Heavenly Sword Review

Let me just get this out of the way: yes, Heavenly Sword is a very short game, and can be beaten in 5 hours or less. But that doesn’t make it a bad game. In fact, Heavenly Sword is a great game. Whether it’s the fun-but-familiar combat or the new long-ranged Sixaxis shooting, Heavenly Sword pulls off what it means to, and does it with style.

The actual combat in the game looks beautiful, but it isn’t anything too revolutionary; there’s a reason we all jokingly called it Goddess of War. Despite that "Haven’t I done this before?" feeling, however, it’s still fun, and it does have a few unique aspects to it. One of the best parts of combat is the ability to switch stances on the fly. Going from the default to power to range all in one fluid motion feels great, looks great, and responds great.

The combat isn’t what makes Heavenly Sword great, though — it’s everything else (other than the interactive cutscenes, that is). In its five hour length I had more fun watching the cutscenes and hearing the characters interact with each other than any other game on a next-gen platform, and I cared more about characters’ fates more than most RPG heroes in recent memory. If you enjoy good acting in a video game and great characters, you will love Heavenly Sword.

Whether it’s the incredible, awesomely twisted King Bohan (played by Andy Serkis himself) or the lovable and batshit (but badass) Kai, every character brings something good to the table, and even with the epic, serious overtone of the game’s narrative there’s a large amount of humor. I’ve played many games over the years I’d consider cinematic in their approach, but I’ve never played a game that pulls it off as well as Heavenly Sword. Game or not, the voicework and virtual-acting (especially the facial animations, which the team placed a huge emphasis on capturing via mocap) in this rivals almost every movie out there today, and blows some out of the water. While playing this I had several friends come in, watch a cutscene, and then stick around for the remainder of the game — even the guys who only play Madden and NCAA Football. It’s just brilliantly put together, and it’s incredibly entertaining to watch the story unfold.

Some people may not care about that, though. They’ll see the short playing time and refuse to play such a "bad game", or they’ll see just another generic action title counting on a scantily clad female to sell. That’s a shame, because not only does Heavenly Sword feature one of the greatest voiceacting casts and stories in recent memory, but it also shows how to use the Sixaxis correctly.

After playing Lair, I was worried how the Sixaxis controls would translate into Heavenly Sword, knowing that they were used for long-range combat. Thankfully (and surprisingly) they work very well, and after the initial Kai mission (which I admit can be frustrating) it’s very natural twisting the controller to pull off some nice shots. While it’s not exactly possible, you can manipulate all kinds of crazy shots with Kai’s crossbow or Nariko’s favorite cannon. (Then again, I suppose being possible doesn’t really matter in a game like this…)

Even though they don’t look the best, the levels where Nariko is shooting a cannon to keep Bohan’s troops at bay demonstrates how wonderful this game is visually. Imagine a Dynasty Warriors game. Now imagine a couple hundred attackers on screen at once with a few giant catapults, with some being blown up, others being shot, and yet others being sliced with swords — all simultaneously. It’s amazing how much on-screen action was pulled off in this game, and it does a great job of demonstrating what next-gen hardware is capable of. While the non-cannon levels don’t have as much going on at a time, they look absolutely gorgeous, even on an SDTV.

The bottom line is this: if you want the best-looking game on the PS3, arguably the best-acted game of all time, or a game that reminds you why playing games are fun in the first place, get Heavenly Sword. I can’t (and won’t) try to convince you to purchase it, because despite how much I love it, I really can’t justify spending 60 bucks on a game with little replay value and such a short length if you have to watch your purchases. I will, however, ask that you at least rent this. Heavenly Sword is the best game available on the PS3, and easily the greatest rental title of all time.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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