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October 28, 2010
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Gabriel and Claudia in discussion.
It's been a long time since we've seen a great Castlevania title and much like Sega's Sonic this franchise has never really been able to make the transition from 2D to 3D with a string of mediocre titles littering the last decade. We can tell you now though that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow changes that as it's a very polished entry in the series and a decent 3D title as well.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is set in a ravaged Europe of the middle ages. The planet has been devastated by a powerful magic. The souls of the dead are trapped on our earthly plane unable to find peace, and inhuman creatures of nightmare now roam the Earth, wreaking havoc. Having witnessed his wife Marie murdered at their hands, Gabriel Belmont pledges revenge against those responsible: the mysterious Lords of Shadow.

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Damn... that's one massive enemy in Castlevania!
Gabriel is a member of the Brotherhood of Light, an elite group of holy knights who protect and defend the innocent against the supernatural. His beloved wife was brutally murdered by the evil forces of darkness and her soul trapped for eternity. Neither living nor dead she realises the horrific truth of what is at stake and guides Gabriel to his destiny – and hopefully salvation for the world... but at what cost?

Admittedly developers MercurySteam aren't exactly a household name, nor one you would associate with a triple-A franchise such as Castlevania with their previous title being the rather average Clive Barker's Jericho in 2007. Still what the have developed here, with the guidance of Hideo Kojima no less, is a very comprehensive, detailed and thrilling third person action adventure game split across around 50 levels which will take a considerable 20+ hours to complete.

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Gabriel approaches the castle.
Keeping the game fresh is the fact that there is a mixture of platforming, combat, puzzle solving and boss battles, the latter of which are pretty spectacular. The games hero, Gabriel is armed with a Combat Cross which provides short and long range attacks but he can also use other weapons such as knives, stakes, holy water and a hammer. Of course the whip makes a return and can be used for combat as well as scaling walls or latching onto items to swing across gaps.

Without doubt one of the coolest aspects to this title is the massive boss encounters which are up there with those in the God of War or Shadow of the Collosus titles. These things tower over Gabriel, and even when they don't they pack a punch that will see you entering some epic battles. One thing that the developers have got right is the balance between exploration, normal battles, boss battles and puzzle solving. Rarely will you be bored, or not awe-struck, with what's happening.

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Climbing the castle walls in Castlevania (2010).
Beyond the main game we have to congratulate Konami for including a swag of additional content including artwork, the ability to toggle on and off things like enemy health and more. There's a tonne of content here and it's all fantastic and can be unlocked by purchasing the content from the menu using the in-game experience points - do you spend it on upgrading Gabriel, or buying this superb additional content?

In terms of disappointments there are only a couple worthy of note. Obviously this game lacks any multiplayer modes, but given the over 20 hours of single player game time that's quite excusable. Looking at other issues there were moments where the upcoming path or objective isn't quite as clear as one would expect. As a result you'll also do a bit of wandering around needing to re-battle respawning enemies as you look for a narrow pathway you missed. Even a small mini-map would have resolved this issue. Perhaps the biggest issue we have with the game revolves around the cameras which, while fine for the large majority of the game, occasionally places the enemy off-screen making combat a little bit of a guessing game.

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Look closely, that's almost a nipple!
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow runs on a proprietary engine from developers MercurySteam and we have to say this game is a cracker visually. Not only are the characters superbly detailed and animated but it's the scale of the levels that makes this game so special. As with the entire game everything is monsterous in size, from the massive sprawling vistas to the enormous boss enounters, the great texturing and effects everything is in place here. Most importantly the game runs fairly smoothly at 30fps for the most part and from reports online the PS3 version is the version of choice.

Sonically Castlevania: LOS is nothing short of sensational. The orchestral music, which was performed by an ochestra of 120 musicians with an 80 person choir and composed by Óscar Araujo, is brilliantly composed and has an epic feel which matches the game itself. There were more then a few moments when the music reminded us of the score from Lord of the Rings, not in terms of the actual notes and composition, but rather the "feel" of the music if that makes sense.

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Gabriel is hanging above some enemies...
Not to be outdone the voicework in the game is up to the task too with the developers getting some triple-A talent to provide the voiceovers. Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation and X-Men Trilogy) voices Gabriel's mentor and partial companion Zobek as well as providing narration. Gabriel is voiced, also quite superbly, by Robert Carlyle (Eragon and The World Is Not Enough) while Natascha McKelhone (Ronin and The Truman Show) voices Marie.

We certainly hoped that this game would be good, however developers Mercurysteam being an unknown quantity we didn't know what to expect. What we have here in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is one of the most enjoyable, polished and accomplished platform games we have played for some time which has exceeded our expectations.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSVisuals in Castlevania as exceptional although the camera could be better on occasion.
SOUNDProbably some of the best music and voice work we've heard in a game for quite some time. Superb.
GAMEPLAYOverall a very impressive game which plays superbly from start to finish with plenty of variety and upgrades.
VALUENo multiplayer but with over 20 hours of single player, and more to unlock everything this is fantastic value.
OVERALLHanding development of this game to an outside company has done wonders for Konami's franchise as MercurySteam have delivered a fantastic third person action title. One to check out...

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