Heavenly Sword Impressions


There’s been a lot of unfair criticism of Heavenly Sword, much like the PS3 itself in my view. Having purchased the game on Friday and finally finishing it today, I thought I’d share my views on one of the best games (in my opinion, if that wasn’t clear enough for you) currently available for the PS3.

Firstly, a little warning to those that haven’t yet finished the game or those that intend to buy it but haven’t got round to it yet. This post will contain a few spoilers. Continue reading at your own peril. :)

THE BEGINNING

The game starts off with you on a battlefield outnumbered by 1000s of enemy soldiers. Dozens of enemies attack you at once with hundreds more surrounding you, waiting for their chance to attack. It’s a breathtaking start to the game.

This, I believe, is also where some people get the impression that it’s a similar game to the Dynasty Warriors series. It’s not. It’s more akin to Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden or God of War than the DW games.

After slicing up a few hundred men and using the super cool Superstyle moves, Nariko seemingly dies holding the cursed Heavenly Sword.

She then awakens on an empty plain, which is where you start every new chapter. Brilliantly, you can select any chapter or an individual stage from each chapter once you’ve completed it, meaning you can replay any section that you want in order to collect all the glyphs from each stage, or maybe you just want to replay a certain section of the game for the fun of it.

Either way, it’s a great option for players to have.

The story then goes back 5 days before Nariko picks up the Heavenly Sword, in the run up to the invasion of King Bohan and his massive army. You then battle your way through the 5 days that leads to Nariko’s downfall.

A NEW BENCHMARK

This seems like as good an opportunity as any to mention how great the voice acting is in HS. Andy Serkis is superb, with some genuine laugh out loud moments throughout from the various characters.

A new benchmark has been set for voice acting in a video game and the facial animations are excellently done. They definitely add to the overall experience.

Heavenly Sword also contains one of the greatest one liners found in any game. We all remember the “flip the giant enemy crabs and hit their weak spot for massive damage” comment right? Well Kai (more on her shortly) needs to get the password from a guard in the West tower and after finally confronting him, she lowers her bow from his head to his groin and says: “Give me the password or I’ll hit your weak spot for massive damage” brilliantly timed with a smirk! I was :lol: at that for a few minutes. Truly awesome.

There are plenty of excellent moments similar to that throughout the game and the facial expressions and acting throughout, are second to none.

Kai has to be one of the greatest sub characters ever created. She’s a joy to control and apart from her first mission which is a tough introduction to using her bow, her stages are some of the best in the game. She’s definitely worthy of a game of her own.

Kai

The bosses are also some of the most imaginative and bizarre boss characters outside of a MGS game. Flying Fox is quite hilarious but a pain in the arse sometimes. He is also responsible for one of the most heartbreaking moments in the game involving Kai. I’m not going to spoil it for you, go and see for yourselves.

COMBAT

The enemies you come across are varied enough to force you to use different moves and tactics in order to defeat them. You have to use either the Power Stance, Ranged Stance or Speed Stance to defeat certain enemies. Some can only be defeated by using a counter attack. You can’t defeat each enemy using the same combo move over and over again.

Nariko’s Superstyles and counter attacks are visually stunning and I never got tired off seeing Nariko hand out an old school vasectomy or snap a grunt’s neck or perform one of her superb aerial moves resulting in the surrounding enemies eating concrete. Each one looks amazing and adds to the wow factor.

There are 3 levels of Superstyle moves for each stance, each increasing the amount of damage you do. All of them look superb.

Anybody that says the combat in Heavenly Sword is shallow or repetitive, must surely think the same about Devil May Cry, God of War and Ninja Gaiden Sigma.

You will get the best out of all these games by mastering the moves, and adjusting to each situation, rather than mindlessly bashing buttons, but Heavenly Sword takes the visual splendor of pulling off these moves to a new level. Combat is a joy and criticism in this area should be aimed at the genre as a whole rather than putting down Heavenly Sword for failing to offer anything new.

The lack of a jump button is initially missed, and it’s inclusion could definitely improve how you navigate some areas and improve the amount of combos available to you, but it certainly doesn’t lessen the gameplay experience.

The camera took a few minutes to get used to as I’d just came straight from finishing Ninja Gaiden Sigma, so was used to using PS R3 to control the camera. You soon get used to it and you can’t blame the camera for any of your deaths unlike NGS.

GRAPHICS

Heavenly Sword is a great looking game, with easily some of the best visuals I’ve ever seen. It does suffer from screen tearing but it’s nowhere near as bad as NGS, which suffers a lot from screen tearing.

There are no framerate drops. Even when there are 1000s of characters on screen, the game doesn’t suffer any slowdown or pop up. Some of the areas are quite magnificent to look at. There were a few occasions where I just stopped and had a look around at the surrounding area. The jungle stages contain some of the best for visuals in the game.

Definitely a showcase title for the PS3 and if anybody needed convincing why they should upgrade to a HDTV then this game should convince them. I’m using a 40″ 1080p HDTV and it’s visuals like this that justify my decision to go HD.

