E3 06: Heavenly Sword Impressions

Wire-fu, God of War influences, and wildly outnumbered female protagonists are all ingredients of the delectable trailer for Heavenly Sword for the PS3.

LOS ANGELES--Today at Sony's pre-E3 press conference, they showed off a preview of Heavenly Sword, an upcoming action game from their developer Ninja Theory. We were shown a brief demo that took place in an arena level, where an unknown female protaganist took on a few dozen enemies. Compared to the demos previous to Heavenly Sword, the game is definitely impressive graphically.

We didn't get much more than a couple minutes' worth of gameplay, but what we did see was very impressive. The female fighter was apparently cornered by her enemies and forced to fight her way out of the arena in order to live. She's packing a number of weapons, or, to be more precise, a pair of swords that appear to be modular like Kratos' swords in the God of War game, complete with grappling hooks that can attach to enemies and move them around or whip them around the arena, knocking into other enemies, a la God of War itself. Right out of the gates, she kicked an enemy up into the air, then jumped after him, implanted the grapples, and used them to knock the guy around while he was still in midair.

Like God of War, Heavenly Sword appears to put a premium on animation quality, lending itself to fluid attack and finishing attack animations. There were aerial attacks on display, as well as some incredibly painful-looking finishing attacks, such as the one where the fighter took her swords, forced a man's legs open, and brought them down straight into his crotch. Ouch. What's also impressive is that all of the enemies that you fight are visible in the arena at the outset, rooting on your foes from the stands. As you kill their brethren, they'll jump from the stands to the ground, allowing you to take them all out until you're standing in an empty stadium. You're also able to kick around the tables and other furniture in the stadium.

Another noticeable aspect of the combat is that there appears to be some kind of countering system, possibly consisting of hitting your guard button at the moment that your opponent hits you, a la Devil May Cry 3. Occasionally, the camera would swoop in on your character when she performed one of these counters, which in one particular instance resulted in the enemy's attack being deflected, with the woman grabbing the foe and flinging him across the arena.

Two other interesting attacks took place later on, one of which involved the woman throwing a dish that was lying on a table, which then bounced off the first target towards multiple other nearby enemies, a la Captain America. (It's unclear as to whether this was controllable or not, but it overtook all of the camera, temporarily preventing the player from controlling the woman.) To round out the demo, the woman knocked a single enemy up into the air, with button-press prompts showing up onscreen, as when Kratos in God of War initiated a killing blow on one of his larger enemies. After kicking the enemy up well above the arena, the combo was completed, which sent the woman landing safely on the ground, with the enemy landing hard on his chest in the middle of the arena. One twitch, and he was dead.

All in all, the Heavenly Sword demo was one of the most impressive playable demos on display during Sony's press conference. The game is apparently playable on the show floor, so we'll have more details as they're available. Stay tuned to GameSpot.

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That finishing move... the pain and violence might give this game an M rating. As a T or less gamer, I'm going to have a hard time finding an action game on the PS3. Next think I know, I won't be able to find a flipping puzzle game with no perfectly animated (and therefore highly realstic) scenes of violence.