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October 30, 2007D. Riley

You’ve read my articles on this site. I won’t bore you with the details. Let me be brief: I like action games, I am the de facto action game guy of this site, I hate terrible action games.

Heavenly Sword is another in the line of Playstation 3 games that were supposed to explode into megahits and save the console from total annihilation (or at least from embarrassing sales figures). Like Lair, the high falutin' dragon combat game that came out a month prior, Heavenly Sword fell flat on its face. I don’t have the sales numbers in front of me, but it’s probably safe to say it didn’t push machines like Sony hoped it would. Commercial failure? Probably. Critical failure? Well, I certainly HOPE this isn’t the game they were trying to make.

Somewhere out there is Heavenly Sword’s development team. I want to believe that there was a mistake in the process. I want to believe that somewhere someone miscommunicated something and that kink in the gears caused the fetid wreck that is this game. If the people who made this game made it like this on purpose then we, as a species, are in trouble.
Heavenly Sword is terrible.

It’s not even terrible like God of War is. God of War is terrible because instead of DOING cool things you’re WATCHING the game do them for you. Instead of backflipping over five enemy ninjas and slicing their heads off one by one, you hit the square button and you get to watch a cutscene of Kratos doing just that. That’s bad, and it takes all the fun out of the game, but Heavenly Sword is worse.

Instead of doing cool things, instead of watching cool things, in Heavenly Sword you’re watching things that the developers obviously THOUGHT were cool. They definitely thought it’d be awesome to have a child molester with razorblade wings as a recurring boss. What about a fat guy with half a brain in his head! For good measure, we’ll throw in a mentally addled little girl who looks like an adolescent Bjork and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the war going on around her. Bjork Jr. just likes playing ‘twing-twang’ with her crossbow. I know what you’re thinking: AMAZING!

But don’t give them all the Oscars just yet.

Clearly the story is garbage. Even weird camera angles and cutsey zoom-ins, with mo-cap by Andy Serkis couldn’t put a dent in it. But games like Ninja Gaiden don’t deserve any Emmys for best writing either, so can we really dismiss Heavenly Sword right out of the gate?

Yes.

Scenery chewing acting, irritatingly obvious stereotypes (the fat, stupid guy, the pervert). That’s the kind of stuff you’d expect out of a bad action movie, or a trashy PS1 game. Does next-gen only apply to graphics? Thirty years after the inception of video games are we still at the point where a brain damaged girl with a cat hat is all it takes to tug at our heart strings? Are we supposed to be enthralled because this is yet another story where an evil king wants to take over the world? Are we supposed to be enticed because we’re given the opportunity to play as a member of a sacred clan destined to stop the evil king’s onslaught?

But it’s a rare action game that has a decent story, let alone a good one. So we should be gracious, and willing to let things go. The story isn’t as terrible as it could be. It won’t make you want to hurt yourself, but it’s another piece of the puzzle that makes Heavenly Sword fail. If the gameplay was worth half a damn, I wouldn’t have remembered the fat, drooling dullard in the first place.

They probably thought they were so brilliant when they made block a default option. No longer a button, blocking is accomplished by NOT HITITNG BUTTONS. And as we’ll later find out, a large portion of this game can be completed without using half of the controller.

They probably thought they were smarter than a fox in a henhouse when they gave you three different styles of sword fighting to choose from. You can swap these in and out on the fly... but you never will, because two of them are functionally useless. In this game a large majority of the enemies stand there and wait for you to kill them. How they managed to make two fighting styles worthless when your opponents barely surmount the difficulty of a potato sack is beyond me.

Heavenly Sword is more akin to a Dynasty Warriors game. It tries so hard to pretend it’s complicated and full of depth, but it never really did. It doesn’t have depth, it doesn’t even have the thousands of enemies on screen at once like Dynasty Warriors does. Heavenly Sword is content to put ten of the same masked badguys in front of you, ready to be knocked down like bowling pins. After six hours you hit the boss. The end.

Heavenly Sword is a Dynasty Warriors game pretending to be God of War, which in turn was pretending to be one of the actually good action games that come out of Japan. Games like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry are a tough act to follow. I wouldn’t outright dismiss a game just because they didn’t live up to that pedigree. However, if I can knock 2/3rds of the last boss’s life bar off with one hand on the controller while I’m browsing the internet then clearly there is something wrong with your game. Pretty cutscenes and angst-ridden heroines and generic bad guys with big swords and not a single speck of actual combat AI does not a system seller make.

Heavenly Sword is the biggest train wreck to date in this console generation. I’m being generous, because I could say it’s worse than everything in the last console generation too. It’s 'action' in name only, and really more like a movie that you hit buttons to forward through. If there was ever any danger of dying in this game, I never saw it, and if there was ever an enemy that required any action but standing still and hitting "Triangle, Triangle, Triangle", I never found him. Heavenly Sword is not a good game. If Sony thinks offerings like this will save their console, they are sorely mistaken.

At least, I hope they are. I hold the unpopular opinion that God of War is a bad franchise. God of War does to action games what auto-aim does to First Person Shooters. Heavenly Sword is the most perfect distillation of that. It is so devastatingly easy, uncomplicated, and unfun that I don't know why they even wrapped gameplay around the story in the first place. I can't figure out why they bothered to map out a control scheme for this game. They should’ve just labeled the square button "Win".

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3 comments for ‘Heavenly Sword’

#1 jt-3d Nov 8, 2007 07:45pm

Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Riley.

#2 Omega Nov 12, 2007 02:50am

I don't know about the new website design.
The whole site seems to be about why you guys DON'T like games.

If the American people stop believing in this administration, it WILL fall.
http//artisresistance.com

#3 Anonymous May 20, 2008 01:00am

dude, you should be a Food Critic... they never have anything nice to say