A bloody good time.
We've seen countless God of War clones ever since Sony debuted its overly graphic franchise on the PS2, but none have come quite as close to capturing that same intense, violent feel as MercurySteam's Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. The development team is back with a direct sequel, and I'm happy to report that those who loved the 2010 release will have a whole lot of fun with this new installment.
I got some hands-on time with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 at Konami's E3 booth, and after watching an incredibly dramatic opening cutscene, I was plunged right into the action. As Gabriel Belmont, I was equipped with a fiery whip that I used to cut down my oncoming foes. Combat felt immediately intuitive and instantly gratifying. From standard basic moves to more far reaching area-of-attack techniques, I was able to dispose of my enemies with relative ease.
Then things got a bit more complex.
In the midst of combat I had noticed that some of my health had depleted, so I switched to the Void Sword, a large blue blade that replenished my HP with each strike against an enemy. Tapping the left bumper on the Xbox 360 controller made switching between the two weapons incredibly easy, and it didn't take long before I was naturally switching between the two without even thinking about it.
Then came a batch of armored foes with large shields. It was at this moment I realized I needed to equip a third weapon, the Chaos Claws, to pummel my attackers and break down their defenses. This new ability was mapped to the right bumper, so it goes without saying that cycling between this newfound power and my other two methods of attack quickly became second nature as well.
After laying waste to several dozen enemies, it came time for a bit of platforming. Much like Uncharted, Lords of Shadow 2 had me scaling walls and leaping between large gaps in stylish fashion. Holding down the left trigger illuminated the way, making it easy for an unskilled gamer like myself to figure out the most ideal path with little frustration. When I finally made my way outside of the gargantuan castle, I was greeted by a massive opponent. I soon found myself in a gameplay scenario that blended action and platforming with satisfying results.
After hacking into the golden creature, dodging various attacks along the way, I needed to climb aboard a moving mechanism, avoiding the deadly blasts that followed my every move. Carefully timed button presses kept me from falling to my death. These quick-time-events game in the form of a shrinking circle that once lined up with a smaller circle, required my immediate input. It's nothing revolutionary, but a nice addition that added to the overall tension. All the while, I continued to move about the level, dealing damage where I could.
I must admit, I've never been a huge fan of any of the Castlevania games, but the slick combat that improves upon the original Lords of Shadow in just about every way left me thirsty for more of the game's gripping combat. This is one current-gen game you'll want to check out before the new upcoming hardware inevitably steals your heart.