I played this before Friday’s All Game Interactive and I just got done filing the review. I need to own a PS3. I know we’re days away from Halo, but I just had to share. Part of me is surprised — I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the game as much as I did.
For the sake of archive purposes, I’m going to start slapping my reviews up here. Our system has a way of wiping them out after a while.
So, here’s the review for Heavenly Sword, coming in hard copy over the weekend:
Heres a great formula for success: When in doubt, get a smoking-hot redhead to kill lots of people with a sword.
Thats what I got when I unsheathed Heavenly Sword, a short, powerful experience that swarms the player with a combination of slashaway action, some gameplay innovation and cinematics fit for a Hollywood fantasy epic.
From the beginning, this Ninja Theory-designed project was being tagged as one of the must-have titles for the PlayStation 3. For the most part, this game lives up that billing.
You play the part of Nariko, a warrior maiden charged with protecting (and eventually wielding) the Heavenly Sword, a multifaceted blade that only a god is supposed to handle. If anyone else tries to use it, their life slips away. Naturally, armies of bad people want this thing, and it eventually falls to Nariko to destroy them all. And as players will find out, shes really REALLY good at it.
The only other character that whips more backside than Nariko is probably Kratos, the walking Spartan death-bringer from the God of War series. As many gamers have already pointed out, the furious combat and gameplay mechanics have led many to jokingly call this game Goddess of War or some other colorful names I probably cant put here.
Theres no getting around it if youve played God of War, then youll be well-prepared for some of the button-mashing chaos youll find here. You essentially have two attack buttons you can use to assemble some deadly, blood-spilling combos. Youll also run into plenty of timed-button sequences, either during boss fights or other times where Nariko has to pull off some eye-catching stuntwork (like running across a gigantic rope or hopping off a falling stone platform before it crashes).
However, despite those similarities, the game does a solid job of defining Nariko as a character through subtle wrinkles in gameplay and fighting style. Nariko is a more sophisticated fighter than Kratos the Heavenly Sword gives her command of several stances that have their own strengths and weaknesses during battle. She can split the sword in two for regular attacks, combine it for extra power, or break it up to attack multiple enemies.
Shes also adept at unleashing some wicked counter-attacks when she blocks. Time it right, and shell do everything from crack necks with her legs to launching an enemy across the room with a nasty kick to the groin.
Mastery of all these moves is essential to being effective in battle and also leads to some outstanding action sequences. One scene has Nariko fighting a bunch of her fellow clansmen, so she has the option of paralyzing them instead of killing them.
The Sixaxis function of the Sony controller gets plenty of work here as well. As the player, youll be asked to man catapults, shoot arrows or hurl bladed weapons. Using a feature the game calls aftertouch, the camera follows the projectile while you to steer it into the intended target. Its a cool feature in concept, but it was by far the most frustrating part of the game. It felt odd and not as responsive as it should have been, so I missed more than a share of targets at first. Plus, aftertouch seems to laugh at the laws of physics. It was just plain weird being able to make a cannonball actually curve upward after being fired, or make an arrow almost do a 180-degree turn.
You cant really avoid aftertouch either there are some missions and tasks that actually require it, so be prepared for some controller-hurling moments.
The most memorable parts of the game are the cinematic sequences. Simply put, they are on another level.
Andy Serkis (Gollum from Lord of the Rings) helped develop and write the characters, and the end result is some of the best voice work, dialogue and directing Ive ever seen in a game.
Serkis portrayal of the twisted King Bohan is very memorable (especially when it comes to facial expressions). I wanted to both laugh at him in addition to kill him. The first meeting between him and Nariko is one for the ages, when Nariko first draws out the Heavenly Sword.
Speaking of the heroine, Anna Torv does an outstanding job of bringing the Nariko character to life, giving her an elegant, simmering strength as opposed to Kratos oozing rage.
Overall, my time with Heavenly Sword was time will spent, and it made the 360 owner in me feel a twinge of jealousy.