Review by Arkrex
She who wields the power of the gods, carries the burden of death and destruction
When it comes to visual magnificence, Heavenly Sword is a true next-generation title in every sense. Fuelled by the latest in Hollywood technology - digital production by WETA Studios, no less - the somewhat godly, red-headed vixen, Nariko, is destined to lay waste to the dozens- no, thousands of soldiers who, under the command of the tyrannical King Bohan, seek to turn her into a beautiful meatloaf. Similarities will initially be drawn to that other Sony-exclusive blood-sport, God of War, but Heavenly Sword is an entirely different exercise; whereas Kratos' game successfully melded thoughtful puzzle-solving with relentless rampages, Nariko is so screwed up that for the bulk of this short, five-plus hour epic, slicing and dicing, with the occasional bout of sniping, is all you'll be doing.
Right from outset, Heavenly Sword promises many things. In fact, by throwing you right into a massive battle against the entire army of King Bohan as soon as you start up, you'll be left shaking in frenzied anticipation at what will happen next. Remember how incredible those large-scale battles for Middle-Earth were in the Lord of the Rings trilogy? As Nariko annihilates the overwhelming waves of blood-thirsty savages, you'll be gobsmacked at how close her vehement brutality comes to imitating those breathtaking moments.
The titular Heavenly Sword is the cornerstone to all of this carnage. The megalomanic King Bohan (wonderfully characterised by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame) seeks its divine powers for his own vile purposes, and so, he sends out a torrent of vicious foot soldiers and a few hulking behemoths to aggressively acquire it from the troubled Nariko. Luckily, Nariko is no stranger to the art of war. Utilising various stances, she can wield the Heavenly Sword in a myriad of destructive ways. Her power stance sees her gripping the heavy blade with both hands, allowing for skull-splitting strikes than can rip asunder even the most heavily armoured foe. For quicker attacks, her speed stance offers a more delicate repertoire of slashes as the sword splits into two separate components. And should there be some cowardly, over-defensive soldiers who remain just out of sword-swinging range, Nariko's ranged stance will turn the volatile sword into a deadly, chained whip of sorts to slice them good from afar.
The combat is truly a spectacle and it's a dream to be in full control of it all. However, too much of anything good does eventually lead to repetitive-overuse syndrome. Obliterating your first few scores of thousands is deeply satisfying, but when you're up to your hundredth set - now desensitised to the incessant, chaotic violence - killing things for the sake for moving the story along just doesn't feel very "next-gen". There are sections where you'll have to perform context-sensitive actions to successfully complete a dynamic, interactive cutscene, and you'll also be able to control Nariko's crossbow-wielding kid sister in a few sniper-based scenarios. But, these excursions are all too brief and soon you'll be back with the traditional hacking and slashing.
The crux of the game is all about the Heavenly Sword and its cataclysmic tendencies. The mammoth one-versus-one-thousand battles are truly of epic proportions and the boss encounters are no pushovers either. They are relatively one-sided, though. The battle system is a rather simple two-button affair for the most part; Nariko is no Dante, that's for sure. The entire game is generally repetitive and still, it comes off on the short side; you're looking at a solid five hours as I said - including plenty of cutscenes - before it's all over. As beautiful as it looks and as incredibly violent as it sounds, Heavenly Sword isn't quite the next-generation action game that I had hoped for. If you're a fan of the epic large-scale battles that have graced our cinema screens in recent times - Lord of the Rings and 300 spring to mind here - you'll love Heavenly Sword. It's an impressive, interactive extravaganza that's damn exhilarating while it lasts. It will also leave you wanting more, much more.
VERDICT 7.5/10 Sex-appeal, excessive violence and ethnic-pounding rock n roll; needs more substance, though.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Heavenly Sword (AU, 09/20/07)
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