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Heavenly Sword
  opened by paleface at 04:18:14 04/06/08  
  last modified by paleface at 04:36:18 04/06/08  
  paleface [sys=PS3; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=NA]
Fantasy beat-em-up by a British developer, sort of odd in choosing an "Asian" theme for the heroine, since it's all made-up countries and stuff anyway, and doesn't seem at all genuine in any respect, oh and the evil guy is of course an old white dude.
Very combat heavy, but the movement and framerate are very twitchy, and you never really feel like you have precise control over your character. This unpleasant feeling is greatly enhanced by the lack of any camera control, the jerky nature of the character's running animations, and the automatic targetting and attack systems; what it comes down to is that you just mash one or both of the two attack buttons (I'd stick mainly with the one that also does automatic counters, throwing the other one in once in a while to kick in a chain combo), possibly while holding a shoulder button to be in the correct stance, and just wait for the bad guys to all fall down.
They tried to prevent you from doing this all through the game by enforcing two main combat modes: the default speed attack style, and a power attack style. Some enemies will block all attacks from one or the other of the styles, and some enemies will block ALL attacks until you get them off-balance by countering one of their attacks.
This isn't as fun as it sounds, at least not after the novelty wears off. What it boils down to is standing there while they shuffle around you for a while, then hoping you've guessed the right stance to be in to auto-block, by either holding or not holding the shoulder button, and then manually counter (by pressing the attack/counter just as their attack connnects): so either you picked wrong and you get hit, or you picked right and you hit them back. Whee. If you want to get fancy you can run around evasively until you see them switch to the attack type you're prepared for (they flash either orange or blue when initiating their attack).
So that part sucks. It sucks even more when a boss or the later standard thugs do combos where they switch between the two styles way faster than you could possibly see and counter (heck, I don't even think the character's cludgey stance-change animations could keep up even if you tried); oh and they'll throw in red unblockable attacks in the same combo, too, just to make sure you're getting hit.
They should have tried to stick to large-scale battles against not-always-blocking opponents, because even though they're just button mashy, at least you're moving and hitting things, instead of standing there waiting to get hit.
The other gameplay type, and one they lean on more often than you'd have thought, is a sort of slow-mo rail-shooter thing, where you fire a gun of some type, hold the fire button to kick the game into a slow-motion mode, then guide the projectile as it zips to its target. This is sort of fun in stages where you're just arrowing a bunch of dudes running mindlessly toward you (the AI in this game is almost completely mindless), but it gets slow and tedious after a while; how much repetitive bullet time can we actually take in one sitting? There's one particularly awful sequence where the main character's father is wounded and making his way extremely slowly along a bridge out of the enemy fortress, and you have to pick off the mindless enemies as they run toward him from either end. They don't even come all that thick and fast, so it's just five or so boring minutes of father groaning and stumbling in a silly picture-in-picture window, while you slowly launch slow-motion arrows into dim-witted bumblers--over and over and over.
As a close-to-launch title, and a Sony-published one, they wanted to make this a tech demo for the PS3, I think, and designed the game's scenery on a truly grand and epic scale. This would have been all right, even though it's just for show, except that the game does not run very smoothly; I'd gladly have sacrificed most of that background detail for something approaching sixty frames a second...although I suppose I'm not sure it would have mattered much, given the jerky autopilot fighting controls.
There isn't even a Jump button. Gaaaah.
Oh, and as is so popular in western action adventure games these days, there are numerous spots, particularly toward the end of boss battles, where you have to match an arbitrary sequence of button presses flashed on-screen, while your character does something unutterably cool in the background that you can't watch because you're concentrating on what arbitrary button you'll have to press next, because if you press the wrong button, or press the right button a split-second too late, you have to repeat the sequence, possibly after the boss has regained some of his health. Whee.
It wasn't just the backgrounds that got the lavish treatment; the game is studded with highly detailed cinematic cutscenes, in which the characters act out their dramatic world-ending story. This would be all right and all except for two things: you can't skip most of the cutscenes, and the acting and story are horrible. They probably thought they were making a breakthrough in game character acting, but the over-acting, particularly by the villain, is really bad, and the plot just makes less and less sense as it goes on. The subtext is supposed to be some kind of spirit journey for the heroine in which she realizes that true power comes from within and not from the sword that's supposedly inevitably corrupting her body, and that she should live for her friends or something, blah blah blah, but it's all incredibly generic you see, not to mention inconsistent and nonsensical. Let's not even talk about the little between-chapter transitions where she's in some abstract wilderness inside the sword, yelling at it.
The game provides a fair amount of action, and if you're an undiscriminating type who's perfectly happy mashing the attack button or waiting around to try a counter on yet another auto-blocking foe, possibly in the hopes of seeing the main character perform another hyperbolic canned counter/finisher animation during a disorienting mid-battle camera and control switch, you'll have nothing to complain about. If you're someone who's used to precise and responsive control in your beat-em-ups, and in having to use movement and positioning to survive battles against your computerized opponents, you might be less enthralled.

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