MOTION CONTROLS

Easily the one area that failed to impress me. I tried using the tilt controls for firing Kai’s bow, or throwing shields to open doors but I was never comfortable using them. They work OK but I recommend you turn them off at the beginning and using the analogue stick instead.

You definitely have more control over what you’re doing with the motion sensor controls turned off. This is not just a criticism of Heavenly Sword in this regard. Every game that I’ve played on the PS3 that has the option to use motion controls are usually turned off ASAP.

The only games that I feel uses them to any great effect are Blast Factor and flOw. Sony would’ve been better leaving them out altogether and getting vibration in from the start but that’s just my opinion. I’m sure loads of people (Pc :) ) enjoy using the motion controls in the Sixaxis.

CONCLUSION

Heavenly Sword is one of the finest games in it’s genre and is easily one of the best looking games currently available. If you like DMC, NGS or GoW then I highly recommend you buy Heavenly Sword. Even if you don’t normally enjoy these type of games, it’s worth a rental.

The longer you play it the more it makes an impact on you, and you start to realise that some of the criticisms levelled at it by various websites and magazines are over the top or unjustified.

Don’t rush through it and take the time to enjoy the experience. You won’t regret it and just think what Heavenly Sword 2 could be like…


Written by: Gary - News Contributor


  1. #1 by hollywooda on October 2nd, 2007

    yer but will the games blu-ray technology challenge me? hahaha, what a *%$& joke that advert is……….ohh good review!.

    [Edited by Henning for rudeness.]

  2. #2 by Scott Clayton on October 2nd, 2007

    Pretty good views, there.

    I got the game on release and took my time. Had it finished within the week, but I’ll definitely go back. It’s really excellent, let down only by a few technical issues and length.

    If Ninja Theory sort that out for the (fingers crossed) sequel, it could be a system-seller.

  3. #3 by hollywooda on October 2nd, 2007

    Man thats sooooo weird my names Scott Clayton too!!! i just went to close this window & saw ur name on the comment!….thats freaky!!….

  4. #4 by Henning on October 2nd, 2007 [ 0 Points ]

    I played the demo, and decided it’s not my kind of game. I don’t like having to hit an enemy twenty times (or whatever it is – it felt like 100) to kill him. It’s boring, frustrating, and repetitive.

  5. #5 by Tosh Hatch on October 2nd, 2007 [ 1102 Points ]

    I bought this last week, and I agree it’s a amazing game. The cut scenes are amazing and a joy to watch. The ending scene is gorgeous as well. I feel bad that most people refer to this game as the ultimate rental. I bought it because the developers deserve $ for all there hard work.

  6. #6 by Scott Clayton on October 2nd, 2007

    You had the window open for 12 minutes after reading the whole page and then posting your comment? Crikey! You’re slow on the mouse!

    Nah, I’m just kidding. We Scott Claytons have to look out for eachother.

    UNITE!

  7. #7 by Gary on October 2nd, 2007 [ 1780 Points ]

    Hopefully enough people buy the game so that Ninja Theory can make the sequel that’s already planned out.

    The story is already finished so hopefully sales are good enough to warrant a sequel.

  8. #8 by Darrin on October 2nd, 2007 [ 17143 Points ]

    I’ve rented. This game is definitely interesting and worth playing, but there are way too many games coming out soon that I would rather purchase. I definitely hope the devs continue to make high quality stuff, however.

  9. #9 by bunnyhero on October 2nd, 2007 [ 1850 Points ]

    i got it recently and so far i am loving it. BEAUTIFUL graphics. something about the style of the environments actually reminds me of ico, kind of. and i’m playing on an SD tv.

    i don’t mind the length– i don’t get much time to play games anyway these days :P

  10. #10 by Real Gambler on October 2nd, 2007

    Henning, most guys can be killed rather quickly… Two or three hits and they are on the ground. Then, if you want them dead, just kill them while they are laying down. Sure, timing is everything since you have tons of bad guys after you, but it’s worth it. On the other side, there’s time where I want them to stood up so I can smash them some more : )

    Gary, you nailed it with one of the best review of Heavenly Sword I’ve read so far. (Though, I didn’t try removing the sixaxis yet, and love it too… I guess I will have to try it without…). Your last line is also the best: “Don’t rush through it and take the time to enjoy the experience. You won’t regret it and just think what Heavenly Sword 2 could be like…”

  11. #11 by Gary on October 2nd, 2007 [ 1780 Points ]

    Thanks Real Gambler. There’s been far too many negative reviews about HS and a lot of the negative stuff written about it has been way over the top.

    I’m pleased a few people have enjoyed it just as much as I have. :)

  12. #12 by fleakitten on October 2nd, 2007 [ 26489 Points ]

    Yup. HS is one of those overlooked games. I’m still trying to collect all the Glyphs and beat Hell mode.

  13. #13 by Gary on October 2nd, 2007 [ 1780 Points ]

    I’ve just started Hell mode and I seem to be doing better at it. I love these type of games. :D

  14. #14 by Pc on October 2nd, 2007 [ 1935 Points ]

    I sure do love my motion sensing, but i do miss the rumble. Since Sony is bringing it back though, it makes me very happy :) I’ll have to buy all new controllers because i want all my old PS2 and new PS3 games to have rumble.

