|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Team Ninja|
|Release: Q1 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Patriel Manning
Fans of actions games have never had it better, as E3 2011 displayed titles that catered to every corner of the vast genre. One such title was Ninja Gaiden. Fans of the characteristically frenetic gameplay the series is known for will be thrilled to know that that pacing hasn't slowed down one bit. In fact, there are a few additions that might speed things up a bit. More on that in a moment.
The demo opens up with the main character, Ryu Hayabusa, perched atop one of Big Ben's gargoyles. At night. In the rain. Ryu's looking about as brooding and happy (read "not happy") as a 21st century ninja should. I'll have to apologize for lack of details on the story that I should be providing at this point as audio at the show was drowned out by the sound of Jane's Addiction playing the roof off the arena. From what I could gather from watching the opening cinematic, a town that's somehow connected to Ryu was attacked by a rebel army of sorts whose objectives run contrary to the outfit Ryu is working with.
At this point it really doesn't matter because having an army of people to fight against allows a setup that showcases the developers' focus for this action game: blood and bone on steel. The concept is demonstrated in the takedown moves, which can be performed frequently with a little skill. Ryu has three main types of attacks: a light attack (square), a heavy attack (triangle), and shuriken (circle) or throwing stars. You block by pressing L1 and in conjunction with movement in any direction Ryu will perform a dodge. Combat can be enhanced by pulling off properly timed combos. Combos, in turn, can lead to takedown moves, which take us back to that 'blood and bone on steel' concept the developer had been emphasizing.
During the takedown moves, the player is prompted by a mini QTE that isn't really much more difficult or involved than mashing the light attack button. Ryu then struggles a bit to, and I can't put this any other way, tear his sword through the nasty bits of bone and organ that happen to comprise the torso of the unfortunate individual who happens to be standing in front of him. The concept of what is actually taking place is enhanced by slight rumbles from the controller as the takedown is happening. The whole package comes together to emphasize the very, very visceral nature of the combat in Ninja Gaiden 3. A note for the uninitiated: if you haven't figured it out yet, there are copious amounts of blood filling the screen at almost all times there is any combat going on. It's not unlike most other Ninja Gaiden titles, so fans will be right at home here.
One major change to the gameplay comes from the way the life meter and 'special' meter are handled. Orbs have been removed completely. Instead players will be able to trigger certain events that fill either meter in-game. For instance to refill your health bar you have to perform successful combos. This isn't too difficult with some of the lower level minions who couldn't block to save their lives, not that it would. But some of the higher-tiered enemies are slightly more stubborn. The 'special' meter fills up (signified by Ryu's arm glowing red) by doing well in combat and once filled allows Ryu to take down up to three enemies instantly at the level the attack was as in the demo. There was no word on whether that can be upgraded in the future.
Under certain circumstances, Ryu can perform instant takedowns. At the beginning of the demo, Ryu leaps off his perch high above the streets of London only to come crashing down on an unsuspecting enemy. Later moments provide opportunity for stealth takedowns by sneaking up behind the enemy and performing a heavy attack. At one point there was a thick fog filling one area of the level, which lent itself to the performance of many such takedowns. It's only fitting that a ninja should be able to do that sort of thing on the fly.
Those familiar with the franchise will also recognize some of the platforming sections present in the demo, although there are some interesting changes that have been made. Instead of just being able to scale walls effortlessly, the developer has opted to work in a mechanic that's congruent with their desire to help the player understand the kind of effort necessary to pull some of these moves off. To scale a wall, or at least this one, the player will first have to grab on to the wall with Ryu's claws using both the L1 and R1 buttons. Climbing is performed by alternating these buttons, pressing L1 then R1 alternatively. The mechanic worked to create a little bit of immersion where there otherwise wouldn't have been any and, again, was in keeping with the developer's goal. The demo ended with a battle with a spider-mech that shot missile launchers, which I'm told were quite widespread in ancient Japan.
All things considered, Ninja Gaiden 3 is shaping up to be a sequel that shaves off unnecessary ideas in favor of ones that are less-explored without sacrificing the core ideas that the fans have come to appreciate. Look forward to more coverage as the release date draws closer, and stay tuned to CheatCC for more coverage of the games at E3 2011.
CCC Contributing Writer