X-Blades (PS3)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Friday, February 27, 2009

Graphics: 7.50
Sound: 2.00
Gameplay: 2.00
Replays: 1.00
Gamelength: 5.00

As one of my personal biggest disappointments in the past decade of gaming, “X-Blades” for the PlayStation 3 could have been much more than it turned out to be.

Most people will tell you that “Devil May Cry”, “God of War” and “Ninja Gaiden” are some of the best hardcore action games to date. Of those people, any of them who have heard of this game will also tell you that it looked to be a potential new hit of the same style. Hell, even the developers talked it up and at times even used some of those other games as a grounds for comparison. Because of those very basic facts and a few awesome gameplay videos, this game generated a whole lot of hype amongst the community of gamers worldwide who knew anything about it. It breaks my heart today as I write this article to inform you that this game is one of the worst third-person action games ever made. I’m actually still getting over how bad this game is and I don’t understand how this happened. Right now, it pains me to say that it’s time for the breakdown of why “X-Blades” for the PlayStation 3 is a terrible gaming experience.

Well, I guess the graphics are okay, but only because of the crazy lighting. The high-end HDR lightning is truly all this game has going for it, considering everything else is bland, boring and repetitions. If the HDR was completely removed, I don’t even think I’d want to know what the game would look like. Even from a technical standpoint, this game isn’t impressive and seems to be almost an entire generation behind in most ways. Textures are of a much lower quality than what we’ve come to expect and Ayumi looks like a colorless mold unless she’s standing somewhere with a whole lot of light surrounding her. The special effects of the spells are also incredibly boring and remind me of something you’d see in a title made in the year 2003. Fireballs, dark balls and even the earthquake animations are just generic and boring animations that you could see in just about any game that has similar spells or skills. Still, the game isn’t actually ugly, but it sure could have looked a whole lot better. Ayumi in particular really needs a makeover.

Voice acting is something I’ll never understand. Why would anyone pay to have such terrible voice acting? The dialogue in this game is not only poorly written, but it’s acted out so terribly that it rivals the original “Resident Evil” for the original Sony PlayStation. There were many times when I seriously wished that I could unhear what just played through my speakers. Not only that, but when the cutscenes are over, the sound quality doesn’t exactly get much better. Sound effects are okay, but there’s not a whole lot of them. Gunshots make the exact same sound every time, swords have the exact same attack sound patterns over and over and to top that off, Ayumi rarely adds any flavor or variation to the mix with her own vocalized sound effects. Every single music track is extremely repetitious generic rock that rarely seems to change, especially given that most of the time you’re in combat and the same song loops most of the time during those fight scenes. The only saving grace here is that the music can be disabled and you can always turn on your custom soundtracks. That wont save you from the voice acting, though. Reader beware and most certainly don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of “X-Blades” is how utterly simplistic, boring and mindless the gameplay turned out. As much as people were talking up this game, I don’t see how they thought this was such a terrific experience. First of all, the controls are so simplistic that, when set to easy mode, I guarantee you that my 4 year-old nephew could play this game with little to no effort. There are no combos to speak of, spells happen at the push of a single button taken from one of four hot keys and guns fire by simply holding down another button. Movement and camera controls are standard practice, utilizing the left joystick to move around and the right joystick to control the camera. There’s an optional lock-on button, but that doesn’t even seem to help. Honestly, I found that using the lock-on feature actually made the game unplayable in some situations because of the weird enemy placement. On that note, one positive thing about this game is the fact that you can bring up the upgrade menu at any time during the game. You can save your game and spend your souls, which is the currency of the game on any spell or item you have at your disposal. At the beginning, very few powers are available for purchase, but by the time you’re finished, there’s a decent variety of things to play around with. The problem with this system is that each power is more of an upgrade and you only have four hot keys. With those hot keys, you’ll probably simply assign powers you use most often and never look back after you’ve picked an upgraded power. The reason for this is that there’s no way of enhancing lower tiers of the powers and the fact that they take up less Rage means nothing because the Rage meter can be filled up so quickly. Not only that, but you can manually charge the Rage meter by simply holding down either the proper hotkey for the spell you want to cast or the Rage button itself. Obtaining souls to unlock these powers comes naturally and everything should unlock rather rapidly, which fits right in with the game’s ludicrously blistering pace. Just about everything drops souls, from breakable parts of the environment to every enemy you fight. There’s also a stage bonus, which has a multiplier depending on the level of difficulty assigned to the given stage. Aside from that, you can find artifacts that combine in sets of three to upgrade your gun, melee and air strike levels, which unlocks enhanced damage, extra sword attacks and other passive abilities. Really, the artifacts are a mandatory and easily-obtained side objective that keep you in check properly to take down the newer, stronger enemies as the game throws them at you. Using those skills, your very basic single-button melee and the weakest gunfire of all-time, you’ll be hacking and slashing your way through a bunch of mindless stages that ultimately lead to a very boring ending. Most stages are a simple battle of pre-determined amounts of each monster type spawned in that stage. Other stages involve very simple boss fights and a handful of them are minigames of sorts, such as jumping and diving to avoid blades or an earlier stage in which you have to dodge spikes that come through the floor for a few minutes. The bossfights and minigame levels add nothing to the game and honestly, the whole thing feels more like a bonus mode that should have been packed into another, far superior game. What story this game does have is absolutely terrible and extremely generic and the characters fit cliche anime archetypes within’ five seconds of seeing them for the first time. Perhaps my biggest personal complaint about this game is the fact that melee combat is so dull. In a game like this, you need good hit detection, proper attack sounds and a nice array of combo attacks. A few different sets of melee weapons would have been cool, too, but nope! Players get nothing of the sort! Melee combat is literally spamming one button. There are no special combos and the very few special moves you unlock are extremely limited and don’t even feel like new moves at all, rather just enhancements to the basic combo. There aren’t any new weapons, either, which takes away from the excitement a whole lot. When you’re playing a game like this for long enough and you start to realize that there just isn’t a lot of variation with the combat, it gets old very fast. Unfortunately, this game gets old within’ the first few stages. This somewhat lengthy adventure can take anywhere from eight to twenty hours to complete, depending on how much you grind or replay certain levels, but I’m not sure if the potential length is a good thing or not. At the end of the day, this is an okay game for the $10 bargain bin, but otherwise, I have to say that this isn’t worth the time or money.

Overall, it genuinely pains me to say that this is my personal biggest gaming disappointment for quite some time. I was extremely hopeful and excited prior to actually playing this game, but now I feel like I’ve wasted my time. Don’t make the same mistake. Get out while you can.

Pros:
-The lighting is gorgeous.
-There’s a good amount of stages.
-The “upgrade anywhere” idea is pretty cool.

Cons:
-Textures are very bland and repetitious.
-Music is extremely repetitious.
-Voice acting is some of the worst to date.
-Story is incredibly cheesy and generic.
-Characters aren’t lovable.
-Boss fights are very boring.
-Minigame stages are pointless and tedious.
-Hit detection feels very “off”.

Bottom Line:
I could go on all day about the amount of flaws this game has, but seriously, just stay away from “X-Blades”. For your own good, just play something else.

Overall Rating: 2.50

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