Thursday, May 17

Heaven or Hell

There's an epic blockbuster coming later this year... it's an action-packed fantasy adventure starring a female heroine. No, it's not Angelina Jolie or Kate Beckinsale... in fact, unless you're a gamer, you probably won't know much about Heavenly Sword, the next big videogame lurking on the horizon for the Playstation 3.

Set in a brutal fantasy world, Heavenly Sword tells the tale of Naruko, a young woman born under dire circumstances. Her birthday is the same as the day that the god of their world was supposed to come to the world, which is an evil omen. True to that sinister precognition, evil would soon sweep the land in the form of King Bothan, a bloodthirsty monarch backed by a vast army bent on genocide. Obsessed with a relic known as The Heavenly Sword, Bothan is ready to kill anyone and everyone in his way to what he sees is his destiny- to wield this weapon and rule the land as a god himself. Naruko's clan is the one entrusted with the keeping of the sword, and so it is them that receives most of Bothan's tender affection. After her home is invaded and her people enslaved or massacred, Naruko takes up the Heavenly Sword herself, even though she knows full well that doing so will inevitably lead to her own death- since no mere mortal should hold the Heavenly Sword and live. And so, with her life ticking away to oblivion, Naruko sets off on a one-woman war against an overwhelming enemy.

Beauty and strength. Naruko embodies both. And she enjoys long walks on the beach, too.

What sets Heavenly Sword from the rest of the pack is the blinding promise that this game has had from day one. Touted as one of the PS3's true next-gen titles, the game has slipped again and again from release dates, delayed for developmental purposes. Still, images and clips of Naruko laying the Smacketh Down on hordes of enemies, in gloriously hi-res graphics and animation, keeps gamers' mouths watering for Heavenly Sword. The Developers, Ninja Theory, also say that the game will not only be your run-of-the-mill hack-and-slash; they're calling it a cinematic fantasy-action drama, an epic movie players take control of. Adding to this claim is the fact that Lord of the Rings' alum and veteran actor Andy Serkis is on board to direct and act through the game's cinematic cut scenes, via motion-captured animation that strives to capture a character's emotions squarely on the digital personages appearing in the game.

He's no Gollum, but with Andy Serkis behind the evil King Bothan's movements, he's sure to be one meaty villain.

High-impact fighting mechanics and bone-crushingly brutal moves, hi-res and hi-def visuals as well as high-powered performances are all behind Heavenly Sword. I've seen only bits, but it all looks cool. I can only hope that the gameplay, story and content of this much-anticipated title is worth the wait. But at least, with Metal Gear Solid 4 nowhere to be seen, this should tide PS3 gamers for the rest of this year as 2007's big gun. Er, sword.

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