LOS ANGELES--Following Sony's E3 Press Conference, Sony had a handful of titles playable for those in attendance. One of the games that caught our eye was Heavenly Sword, a snazzy third-person action title featuring a deadly red-headed beauty. The game was one of the highlights of last year's press conference when it debuted in cinematic form, and we've been understandably curious to see just how it holds up when played.
The limited demo on display was essentially the demo that was shown in the stage presentation and found our heroine in an arena facing off against waves of enemies. The level begins with our girl standing in the center of an arena with rowdy, armed spectators that begin hopping down on her and looking for a fight. The arena is strewn with an array of items, such as tables and crates that come in handy when fighting (and also smash dramatically). Although the first wave of enemies you'll face off against is a modest number, each progressive mob gets bigger until you clear out the spectators and leave one angry boss you'll have to deal with.
Now, given that the game is so cinematic, we were curious as to how it would play. Though the brief demo had some camera issues in a few spots, it appeared to be finding a good balance between flashy cinematic visuals and playability. The combat system was easy to pick up but managed to have some depth to it thanks to a flexible combat system that let you mix and match different attacks to perform some wicked combos. Better still was the ability to switch between her main hook blades and a massive sword, each of which had their own unique attributes. Besides the cosmetic perk of having new weapons to play with, the different sets of weapons were vital to defeating enemies. Some of the larger foes required us to use the ubersword to take out, while others were easily dispatched with the feisty heroine's hook blades.
One of the other cool aspects of combat is the counter system, which lets you perform reversals once you've blocked your foes attacks. Successful attacks and cool combos will fill a meter in the lower left-hand side of the screen. Once the meter is full you can hit the circle button to unleash a special, devastating combo that's both painful and cinematic. This attack was showcased to good effect in the boss battle, which pit the young heroine against a well-armed foe who was low on mercy. The multicombo attack was similar to the minigames in God of War and required you to match button presses and directions on the D pad.
The visuals in the demo were in line with what was shown last year and still packed quite a punch. The character models looked great thanks to a high level of detail and fluid animation. The demo used all manner of visual effects such as filters and light bloom to give everything in the demo a rich hue. The frame rate in the demo was smooth and quite stable for a work-in-progress game.
Based on what we played, Heavenly Sword did a fine job of whetting our appetite for what the final game holds. In talking with reps onsite it sounds like Heavenly Sword will feature a mix of the fighting we saw and more traditional exploration and action adventuring. Heavenly Sword is currently slated to ship around the launch of the PlayStation 3. Look for more on the game in the coming months.