|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: TopWare Interactive / Gaijin Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SouthPeak Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 10, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Since males make up such a large percent of the hardcore gamer population, seeing game publishers pander to shallow male interests in hopes of raking in a sizeable cash return isn't uncommon. Sex and violence sell, and melding the two into a titillating orgy of flashing naked skin, spinning blades, and sprays of blood may seem like a sure-fire way to produce a hit title. The formula has succeeded in the past, but that doesn't mean it will fly with players each and every time.
The saucy, scantily-adorned vixen in X-Blades may have sex appeal (and large swords that hold down double duty as blazing guns), but her beauty is only skin deep. Looking beyond the shoestrings holding her meager outfit together, the heroine's haphazard, valley-girl attitude is unbecoming of an ass-kicking warrior. Sadly, her shallow personality is mirrored elsewhere in the design decisions and in the gameplay itself. This may not be enough to deter action junkies looking for some gratuitous T&A with their wanton hacking and slashing, but the enjoyment to be derived from the straightforward gameplay is painfully limited.
Right from the start, the wispy story in X-Blades confirms what some might have speculated about early on: someone felt there was really no need for an elaborately thought-out tale in a game that's all about charging around in a thong and jabbing blades into the guts of scores of nasty beasts until your eyes fall out. While not everyone will buy that premise, let's call an ox an ox and move on. The game follows the somewhat daft, loot-seeking whimsy of Ayumi, a nimble warrior maiden with an apparent hatred for wearing clothes. After stumbling upon a treasure map that leads her to ancient ruins, she runs into a deity protecting a mystical orb infused with godly magic. Despite being warned of its deadliness to mortals, the bratty Ayumi grabs the thing, gets cursed, and winds up on a protracted quest to hack up all the evil inhabitants residing in the dusty ruins into itty bits - one room at a time.
To say X-Blades is a game rooted in combat would be a hefty understatement. The gameplay revolves solely around using blades, guns, and blasts of light and dark magic to decimate throngs of malevolent beasts. Also, there's a little treasure hunting thrown in for good measure. Moving from one room to the next, you'll dispatch a set number of creatures in an arena-style battle using your nimble, lethal skills. You won't have to go far to find enemies to fight; they'll frequently swarm you the second you enter a new level and not let up until you've cleaved every last beast in twain.
Slaying demonic adversaries yields souls that can be accumulated and used as a form of currency to purchase new special abilities or buy additional health and magic power-ups. Ranging from energy projectiles and explosive area-of-effect eruptions to damage boosting and teleportation, these abilities must be used frequently and in different combinations in order to stay alive for any length of time. Your primary weapons - the gunblades - can provide slicing goodness at close range or deal death from a distance. Melee combat slowly builds Ayumi's rage meter that allows her to draw mana to cast powerful and destructive spells. Long story short: you've got a lot of wiggle room as to how you choose to take down opponents.
Transitioning between swinging swords, taking long-range pot shots, and firing off magic in all directions can be done quite effortlessly with the fluid controls. Ayumi handles well; she can run, jump, flip, leap, turn on a dime, and dish out some smackdown with simple motions and button presses. Basic attacks require you to hammer on one button or another, and spells can be hot-keyed to different buttons for easy access. The broad range of views afforded by the camera controls can be tweaked handily to give you just the right angle on the action or whatever else you feel like gawking at. Seriously, are boob-jiggling physics really that important when the main character's personality is about as interesting as reading the back of a cereal box? Let's talk about priorities folks.