Heavenly Sword is swimming on a tide of hype and touted as one of the best games for showing what the PS3 is really all about. Does is match the hype? We strap on the sword and find out.

You play mostly as Nariko, occasionally as Kai, in this fantasy adventure combat game. Nariko, as you’ll be glad to hear, is a sufficiently attractive heroine, complete with the pout and an outfit that leaves little to the imagination. She also happens to be an exquisite fighter with acrobatic skills to rival Lara Croft. Heavenly Sword, as the names suggests, is a game about a sword, luckily, you get to meet the sword early on, and the story unfolds as you progress.

The storyline is original and prevalent throughout, but make no mistake, this is a game about the fighting and the majority of your time is spent mastering the Heavenly Sword and laying waste to hundreds of enemy. However, it’s not just about the sword fighting. Early on you are introduced to Kai with her crossbow, to introduce the important projectile control Aftertouch. Using the SIXAXIS controller, you can tilt your projectiles after firing them to guide them onto your target – this isn’t a gimmick, you can’t perform miracles, but it does add an element of variety to the game. Also, as these sections take some time, if you mess it up, you have to repeat the whole thing again.

Talking of variety, I mentioned some puzzles earlier. These mostly revolve around opening doors and such, and they’re not hidden, but you do need to pay attention, for example: throwing an object to hit a gong to open a gate. At times controls will flash onto the screen and you’ll need to react quickly, for example, to continue the fight across the walls, or overcome a particular challenge. Again, it’s a relatively innovative approach, adds variety and works well enough. However, miss your cue and you’ll be doing the whole thing again.

So what of the all important graphics? Well, we mentioned that Nariko is generously crafted and in glorious HD, all the characters look fantastic. The in-game action plays out beautifully, it is fast and it looks great. The backgrounds look great, especially on a larger HDTV. However, there are some instances in the cutscenes where things don’t quite work. In one instance Nariko has some additional fuzz around her hairline and again in the shadow under her nose – this may be something to do with the review game we were sent, or perhaps something in the minor settings on our system. Perhaps it will be in the final version…

Verdict

There must be something to criticise however, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint. Some of the cutscenes do drag on a bit, they can get a little tedious. Plus, when you die and have to restart a section, sometimes you have to endure the cutscene again - sometimes you can skip it. Finally, we found some anomalies that we hope don’t feature on the retail version: in one section, the baddies just stopped coming and no matter what we tried, no progress could be made, we had to restart the section. Basically, whatever trigger the game needed to send on the next wave, hadn’t worked.

Heavenly Sword is being touted as one of the best games out there on the PS3. Well, we have to say that there is something incredibly playable here; this is an addictive game, and the difficulty is set at the right level – you can slash your way through bad guys, but sometimes things get a bit heavy. You do need to master the controls to really progress, but it is a realistic learning curve.