A lot of games seem to be borrowing ideas from titles like God of War, and Heavenly Sword is no different. SCEE and Ninja Theory are developing the game and at present, no official North American release date has been set. The game was one of many shown at the Sony Pre-E3 Press Conference and I was privileged enough to play it for the entire length of the demo. A lot of the story isn't present within the playable stage and this version is mostly a gameplay demonstration. The demo starts by putting you in control of a red-haired beauty with a variety of weapons at your disposal. The game is deeply rooted in a hybrid of Asian culture (enemies) and Roman times (stages/arenas).
Heavenly Sword uses an interesting control system that is a combination of three different stances and with various combos within those stances as well. The default stance is the normal stance, in which you can play with the default attack and the secondary attack buttons to produce combos. This stance also allows you to produce counter attacks during the fights. These counter attacks are done by letting your character block an attack, and then pressing the secondary attack/counter button in order to produce a random counter attack. According to sources at the show, the current build of the game has around forty different counter attacks. The most memorable counter attacks however are the "nutcracker ones" where you'll, uh, kick a guy in his nether region (in self-defense, of course!) or even use a sword and go Omaha Beach on his Private Ryans.
Blocking is also fairly easy to perform in Heavenly Sword, because your character blocks all the time while in Normal Stance. Performing combos is also a fairly painless procedure since most of them only require a combination of pressing the normal attack and secondary attack. The combos also depend on how long you press each button and can produce some impressive results. The second stance present in the game is the power stance, which gives a lot more power to a player's combos. The stances are also the way to switch weapons in the game and the power stance gives you a heavy sword to carry. There are buttons to switch to a particular stance and your character only remains in that mode as long as the player presses the specified button for the stance. The heavy stance also disallows the auto-block feature, making your character vulnerable to attack. The third stance is the light stance and gives your character a lighter weapon for attacking with higher speed.
Most of the demo on display consisted of beating up bad guys as they came into the arena. The arena also featured multiple objects, most of them destructible. A lot of these objects were also used as weapons and could be thrown at enemies. These included weapons from fallen enemies, barrels, and other objects. The game also featured a special throw mode, in which you could hold the throw button and then control the trajectory of the thrown object. This allowed the character to hit multiple enemies at the same time and was one of the highlights of the title. You are also able to throw enemies but these only initiate action sequences where you throw a blade with chains and throw the character into the air. However, if you wait until your "throw" bar fills up, you can perform a spiral while throwing an enemy that allows you to hit multiple enemies at the same time.
After beating all enemies in the arena, your character gets to fight the final enemy of the arena. This boss character will block most of the objects thrown and defeating him doesn't only consist of using normal combo moves. Once you've hit the final character enough times, you'll be able to throw him and initiate an action sequence, which consists of pressing different buttons at the right time in order to continue the sequence. Failure to perform these means that your character falls from the combo and the battle continues. If you perform the combo successfully, the boss enemy falls on his head and allows the player to witness some leg twitching action after his death.
In its present build, Heavenly Sword looks amazing and really showcases some of the graphic power of the PS3. Even though a very limited amount of gameplay elements are present in the demo, the mechanics of Heavenly Sword display a lot of potential for a fun game. In the end, it will all depend on whether the developers decide to make this a boring beat'em up or an exciting action game with loads of different enemies and combat strategies. Let's hope for the latter.