I cannot call this a review of Heavenly Sword simply because I have not beaten the game, but then again the reason for writing this is not merely to trash HS but to make the following point: people should be embarrassed more easily.
Allow me to explain… I do not own a PS3. I do not own a PS3 because while deciding weather to purchase a PS3 or a 360 I discovered, with basic research and some help from Jay of videolamer, that there is much more variety and quality to be found in the games for 360 than the PS3. However, the one regret that I had about passing on the PS3 was that I would not get to play Heavenly Sword. I had seen a commercial advertising the game, I had visited the official website and my interest was piqued. But, the way I saw it, I was giving up Heavenly Sword for Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect. Still, the choice rankled me.
Then, I went down to Texas for Christmas (where Christmas was invented by the way) to spend some time with my girlfriend’s family. And there, I found her brother’s PS3 along with a crisp copy of Heavenly Sword. And so, after my girlfriend’s father passed out in the punchbowl, and her mother left to light the bag of dog shit ablaze on the neighbors doorstep, and her brother went out to smoke some Christmas crack with his friends, I snuck into his room and played a couple of hours of Heavenly Sword. (And yes I got past the part where Nariko acquires the heavenly sword, as well as past the first two bosses.) I stopped, not because anyone interrupted me, but because I simply could not take the button mashing cluster-fuck that is Heavenly Sword.
Much has been said about the similarities between Heavenly Sword and God of War. Videolamer’s own zenstrabo has written about it. (I happen to agree with almost everything in that article) But allow me to reiterate some things, since they directly relate to my central point. The two blades on chains that spin out to hurt enemies, the special grab moves executed with the circle button, the puzzles you have to solve in order to progress through the game, the boss-fights that require you to time the various button sequences… All of these things make Heavenly Sword a God of War rip off. There is no difference in the gameplay dynamics of the two games. But what bothers me most of all is that there is some shameless conceptual thievery going on here.
In his article, zenstrabo mentioned that the idea that Heavenly Sword would be “God of War III with a chick” did not bother him. But this is exactly what I want to rage against; not only in this particular case with Heavenly Sword, but with videogames in general. And this brings me to my point: if I were a developer, I would literally be embarrassed to put out a product like Heavenly Sword; a game with not only zero conceptual originality but one whose every single gameplay element can be traced to an already outstanding game which came before. Do these people have no respect for their own creativity? They are like the gamers equivalent of those sad souls who write fan-fiction. I felt just as embarrassed for the makers of Heavenly Sword as I do when some poor shmuck decides to read his take on Middle Earth in a creative writing class. Are you fucking kidding me? Do you have no sense of propriety? Make a new game you lazy, creatively bankrupt, money-hungry faker!
If I make a game where the goal is to push around a magnetic square that rolls up everything it crosses, can I claim the production of anything new? If I write a play about a prince who comes home for his father’s funeral to find that his mother is marrying his uncle, who in turn killed his father… can I claim that I have just produced original and exciting content? No, I cannot. The only thing I can possibly claim is the new form that I may have given to the old content. (And let me say here – that would be valid, since ultimately form and content define and modify each other and are indivisible concepts. In a sense, one can be the other.) The problem is that in Heavenly Sword the form is desperately wanting as well. Aside from the cut scenes, the gameplay graphics are not that impressive, (considering it is a next-gen game) the world and it’s mythology seem contrived, and the only thing that having the game on a PS3 provides is the higher number of same old enemies on screen. (Which ironically creates more need for repetitive and boring button mashing.)
Heavenly Sword is a soulless game. It is stale. And I want something fresh.