Heavenly Sword - game review

Date: 2007-09-24 09:35:00
The review was based on the PS3 version.

In the cinematography from the beginning of the 21st century, you will not find monumental paintings like Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston or Doctor Zhivago with Omar Sharif, watching which you had to spend a good few hours and most importantly, this time was not considered wasted. Currently, directors more and more often serve viewers in the vicinity of one hundred minutes, and cinema owners add a quarter of an hour of Hollywood trailers, advertisements for chocolate bars, etc. The problem of clear shortening concerns not only movies, but also games - both computer and console ones. When on Sunday afternoon I sat in front of the LCD TV connected to the PlayStation 3 to play the full version of Heavenly Sword from the beginning, in the early evening of the same day I was watching the ending. I would like to add that I was in no hurry, and it lasted about five hours. Sony's loudly announced position, which was originally intended to attract a lot of new customers to the PS3, is therefore quite short. And what else?

First of all, the creators of Heavenly Sword wanted to give players a real feast for the eyes. They have undoubtedly succeeded in this in cutscenes (both real-time and pre-rendered ones), in which we admire natural-looking and moving characters (facial expressions that imitate human beings are especially impressive), surroundings bursting with details, etc. troubles with the number of displayed frames per second, and the set of effective graphic filters additionally makes the visual setting more attractive. There are, unfortunately, some flaws in this seemingly flawless painting. For example, the blood-red hair of the main character named Nariko looks as if it was cut out of cardboard, which is simply grotesque given its length and lushness. While the cutscenes are very good, the correct gameplay is not necessarily the case.

The game has noticeable problems with the smoothness of the animation. This phenomenon takes various dimensions - from a slight drop of frames to a tragic jerking, asking the PC question: "isn't it high time to buy a faster processor and a better graphics card?". Usually, in Heavenly Sword, the animation slows down when more three-dimensional objects are displayed on the screen (for example, during the confrontation of Nariko with an enemy army on a huge battlefield). However, it is not uncommon to see scenes where you fight two opponents in one location and you run out of frames, and in another place you compete with nine enemies and the picture is fluid. What's more, in the latter case, all graphic filters are present, the lack of which is often felt at other moments of the game. Overall, the game is uneven in terms of optimization, which seems a bit strange considering that this title was created by Ninja Theory studio exclusively for PlayStation 3 and is also branded by Sony Computer Entertainment.

After the first few moments spent at the Heavenly Sword , one can notice a clear fascination of its authors with filmmaking straight from the Far East. I am referring specifically to wuxia works which usually combine a dramatic story with a martial arts festival. Story-wise, this game ranks somewhere between the hits like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, and the kitschy Oath . There is nothing outstanding here - just a trivial story about the fight between good and evil without any surprising accents.

The combat system builds up over time in the game. Initially, Nariko has at his disposal basic single blows and their combinations, fired by pressing a square or triangle, and he can dodge, perform simple counterattacks, block and throw objects. The last issue deserves special attention, because by holding down the cross the virtual camera switches to a special mode of tracking the thrown item. The action then takes place in slow motion, and the player can influence the flight path of the item by tilting the Sixaxis in the desired direction. For example, picking up the fallen and sending their inert bodies in the air at the advancing enemies is an incredible fun.

The list of available attacks is expanding as the action unfolds, and in addition, when obtaining the title Heavenly Sword, the heroine's suit of blows increases by waving himself and spinning blades on chains like Kratos from God of War. Additionally, after charging the three-level indicator, you activate extremely destructive attacks, targeting one or more opponents. Of course, at key moments, bosses are waiting for brave heroin, much more powerful than ordinary enemies. The strongest is King Bohan, voiced by Andy Serkis - an English-born actor who has made two famous roles with Peter Jackson (Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and the Congo in King Kong). This is not the only veteran film in the Heavenly Sword cast. Steven Berkoff played the role of Flying Fox, i.e. one of the bosses. He appeared, inter alia, in the second installment of the Rambo series and the series Children of Dune, and in the gaming industry, he has already voiced General Lente in Killzone.

As Nariko, you take part not only in direct combat, but you also have to complete stages of shooting a cannon or a manual rocket launcher (sic!) At charging enemies. The projectiles are then controlled similarly to the objects thrown on other occasions. In selected moments of the game, you take control of the second heroine, Kai. While Nariko is a strong and mature woman, her companion is rather frail and girlish (although her uncouth manner may seem boyish at times). Fast and agile Kai specializes in shooting a slightly weird variant of the crossbow - bolts can also be controlled in slow motion with the Sixaxis, and additionally, for example, set them on fire while flying against torches and hit the powder barrels, which causes greater damage. It is worth noting that repeatedly (for both Nariko and Kai) there are sequences, well-known from many other adventure-arcade games, consisting in quickly pressing the sequence of buttons displayed on the screen. There are also simple logical problems, such as moving a lever by throwing a metal shield at it, which must first bounce off another surface and thus change the flight path.

Fun in Heavenly Sword has been divided into 43 stages, grouped into 6 chapters. For completing each of the first ones, you can get a maximum of three "medals", gained mainly by effective and effective at the same time eliminating enemies. There are 129 honors in total, and they are useful for unlocking various bonuses. We are talking here, among others about concept art in high definition, film reports from behind the scenes of game development and episodes of an animated mini-series set in the world of HS. After going through the entire scenario for the first time, there are usually quite a few blocked surprises, so the player should thus be encouraged to repeat specific steps and obtain the missing decorations. I did it as a journalist, but if I did not write a review, I would certainly not bother with it at all - the adventures of Nariko and Kai did not draw me that much. It is worth noting that completing the normal difficulty level activates access to a much more demanding level, called hellish by the developers.

Before the premiere, I played two versions of Heavenly Sword. The first one (in June) offered only a short fragment of the fun and whetted the appetite before the upcoming main course - I wrote about it with Major Doctor Phantom in the text Sony's Murderous Hits. The second (August) game was de facto a complete game and unfortunately disappointed me due to the short script, poor plot and problems with the visual setting (not always smooth animation and the lack of a constant range of graphic filters). This review is based on the third version of HS I have tested - exactly one that is intended for sale in stores. It is actually identical to the August edition, which is generally underdeveloped.

It is a pity that the developers from Ninja Theory did not fully implement the buzzing pre-premiere announcements, although they still created the best adventure and arcade game so far a la God of War, available only on the PlayStation 3 platform and in addition representing a completely new brand. Therefore, each owner of this console, who wants to fight in close combat with hordes of enemies, is doomed to the Heavenly Sword for now. And it's better than Genji: Days of the Blade. What about Kratos? We will probably find out in the near future.

Radosław "eLKaeR" Grabowski