Video-Game Review: `Heavenly Sword'

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By MATT SLAGLE
The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 3, 2007; 2:26 PM

-- The hack-and-slash genre brings a certain mindless, yet simply satisfying, element to video games. Call it a quirk of gaming, but sometimes there's just an odd pleasure in pressing the same few buttons over and over again.

"Heavenly Sword" (Rated T, $59.99) brings this game style to the PlayStation3 with Hollywood-caliber production values.

One of the most noticeable things about "Heavenly Sword" has nothing to do with action: this game has some of the best eyes in the business.

The action heroine, Nariko, shows quite an emotional range with her big brown eyes, slicing and dicing her way through hordes of armor-clad enemies with the game's namesake, the Heavenly Sword.

Nariko's haunting, beautiful looks are a stark contrast to the grim fact that this weapon is slowly draining her life.

The core gameplay puts you in control of Nariko, and she's a one-woman army who battles King Bohan and his relentless quest to obtain this weapon of ultimate power.

There are better action games like this, notably the "God of War" series for the older PlayStation 2, from which this game clearly borrows heavily.

But "Heavenly Sword" benefits from lush graphics on the PS3 and looks amazing on a high-definition television.

The game offers some depth with combo moves and three ways to use the sword. When surrounded by enemies, switching stances between ranged, speedy and brute force attacks is a strategic decision.

There are some exciting interludes where you'll have to tap the buttons at the right time to slide and run down giant ropes and onto a tower of waiting enemies, for example.

It's like playing a movie at times, hardly a surprise with Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" movies, once again pushing the boundaries of acting with a memorable turn as this game's devious King Bohan.

With his mad desire for the Heavenly Sword, Serkis creates one of video gaming's more memorable villains, showing more than the usual one-dimensional depth afforded most pixelated bad guys.

Not everything is heavenly in "Heavenly Sword."

Nariko isn't alone in her quest to defeat Bohan, and occasionally you'll partake in missions as the svelte Kai.

This is where the gameplay really breaks down. Amid countless acts of swordplay-driven heroism, you are interrupted with these very frustrating, out of place, shooting missions.

Kai has a few where she shoots her bow and arrow to kill swarms of baddies. Nariko too, gets sidetracked with levels that just seem out of place in a game about big honking swordplay.

"Heavenly Sword" doesn't offer much replay value, either. Single player mode is the only game option available, and it won't take skilled players more than a few days to complete.

But oh, what a gorgeous few days it will be.

Three stars out of four.


© 2007 The Associated Press

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