Gaming news and views, in the round:

First Impression: Heavenly Sword

A few months back, the Bit Players gave the rundown of our most anticipated games for the second half of 2007. One game we briefly mentioned was Heavenly Sword. Not much was known, except that it was like God of War and the hero was a scantily-clad woman (good enough for me). As the weeks passed and more trailers hit the internet, the buzz grew. And before we knew it, Heavenly Sword became the first “game worth buying a PS3”. This positive energy all culminated at the release of the demo. But then the game hit a bump in the road, the demo sucked, which caused Heavenly Sword bandwagon crashed harder than Estevez going around turn four.Then the early reviews started to leak, the game was a miss.

When it was all said and done, the game people were ready to call the first great PS3 exclusive hit the market already deemed a critical disappointment. While I had my own issues about the demo, I still held out hope that Heavenly Sword would be a worthwhile title.

The best way cliché to describe Heavenly Sword is, style over substance.

The game is easily the most vivid I have ever seen. The colors are so vibrant and movement so fluid (sounds like a hair coloring commercial), I am shocked that this was a console game. The graphics, in fact, are so detailed, I find myself getting lost in the scenery, even losing track of my character at times.

But Heavenly Sword’s greatness, unfortunately, is only skin deep. One of the major problems for the demo was the sluggish controls. While the combat control issues have been repaired, I find some of the menu and help screen controls to be stubborn. Last night, I spent twenty seconds trying to exit a menu. Just unacceptable. As for the battle controls, they are very accurate. Three different move-positions: speed, ranged and power allow for three different combo-sets resulting in some real button-mashing goodness.

One of Heavenly Sword’s more interesting features allows the player to guide, in slow-motion, a thrown object towards a target by using the motion sensing capabilities of the Sixaxis controller. This “afterthrow” function is by far one of the game’s weakest features, as the motion control is at best unreliable, and at worst broken. Within the first two hours, I switched the Sixaxis controls off.

When I say first two hours, that means first thirty minutes of gameplay, because the story, while involved, dominates the gameplay with cutscene after cutscene. I get that they are trying to tell a great story, which Heavenly Sword does, but can I play the game for more than five consecutive minutes?

Heavenly Sword, billed as epic, only lives up to that distinction on the surface, while the gameplay, falls short. The silver lining out of Heavenly Sword is that God of War III could be the greatest game of our time. I can’t wait.

Dead as Colin McRae

Reports came out that a 30 year-old in China died after a seventy-two hour gaming binge.

I guess that’s not the biggest story in the gaming world, but I was asked about the story enough times this week (being a 28-year old video game “enthusiast” tends to attract these questions) to realize that many people don’t know that over the course of the past few years there have been multiple reports of gamers dying of exhaustion in China (and in the rest of Asia). Why does this happen? I guess if my ceiling was managing some factory which makes plastic blackberry buttons for 14 hours a day and had no real freedom, I’d squeeze in as much MMORPGs as I could.

Oh Sweet Baby Jesus, Next Week is Halo Week

Regarding the above story, I received a link to it from my wife with the high-priority exclamation mark and the subject line “you NEED to read this.” Between rearranging the media set-up at the Cassady Estate to accommodate the late night online gaming that my wife would rather not hear, the enormous sign outside the 7-11 promoting the Halo Slurpee and the television spots, I can safely say that my wife has been capture by the dark storm that is Halo.

Despite the all-out media blitz, some Halo cross-promotions didn’t make the cut, including Halo lottery tickets, Halo lingerie and Halo toy guns. Toy guns, really? That sounds too responsible. Soon to be released, a Halo board game and McFarlane’s Halo replica guns for more “mature” audiences (whew, got scared there).

All this hoopla culminates Tuesday, when Halo 3 hits the street. Also on Tuesday, players can expect that a server will crash, multiplayer games will freeze-up and every jizzgoblin from Bangor to San Diego will be talking more shit than the keynote speaker at the International Scatological Society Con. Also some fringe gaming community will find some random glitch that will cause them to produce more pearls from their sandy vaginas than three-quarters of the Pacific. Finish the Fight!

Rated E, for Your Algebra Grade

A Gamestop manager in Texas last week admitted to a local reporter that he refuses to sell children (ages unknown) video games if they cannot prove that they have “good” grades, saying “[the child] needs to be reading a book. He knows how to play Madden before he knows how to do his ABCs and 123s – that’s backwards!”

After a Gamestop investigation, the manager was suspended. Oh, not for refusing to sell the games, but for not asking if the kids wanted to pre-order Mario Galaxy, Guitar Hero III, Super Barbie Island, Mama’s Bathroom Clean-up or Trauma Center: Magic Johnson before they left.*

I understand that the guy is trying to do his civic duty and if he was just reminding kids to study, who cares? But actually refusing to sell the games? Come on. I’m getting a little tired the growing number of people, who want to raise my (future) children. I know, I know it’s a real selfish attitude, but let’s make a deal, I’ll make sure my kids succeed scholastically and you pull the Rock Band drum kit from the back room, okay?

That’s all for now.

I’m kidding**

**No, I’m not***

***Yes, I am, maybe.