Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (2014) PlayStation 3 | Game Review

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Avatar for patientgamer9
2 years ago

Playing the first hour of Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2 is like speed running through the three emotions you feel throughout the game: amazement, frustration, and disappointment. A searing opening introduces you to Gabriel Belmont's brilliant new arsenal – the Void Sword, Chaos Claws, and Shadow Whip – and then asks, "can you stick them into that golden angel bloke? And this golem the size of a small mountain range?" With pleasure. It's a perfect tutorial – grandiose, mildly challenging, and an instant reminder of why we loved the first game so damned much.

The opening's yawning gothic sprawl yanked away in favour of telephone pylons, potholes, and pavement. Then comes ten minutes of stuffy exposition followed by a scene shift to the modern-day. Anyone who played to the end of 2010 original will know this makes perfect narrative sense, but sadly it also makes for duff gameplay. The Belmont of the modern age starts as a faded, limping husk – this is essentially developer Mercury Steam's way of doing the classic 'take all your powers away' trick that constantly plagues action sequels such as CLOS2.

And so, after a trio of false starts and a very unpleasant first-person sequence (you'll know it when you see it), CLOS2 begins in earnest. It feels like a game of compromise. Success can be a tough act to follow, and you can almost hear the suited execs at Konami howling ill-advised opinions at the dev team: "The kids like stealth, I said. Have you put in the robots yet?" Unfortunately, they listened. The present-day portion of the game is suffocated by horrible stretches of grey interiors patrolled by hulking androids. But – and this is the real kicker – you can't fight them.

Instead, Gabriel is forced to turn into a rat, just like Dracula doesn't, and scurry his way past as if he hasn't just taken down a mythical colossus by ripping its heart out with his bare hands. That, or you can chuck a swarm of bats as a distraction and tiptoe past, high-level weaponry dangling from your vampiric hip.

It's stealth gameplay that's both achingly poor and entirely out of place, a flaw made all the more evident by the gleaming quality of everything else the game has to offer. Because when Mercury Steam gets back to doing what it does best – letting you whip enormous monsters into pulpy puddles – CLOS2 throws up wow moments that outdo anything else in the genre.

A meticulous combat system that refines expands, and ultimately improves on that found in the original CLOS is at the heart of everything good. The Void Sword mentioned above, and Chaos Claws replace light and dark magic, respectively – the former an icy blade that replenishes your health with every hit, the latter a set of fiery gauntlets that make short work of armored opponents. It would be best if you absorbed magic orbs to power them. The ingenious twist is that enemies only drop these after you've smacked them about while simultaneously avoiding any damage.

It's a system that coaxes you into a practiced, intelligent fighting style, rewarding the use of intricate and varied combos by feeding you the power to perform even better moves. Belmont may be slower than both Dante and Kratos, but his move set is more nuanced and satisfying to pull off. This is, for my money, the best combat system on PS3.

It's astonishing what Mercury Steam has wrung out of the PS3 with CLOS2. The game's flaws - shoddy stealth and a sluggishly paced plot – cost it a better score and keep it from reaching the epic heights of its predecessor. CLOS2 mixes amazing, precise fighting and some tremendous visual delights with ropey stealth and a clumsy story in an unevenly brilliant and irritating way. Thankfully, the positives outnumber the negatives.

$ 9.00
$ 9.00 from @TheRandomRewarder
Avatar for patientgamer9
2 years ago