Killing me softly. Review

Tenchu: Wrath Of Heaven Info

genre

  • N/A

players

  • 1 - 2

Publisher

  • Activision

Developer

  • K2

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PS2

rating

Killing me softly.

So you’ve waited three years to don your grade-school ninja costume and sit

in front of your tube for some one-hit stealth killage, yet the $50 drop in

the bucket has you here with us reading fervently in an attempt to glean your

best course of action. Lucky for you that’s our job.

Activision’s Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven will sit well with most fans of

the original. It’s nearly twice as

long as the PSX masterpiece (26 total levels), it looks great and the gameplay

is straightforward. This iteration also includes a crude yet entertaining multiplayer

mode to carve up and heap on some extended playtime and replayability.

But

the wrath of a game reviewer can be vicious, and Tenchu‘s disjointed

mission structure, temperamental camera and disappointing enemy AI will leave

new gamers looking for something a bit more polished and sophisticated.

The story doesn’t lend itself much praise; it’s confusing at best. Like in

past Tenchu games, you reprise your role as either the strong Rikimaru

or the swift Ayame. Each has a specific 10-mission campaign. Unfortunately,

there is little variation between each characters’ Story mode.

The time is feudal Japan, and Rikimaru and Ayame are hot on the trail of a

new set of baddies. I’d tell more if I knew myself. There’s a lot to be said

for professional storywriters.

Much of the confusion has to do with the disjointed mission structure. You

just hop from mission to mission one after the other with very little in between

to tie it all together. This is the one area of Tenchu I thought would

be a shoo-in for an overhaul, yet it seems like the bland, sequential mission

layout has again won the day.

But this isn’t a deal breaker, because Riki and sweet little Ayame have quite

the repertoire of combos and stealth kills. Much of the game is spent running

around dark, expansive maps in search of the one guy who needs to become a kabob

on your blade. Crouching and placing your back against the wall are old-hat

favorites, though unfortunately don’t hold a candle to Sam

Fisher
‘s impressive array of sly and sneaky moves. So instead, Tenchu

gives the player a wide variety of weapons and gadgets like crude grenades,

poison rice balls, spikes and a myriad of magical items.

Tenchu‘s emphasis is on stealth, which is where the game shines. Catch

any NPC unaware, and if you’re close enough you can perform a pre-scripted “stealth

kill.” Both Rikimaru and Ayame have several different stealth kills at their

disposal, and most are pretty damn cool. To aid you in this is your ‘sixth sense’

stealth meter, which changes color depending on your proximity to NPCs and their

level of awareness to you. Tread in heavy-footed and all enemies in your immediate

area will converge on your location like’well, samurai on a ninja. However,

you always have your trusty grappling hook, which can pull you out of a nasty

situation in mere seconds. Just point to an edge and let it fly. Tackling more

than one guy under the cover of stealth is a long, arduous task.

In

addition to its gameplay impact, the grappling hook can get you high above the

enemy rabble where you can take in a better lay of the land. While the colors

are muted and drab, it fits the atmosphere perfectly for playing it sly and

sneaky. The textures hold up very well no matter how close you get to them.

Each map is cut up very realistically, featuring houses of various shapes and

sizes, small ponds with bridges and house workers and staff going about their

daily duties (which is merely to walk a prescribed path back and forth). Rikimaru

and Ayame are well modeled and detailed, and many old faces make a welcome return

with new costumes designs for the PS2. It’s a nice graphical engine and serves

the gameplay well.

I just wish the control was as pleasing. It’s not terribly difficult, but

the camera has a mind of its own, and, yet again, our main characters are not

very quick on the 180-degree spin. You do get a few cool back flips and turnaround

cartwheels, but how about the ability to just turn around quicker than a Mack

truck?

As I mentioned before, taking on a small horde of samurai is an exercise in

tedium. But don’t sweat it – just toss that trusty grappling hook and get the

hell out of Dodge, wait for a few long seconds and then the dummy NPCs will

return to their posts and patrols. Now you can try the stealth thing all over

again. I’m the hassasin…so

why is it these guys have such terrible short term memories? Well, at least

they bob around and dodge projectiles appropriately when in the heat of battle.

New to the Tenchu franchise is a welcomed multiplayer mode that pumps

some extended life into the game. Via split screen, you can play head-to-head

against a friend, which is pretty nifty. Just watch out for NPCs who may join

the fray to make things a little more interesting. Alternately, you can play

specific, shorter multiplayer missions co-op. Trying to coordinate your stealth

and location with a buddy is good fun. The downfall to the multiplayer is that

maps and missions are even more disjointed and act as simple one-shot deals

as opposed to a full-blown cooperative campaign.

Nonetheless, this addition is met with open arms and shows that someone back

at the lab is actually capable of making a move forward instead of a lateral

next-gen step, which is really what Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven brings to

the table. It’s serves up some good ninja fun, yet it doesn’t meet the challenge

brought forth by the Metal Gears and the

Splinter Cells.







REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

Rating6
Solid graphics
Good ninja action
Stealth kills rock
Multiplayer!
Feels old
Sad, disjointed mission structure
Camera issues
PSX caliber AI