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August 6, 2007
Heavenly Sword - PS3 Preview
Release Date Distributer Publisher Developer
20/9/2007SonySonyNinja Theory
Offline Players Online players Price Anticipation
1None$99.95

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Graphically Heavenly Sword is gorgeous.
Two years ago Sony showed off some PS3 titles that set new benchmarks and instantly became among the most wanted titles on Sony's powerhouse system. One of those titles was the gorgeous Heavenly Sword (a screenshot of that original pre-rendered trailer can be seen here). The first thing that should get you excited about this game is the developer, Ninja Theory. While they aren't a household name they did undergo a name change from Just Add Monsters, the same team that developed the rather entertaining game Kung Fu Chaos on XBox. Following the release of that title in February 2005 the team decided to move to next-generation and Heavenly Sword was born. So two and a half years later and Heavenly Sword is about to be released. It's looking better as each month goes by and having been hands on with the title we can say that it plays just as well as it looks!

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The game is choc-full of enemies.
A dramatic tale of revenge sees Nariko, a fiery red-haired heroine embark on a quest for vengeance against an invading King and his army. The story builds around the ancient Heavenly Sword which once belonged to a powerful deity. It can never be wielded by a mortal without it draining their life-force, killing them within hours. When the invading King (played by Andy Serkis) destroys the warrior clan that guards the Heavenly Sword, the clan leaderís daughter, Nariko, takes up the sword in a desperate fight for survival. Nariko must now pay the ultimate price as she embarks on one last mission of vengeance against the King and his army before her life is finally drawn to a close...

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Nariko looks hot...
As a third person action adventure game the title has more then a passing resemblance to titles like God of War on the PS2, and Ninja Gaiden on the XBox and PS3, but this game has the potential to take the game to the next level. Heavenly Sword has quite a few more enemies on screen at once, but more importantly the game also has a large number of combat and combo moves. In fact we've seen dozens of moves in the version we've played, and we have a feeling there's a lot more tucked away in the game to be unlocked in later levels. As you battle through the levels you can also perform special moves which will cut the game instantly to a quick cut-scene showing the special move against the opposition - often brutal, but always satisfying.

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Sparks, smoke, wavy hair; it's all there!
The game is frantic as the heroine will not only be faced with one-on-one encounters, but also combat against battalions of enemies. As well as normal combat it is possible to sweep debris against opponents, kick tables to halt an oncoming surge of fighters, smash the enemy into scenery or throw bodies of fallen foes or other objects into other enemies. When it comes to weapons the heroine has swords, spears, and one big-assed rocket launcher to sort out large groups of enemies. Nariko can also take three different attack stances/styles. Speedy attacks are the default, but by pressing the L1 button she can entered a ranged attack mode, and by pressing R1 a more powerful attack mode. As you can imagine each will be useful under different situations.

Heavenly Sword also includes some context sensitive events - we've seen sections where Nariko, running along massive ropes must be accelerated by pressing the X button, and as each rope falls away must jump to the side to land on the next solid rope. There are bound to be plenty of jaw dropping moments such as this. Also confirmed is the news that during the game you will also play as Nariko's adopted sister Kai. While she won't use melee combat weapons, she does have a crossbow which comes in quite handy in some sections of the game.

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Surrounded by enemies, but still going strong.
As you may have read above Andy Serkis (who provided motion capture for Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and King Kong in the recent movie) was a major contributor to the character development, writing, casting, directing and performance capture. It has also been confirmed that Heavenly Sword will have a game length of around 15 hours - not too bad for an action title.

What really can't be shown in a preview like this is the animation on the main character Nariko as well as the enemies. The animation is, to put it bluntly, simply awesome. The developers have used one of the systems six game-accessible SPU's just to render Nariko's long red hair which moves and wavers around in the breeze and moves realistically during the battles. As you can see from the screenshots this title looks quite gorgeous close up with some amazing detail on the characters, good special effects as the swords and weapons slashing around between characters with the blood flying. There's something else I want you to look at though. Have a look at the backgrounds. Not the ones up close, but the ones in the very distance - places where the game will never go. Even the smallest detail is in place and it's breathtaking. Waterfalls, forests and distant cities are all built like they belong. This is a gorgeous game, no doubt about it. The game will run at 720p resolution.

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Now that's one big-assed enemy.
While Heavenly Sword was originally slated to be released during the PS3's "launch window" in America last November, and was pretty much certain to be a launch title here in Australia as well, that has obviously not occurred. That's not a bad thing though. Although we've had to go through a software drought that has given Ninja Theory plenty of additional time to ensure that the title manages to meet every expectation - and those expectations are pretty high. It has now been confirmed that the title will be released worldwide in September 2007. Heavenly Sword looks, well, heavenly.