Heavenly Sword leaves you excited, but wanting more...
So let's face it, we're almost a year into the PS3's life cycle and things could undoubtedly be sweeter for Sony. They need an AAA flagship title, a title we hoped to get with Lair, although the controls of Lair made it a disappointment. With games like Haze, Uncharted and timed UT3 exclusivity, the PS3 may get the killer apps it needs, but what will fill the gap until then? Home is delayed, as is MGS4 and Killzone 2 is due to release in 2008. So it's up to Heavenly Sword to deliver, but is this another Lair as well?
Instead of telling you about the game's storyline, I'll tell you what you really want to hear...
...so let's start with the stuff that got this game's hype-train accelerating to 524 mph. It's graphical presentation is top of the league; it remains one of the most beautiful games, regardless of platform. With most games being designed to be gritty, realistic shooters, a colorful fantasy-like universe is a welcome breath of fresh air. As is the real-time cutscenes that sets the standard for facial motion capture in a game. The only competitor worth mentioning here is Mass Effect for the Xbox 360, although it seems that Mass Effect focuses more on the mouth of it's characters and not body-language and general facial expressions. Anyway, Mass Effect is not even out yet, so while we wait I'll move on.
It's important to note that the Heavenly Sword engine can have a decent amount of Bohan's jackass troops on screen at once, several thousands actually. Especially the final battle (which is the intro sequence, so it's not a spoiler) has made its way to become one of the most memorable moments in my gaming history. You'll know what I'm talking about, when 2000 guys are surrounding you and your thumbs begin to itch of excitement.
From a gameplay perspective, the developers of Heavenly Sword has chosen wisely in their design and haven't implemented too many features and powers. This will be a disappointment to some, especially God of War fans as well as the general RPG crowd, but it makes the controls and combat system intuitive enough for anyone to pick it up and play. A total noob could make a couple of neat combos within the first 10 minutes, while the pros can master the deeper Glyph system (much like the charge system in Devil May Cry) and open entire barrels of whoop-ass on the enemies. With such a limited library of games for the PS3 as of yet, it's very important that Heavenly Sword is for everyone.
However, it's the game's level design that pulls Heavenly Sword from becoming the Gears of the PS3. Make no mistake, the levels are stunningly beautiful and neatly designed. The problem is that you just run through large sections of them, before meeting the next group of soldiers that are about to have a REALLY bad day. Especially the second chapter has you running through almost an entire level, just to hit a bell and open a door. The result of this is that you mow your way through the game way too fast. Gears didn't have the longest levels, but it could take you 10 minutes before you cleared just one room. It's really a shame that you just run through the levels without noticing just how beautiful they really are; had Heavenly Sword exploited its stunning arenas more, the game could easily be twice as long.
So in short, while playing Heavenly Sword you get a true next-gen AAA experience. Jaw-dropping visuals, relentless ass-kicking as far as the eye can see, an unparalleled cinematic experience and original, satisfying boss battles. It's just that the game only lasts 7-8 hours tops and that will
disappoint you. Had this been tweaked to have slower progression and exploited the arenas more it would've been an instant classic.
So to answer my own question, Heavenly Sword delivers big time - just a very short big time.