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Xbox 360 Game Review

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow


Format: Xbox 360
RRP: £49.99
4 012927 034378
Age Restrictions: 15+
Available 08 October 2010

It is the end of days. The Earth's alliance with the Heavens has been threatened by a dark and malevolent force - the mysterious Lords of Shadow - darkness reins the world. Across this shattered land, the souls of the dead wander unable to find peace, whilst creatures of evil roam free wreaking chaos and death upon the living. Gabriel Belmont is a member of the Brotherhood of Light, an elite group of holy knights who protect and defend the innocent against the supernatural. His beloved wife was brutally murdered by the evil forces of darkness and her soul trapped for eternity. Neither living nor dead she realises the horrific truth of what is at stake and guides Gabriel to his destiny - and hopefully salvation for the world... but at what cost...?

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a third person action adventure. You play as Gabriel Belmont as he travels the destroyed world, defeating the forces of darkens in order to use their powers to bring balance back to the world. Armed with the Combat Cross, the world's last hope must encounter the three factions of the Lords of Shadow and end their unholy rule.

This is probably one of the most anticipated games of 2010 and it has a lot to live up to. The Castlevania brand is one that is an almost cast iron guarantee of quality, so fans will be pleased to hear that Lords of Shadow is no exception.

The game spends the first two levels (which should take most people the best part of a day to play through) just getting you up to speed with the controls and different abilities you will eventually be able to master. Your main weapon is the Combat Cross which starts off as a pretty standard weapon but eventually you can unlock it's grappling ability (which allows you to pull enemies towards or whip them from a distance, or reach otherwise inaccessible areas of the map). There are around 40 unlockable combos for the combat system alone. These aren't overly difficult to master as you'll only be able to unlock a handful each level.

The main battle system is fairly straightforward to get to grips with, but you can collect glowing orbs that allow you to unlock new combos as you progress. And, as you wander through the levels new abilities are unlocked using different types of orbs. As you wander around your environment there are breakable objects which usually contain nothing but occasionally are the hiding place of daggers which can be used to throw at your enemies.

Your enemies come in numerous forms, but are basically broken down into three main categories. There's the low level monsters that are easy to kill and you can even use your Combat Cross to drag them towards you so you can finish them off with one quick move; there's the medium level monsters, which are a lot more hard work and you'll have to divide your time between blocking, dodging and attacking; and then there are the huge bosses, which you have to outsmart by other means than hacking and slashing them to bits.

The medium level beasts also come in useful later on as you can stun them and then jump on their backs and control them to break through barriers or jump large gaps as well as smashing any low level enemies that are still lurking about.

The storyline to the game is more like a playable movie than a hack and slash game. The whole production is incredibly well polished. There's no getting away from the fact that the playing environment and the monsters that you encounter look simply incredible. What's interesting about this game is that you don't have time to get bored of your surroundings or enemies as before you know it you are in another lush environment fighting another series of monsters. And, for those who don't want to plow through wave after wave of enemy, worry not as the battle system is constantly altering. Firstly thanks to the ability to unlock new moves and abilities at your own pace, and secondly by the introductions of impressive set piece monster battles (like the Ice Titan who you have to climb around and destroy the power crystals placed in areas of its body).

The stationery camera angle system is employed in the game. Firstly this allows the environments to be rendered in much more detailed as you can't pan around the landscape in 360 degrees, but it also gets away from that much hated camera problems... well, almost. Yes, there are still camera angle issues. The biggest problem is when the camera cuts from one angle to the next as your character walks off screen. While you were pressing left in one camera, the next angle will have your character appearing from another angle meaning that pressing left has him going in the other direction. This can get a little confusing as to where you've already been. Also the stationery camera angle can mean it's not easy to see where your enemy is when you're in the middle of a battle.

The acting is also impressive, but then that's not surprising considering that the vocal talents of Robert Carlyle, Patrick Stewart and Natascha McElhone were employed - although to be honest I was less than impressed with McElhone's delivery of her lines.

This is a good, solid game that will please fans of the franchise as well as those who've never played a Castlevania game before. There's also a lot of replay value too as you can't unlock 100% for each level - you need to come back when you've leveled up your character more if you want to unlock all the achievements and extras. And, as the game is split over two discs, there's days of hardcore gaming awaiting even the most determined adventurer.


Darren Rea

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