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PS3 Review: Heavenly Sword

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Heavenly Sword is an achievement in game-based cinematic storytelling. The game employs state of the art motion capturing to give its characters a flair for realism rarely captured with a console. But what this game didn’t capture was any innovation in game play. That isn’t to say this game isn’t fun and doesn’t have a few surprises, but if you’ve played God Of War you’re not going to find anything new here and for the record… if you haven’t played God Of War, get off your computer, turn on your Playstation, and get going.

The story of Heavenly Sword follows Nariko, a warrior whose curves can kill as seductively as her blades. Nariko is the hottest action female video game lead character since Lara Croft. I don’t want to go into the back story too much since it’s a big part of enjoying the game but I’ll give you the gist of it. Nariko’s clan protects a weapon known as the Heavenly Sword. The sword was left behind after a warrior of light came to defeat a great evil and won. Ever since then, people have been fighting for custody of the Heavenly Sword.

One of those people is the evil King Bohan, a twisted, perverted, and power hungry warlord. Andy Serkis, better known as Gollum of Lord of the Rings fame, provides the motion capture for King Bohan. This performance deserves an Oscar. He is the creepiest villain in recent gaming history and the man deserves some recognition for it.

This game defines the term consoler. It’s a combo-based button masher. For the non-gamer, that means you keep hitting random buttons on your controller to watch your character do mass amounts of damage to everything around them. Though some of these titles make it feel like these games take no skill, the best of them make it fun for the beginners who can do nothing but whack the controller and more involved for the advanced players who like to watch their foes be vanquished in style. This game falls in the better category for sure.

It also incorporates some of the PS3’s SixAxis motion sensing functionality. You have some levels where you’re shooting arrows or firing cannons. By holding down the fire button you can then twist and turn your controller to help guide your projectile for maximum damage. There are also points in the game where you are required to do certain things like press the square button at the right time to make your character do cinematic style moves. If you’ve ever played Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace then you’ll feel right at home in these scenes. If you haven’t played either of those… again, get off your computer, and get going.

I started playing Heavenly Sword a week ago. I didn’t have much time to devote to it due to Halo 3, but I popped it in and got through the first chapter. I was instantly enthralled with the visuals. This game is gorgeous. With only some pops in the dynamic lighting, this game shows just how powerful the PS3 is and if you’re not aware, games get better over time with consoles. Take Halo for example, or God Of War. Both had great looking first outings, but a couple years later and some better understandings of how to make a game for the console you are programming for and you get sequels that wipe the floor with their predecessors. So if Heavenly Sword looks this good, I’m expecting BIG things from developers in the years to come. The game, made by Ninja Theory, cannot only make an amazing screenshot out of every frame, but it can handle an enormous amount of baddies.

I believe in the final battle there are nearly 200 running at full frame rate which makes for bloody, chaotic, button-mashing fun. The sound design is clean and the music is good, but nothing to write home about. So I finally moved on from Halo 3 and sat down on a Saturday morning to play more so I could write this review. Well I got through the game in three and a half hours. And if you add the half hour I already played that means I only got four hours of play time out of this title. I love story-driven games, but four hours is too little.

Having said that, the Blu-Ray disc it comes on does pack a lot of extras, including a whole “making of” series that is really fun to watch if you are interested in the behind the scenes. Also there is an animated series that you can watch which gives you all the back story leading up to the game. To unlock these features you have to collect points you get from completing levels. So there are some reasons to go back and replay levels that you didn’t give your 110% on.

All in all I like this game. I would recommend it to anyone who likes story-driven games or wants a title that really shows off their PS3’s power.

Heavenly Sword is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes and Violence.

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About Tim Schultz