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Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2007-09-27 23:52:47
I Wonder How Many of My Fellow 360 Owners Are Red Ringed and Can't Play Halo 3
Halo 3 is terrible. Just a steaming pile of dog shit. Its technical limitations are massive: I slide it into my Nintendo Wii but does it run well? Hell no, it won't even load! Likewise for the PlayStation 3. Buyers beware - Halo 3 runs only on the shitty, worthless, breakdown-prone Xbox 360. You heard it here first.
In all seriousness, you can do without a Halo 3 review from me. All the major game sites are falling over themselves to see who can concoct the most grandiose hyperbole for how good the game is. GameRankings.com tabulates review averages, and Halo 3 currently edges out BioShock as the best Xbox 360 game. It also sits at the astounding ranking of 5th best game of all time.
So while my friends bask in the life changing revelation that is Halo 3, I do what I can to avoid any spoilers as I patiently grind my teeth in blind, unwarranted faith that Microsoft will eventually restore my 360 to me. In the meantime, I continue to dabble in the mediocrity that is the PlayStation 3. It's actually a good thing, I tell myself. The onslaught of intimidatingly magnificent 360 games would surely destroy me, in slow waves of gamer orgasm. The PlayStation 3 is my methadone, weaning me off the heroin of rolling with my buds on Xbox Live. I mean, if the games aren't that good, I won't even be tempted to sit in front of my TV with game controller in hand.
So I spent a few hours with Heavenly Sword (that's all it takes to beat the game, in fact). This game has received a mild beating from various videogame journalists, but I feel that it's not entirely warranted. Yes, Heavenly Sword is flawed, but it's one of those games that has greatness just aching to be realized. It's kind of like watching Michael Jordan play baseball. You know that dude would astonish you with his athleticism if only a fundamental change would be made.
Visually, it's quite an achievement. The art direction is inspired, the graphics are truly next-gen, and the lead character is gorgeous. Lara Croft is still my girlfriend, but Nariko is now the mistress I cheat on her with. In addition to both of them being tantalizingly charismatic super-model action heroes, Nariko shares another key feature with Lara. For those of you who've played the original Tomb Raider, perhaps you too were hypnotized by her bewitched hair, that would sway and frolic with a life of its own. Nariko's long flowing tresses are downright possessed. In any case, watching Nariko move is a pleasure.
Unfortunately, Heavenly Sword's beauty is marred by frame rate jitters, as well as some tearing issues. It's not so pronounced so as to be an actual detriment to gameplay, but it is distracting nonetheless. Also, it's another PlayStation 3 game that runs natively in 720p, so 1080i television owners are screwed here. It still looks amazing in 420p, but that's a massive downgrade.
The core gameplay itself has been criticized, but I thought it was quite good. A common refrain is, "Heavenly Sword's combat system isn't on par with Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden". True, but that's like bitching that the cutie you're dating isn't a Victoria's Secret model. The game mechanics are accessible to newcomers and just deep enough to entertain enthusiasts of the melee-action genre. Clueless button mashers could find enough success to grind through the game, but anyone willing to actually use the gameplay techniques will find a decently good time here.
If you're one of the smart-asses calling this game "Goddess of War", that actually isn't too far from the truth. Many of Nariko's moves are reminiscent of Kratos, and the games feature similar mythological themes. The combat is slick, and fast paced, with tons of cool looking combos to employ. Heavenly Sword continues the timed, on-screen, copycat button presses as well. (I blame Shenmue for popularizing this inane "Simon Says" game mechanic.) These sequences look seriously cool, but it's hard to enjoy the visual splendor because you have to stare intently at a tiny portion of the screen for the next input.
There are a few legitimate complaints about the gameplay itself. The A.I. is atrocious. It reminded me a bit of Dynasty Warriors, where a horde of enemies surround you, and come at you piecemeal, one or two at a time. Their path finding is miserable, as they have trouble negotiating obstacles and often get hung up on environmental features on their way to you. The developers chose quantity over quality, and it is possible to weary of repeatedly hacking swarms of adversaries. This is where you need to make your own fun. If you explore the combat system, and try out all the different combos, you won't suffer the pains of Repetitive Gameplay Syndrome.
Then there are these Sixaxis driven sequences where you fire something, and then guide the projectile in a "Sam Raimi-esque Bullet Time" sort of way. You tilt the controller to steer an arrow or cannonball into your target. Forget the logic of aiming after you fire; I utterly hate the iffy inexactness of tilt control. Fortunately, you can turn that off in the options and simply use the analog stick. These parts of the game weren't terrible; they were just time consuming and useless. I totally zoned out - they were like the videogame equivalent of watching celebrity gossip mongering "news" on the E! network. The one exception were these horrible bits where Nariko has to open gates by hitting gongs...by throwing hats at them. Hats that you steer and bounce off walls by over-tilting your controller like some loser tool in a Mountain Dew videogame advertisement because it won't go where you fucking want it to.
Now the reason I enjoyed Heavenly Sword was the presentation. I know I bitch without end about overwrought cutscenes (Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid are the preeminent offenders), but they worked extremely well in this game. The story itself isn't anything special, but the voice acting, direction, and the technical delivery of emotive facial expressions and body language were stellar. I found myself invested in the characters. Admittedly, they were portrayed way over the top, but they were so compellingly delivered that it didn't bother me much at all. Specifically, Andy Serkis was terrific in his role as the villain. (He was the dude who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films.) Heavenly Sword really drives the art of cutscenes to a new standard.
All in all, I enjoyed Heavenly Sword and really wanted to give it an A rank. That would put it in the "purchase me" category, but reflecting on its flaws and how short it is, it falls down to a "great rental; buy me if I hook you" realm.
Heavenly Sword - Rank B
Now Playing - Ninja Gaiden Sigma
PSN Gamertag - Vawce (if I have any PS3 readers, hit me up)