  15. #15 by Segitz on October 2nd, 2007 [ 1470 Points ]

    Hmm…

    I completely disagree with some points. Yes, the storytelling and the graphics are great, but for me, that was it. I needed about 7hrs from start to finish. 70€ for 7hrs is very much pushing it (rental at the most).

    The game is over before it really began sort of. The controls were ok, but nothing interesting or special. God of War played leaps and bounds better, and I think I know why I like it more. The combat in GoW is MUCH more viceral. If you hit stuff, it really feels like you hit stuff. This is what I missed in HS. I found the gameplay very repetitive, except the Kai parts, which I loved (also the character of Kai is greatly displayed throughout the game, Nariko not so much imho).

    And “NO FRAMEDROPS”? You must be kidding me! Did you fight Bohan? In this fight, you nearly never get even to 30fps, when he is in his 3rd form. MANY cutscenes were choppy (especially when the HDD had to work much). It is not like destroying gameplay, but it very much destroys the immersion for me (cutscenes were good, but choppy it just is a bit not so good :D).

    Good game? Yes sure, but only rental, as the replay value is a joke imho (making of = the same as in PSN) and well it is short as hell. I mean, Valve got flak for Episode Ones short playtime of 6hrs, but that games was 20€ and you did NOT need HL2 for it (yeah, PC game, but 20€ are 20€).

  16. #16 by Emrah on October 2nd, 2007

    This game is awesome. I consider it a must-buy for any PS3 owner who wants to brag about his/her ps3!

    Tho, I am experiencing random frame drops on occasions during in game cinematics (not the video ones), I have no idea why (interestingly, they occur where there’s no action.). Btw, the frame rate does go down during some big explosions close to viewport and some other places.

  17. #17 by Pc on October 2nd, 2007 [ 1935 Points ]

    I never experienced any framerate issues while playing HS. Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in :)

  18. #18 by Ryan(jpt) on October 2nd, 2007

    FAO Segitz. It’s nice to finally see a person having the same opinion as me.(Thought i was going loopy) Although i did’nt notice things like frame rate and such, the combat is what let this game down for me….Sorry Shime!

  19. #19 by bunnyhero on October 2nd, 2007 [ 1850 Points ]

    i like the fact that the combat is slower than GoW. i’m probably a more casual player than most of you here, so i am enjoying HS way more than GoW. plus i just couldn’t get into the character and story of GoW. HS is more compelling.

  20. #20 by Michael on October 2nd, 2007

    No framedrops? What do you think ‘tearing’ is? Hint: It’s a (partial) frame-drop. I think they tried to do just a little too much with the graphics – the tearing is really nasty and spoils the beautiful modelling work. A lot.

    Maybe it doesn’t show up if you’re using SD resolutions, but it’s pretty awful at ‘720p’. The few times it vanishes and you get smooth framerates really make the beautiful graphics stand out. If the whole game ran like that it would be noticably nicer to look at.

    Pity – apart from that one major flaw the game is good, the story is fun, and the graphics and sound are outstanding.

    (there also seems to be some big frame-rate drops during cut-scenes where it’s loading the next lot of data from the hdd – which seems very ‘pc’ to me, and rather crap for a console game).

  21. #21 by west coast ps3 on October 3rd, 2007

    I rented the game and enjoyed it a lot. It took 3 evening sessions to finish it; thought about trying it on the harder level but didn’t get around to it.

    I thought the graphics were good, the story was good, and the controls were annoying at times. It is also pretty slow to load, a large portion of gameplay time is spent loading levels.

    Worth renting for sure.

  22. #22 by Emrah on October 3rd, 2007

    @michael
    “there also seems to be some big frame-rate drops during cut-scenes where it’s loading the next lot of data from the hdd” Oh well, than HDD loading it is. It happens in cut-scenes, and it is random (same frame drop does not occur everytime I play over the same section.)

    I hope this is not a problem by ps3 design, that asynchronous HDD transfers can happen without slowing things down :\

  23. #23 by Michael on December 29th, 2007

    I’m having trouble loading the game. I just bought it and it goes through the title screen but stops at a screen that says “This game saves data automatically at certain points. So not switch off the powe4r when the HDD access indicator is flashing”. Then the letters OK are flashing below it.

    I can’t continue or progress forward. I updated my PS3 software to 2.1 and called the hotline. They had me reboot the system and controller. They said it must be the disk but after returning it 3 times, I get the same error.

    Does anybody know what I can do? This is a real problem. All my other games work just fine. Please e-mail me at mdasaro@yahoo.com if you can help as I may never be able to find this site again.

    thanks in advance

  24. #24 by Un533N on February 23rd, 2008

    just finished the game today… not a bad game.. but it got some frameskips and it looks like that installed in hard drive or something, i really luv playing beat em up games in HARD mode.

    but still i admit it the best of the best games ever for beat em up is: GOD HAND.

    try it and u will never regret that
    and heavenly sword toke most of the bosses idea’s of godhand ^-^“


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