While gamers everywhere frag each other on “Halo 3” this week (which needs no review), Sony’s recently released “Heavenly Sword” for PlayStation 3 provides its own brand of fast-paced action – but with far less staying power.
The game definitely has an epic feel, with hundreds of enemies on-screen at once and near-cinema-quality computer animation scenes. However, many gamers will be able to finish the game in a day, so it’s hard to feel as invested in the stakes and characters.
Especially in cutscenes, the characters movements are incredibly lifelike, down to twitches of the eyes. One stage has the player firing arrows at a string of enemies, who have a wide range of reactions depending on where they are hit. Mouth movements don’t always match and Nariko’s long hair isn’t very detailed, but everything else about the graphics is impressive.
Nariko, wielding the powerful – but life-draining – Heavenly Sword, has a wide variety of moves in three different stances: Her moves are normally swift, but holding the L1 button will make her moves long-range, while R1 will make them powerful but slow. Each stance also blocks different attacks from enemies, so learning to use a variety of moves is key, especially when facing dozens of enemies at once.
Breaking up the swordplay are stages that require a cannon or crossbow to strike waves of enemies from a distance. This unique aspect of the game puts the projectile under the player’s direct control, as the point of view follows the object and the tilt-sensitive SIXAXIS controller steers it to its target. After getting the hang of it, following a cannonball as it approaches its distant target is a blast to play and the best use of the SIXAXIS controller to date. Mastering projectile steering pays off in normal stages as well, for Nariko can pick up most objects (including fallen enemies) and use them as throwing weapons using the same perspective.
A minor complaint is that the game installs itself on the PS3’s hard drive without asking, which is supposed to speed up load times, but there are still instances of frame drops, meaning jerky motion, during certain transitions. Thankfully, it doesn’t occur during actual gameplay.
The villains are also a bit too over-the-top eccentric, making the rouge’s gallery in the “Metal Gear Solid” series look well-adjusted by comparison.
“Heavenly Sword” also has unlockable artwork, animation and behind-the-scenes footage; a nice bit of extras, but most gamers would’ve likely wanted more playing time instead.
For PlayStation 3
Developed by Ninja Theory
Release date: Sept. 12, 2007
Genres: Action, adventure