I know what you're thinking. The last thing the gaming world needs is another hack and slash, what with new iterations of God of War, Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden currently tearing up console pads across the world. But Russian developer Gaijin Entertainment doesn't agree, and it's doing something about it. And that something is X-Blades.
It not some high octane, 'woah dude' extreme sport. It's an anime inspired hack and slash that sees a Lara Croft-a-like treasure hunter search far and wide for power giving artefacts. The game's story begins with the sudden appearance of a map which details the location of all of the artefacts. The game's central character, thong-tastic heroine Ayumi, sets off in search of the stones, risking their devastating effects for the ultimate power they grant.
It's easy to be cynical about X-Blades, which was actually called Oniblade until not long ago. Ayumi looks like she's been designed specifically to titillate horny teenage boys. I mean, just look at her arse, which is, bar the thinnest of thongs, completely on show in most of the promotional material released on the game. There's not much sophistication, or subtlety in her character design. But then, when you think about the female characters in God of War, Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden, they're nothing more than sex objects. And we wonder why the mainstream media doesn't take gaming seriously.
X-Blades' gameplay will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played any hack and slash style action game in the last decade or so. There's hacking, slashing, soul collection, unlockable powers, dual gun blades, spells and time slowing special attacks. It's simple and easy to pick up and play. One thing's for sure, X-Blades won't be as hard as Ninja Gaiden.
A case in point. We were able to defeat the game's first boss without dying on our first go at the game. The boss, a large wolf-like creature who spawns endless minions to keep you from concentrating attacks on him, didn't pose much of a threat. The trick is to melee the minions in order to build up your Rage, which is then used to trigger a fire spell, the only attack that will do damage to the boss.
Eventually, after multiple hits of the fire spell the boss' HP gauge, displayed on the bottom right of the screen, was reduced to nil, leaving Ayumi to collect her first magical stone. X-Blades will follow a similar pattern across 40 levels, combining the hack and slash gameplay we experienced in the boss fight with platforming elements, all interspersed with gorgeous anime cut scenes. We're told you'll be able to combine spells with melee attacks into custom combos. Players will unlock an ice spell which will freeze enemies in place, enabling you to shatter them with follow up slash attacks, for example.
Like plenty of other action games, you'll be able to spend collected items on weapon upgrades (for example Ayumi's gun blades) and special powers. One special power we had access to in our fight was a crowd clearing slow motion earthquake attack which sees Ayumi leap into the air and drive her gunblades into the ground.
It's obvious that X-Blades isn't a triple-A title. Indeed it probably makes more sense as an XBLA and PSN downloadable title rather than a retail release. But, if the price is right, its no nonsense, simple action gaming fun might appeal to gamers bemused by the complicated combos of other, more illustrious titles. If that sounds like something up your street, keep an eye on this one.
X-Blades is due out for PC and Xbox 360 in Q4 2008.