion.
Toro has a basic premise, but it has been implemented very poorly. Past the first couple of manoeuvres that you learn, it’s very hard to get the timing right for them, resulting in much trial and error as you try to create varied combos. Also, the bull rarely seems to move a fair distance away from you after its first charge, making it nearly impossible to perform a lot of the moves successfully. For those that do persist with this atrocity however, progressing through the games career will see you increasing your fame, unlocking new events, moves, customisations options and extras as you go.
Aside from the career mode there’s little else to see or do in the game besides the quick match mode, which enables you to set up your own custom bullfight with the locations and customisation options you’ve unlocked via your fame level. A couple of mini games are also provided to take part in, but you’re likely to see all that they have to offer in a matter of minutes. “Bull Run” sees you riding a bull down a corridor in first person, pressing the correct button as it pops up in order to smash the door in front of you to proceed. As you progress the bull gets increasingly faster, making the ordeal more challenging, and quite frankly, nauseating. “Bull Toss” on the other hand, sees you hammering buttons like a track and field game in order to hasten your bulls charge towards a hapless matador. Once you’ve hit him, you have to press another button to quickly set your trajectory, sending the unfortunate bullfighter soaring through the sky. With no real point or progression to these mini games, you’re likely to only play them until the achievements/trophies for getting the required score in each has been attained, a process that literally took me less than five minutes.
All in all, I can’t recommend Toro to anyone. Hardened bullfighting fans may gleam a little enjoyment out of it, but the dreadful visuals and soulless, repetitive gameplay are insurmountable to any fun. It’s a mess of a game that doesn’t deserve your hard earned cash. Avoid at all costs.