2 Reviews

Ninja Blade

Introducing Ken the Ninja, the most unlikely videogame hero since Blinx the Cat.

The year is 2015 and we're in Tokyo. The city is facing a scourge marginally more frightening than the hordes of imported English teachers it has to deal with today.

That's right, a KILLER MUTANT VIRUS is making bloody, messy work for helicopters full of tooled-up trained assassins and throwaway Hollywood extras. What now?

"This devastation is worse than anything you've seen before," says a macho squad leader. "Whatever," replies a guy who's just about to fearlessly jump out of a chopper in the name of lacerating some zombies and puncturing a few monsters. We haven't seen scripting of this calibre since last Wednesday's episode of The Bill.

Zoom

You take control of Ken, a likeable ninja-from-the-future with an unfortunately soap opera name. He has all kinds of ninja tricks with which to wow his friends at parties, but we suspect he's mainly interested in showing off to us gamers.

His Ninja Vision ability (a finite resource assigned to the RT button) paints the screen red and blue, a bit like Mirror's Edge, where the splashes of blue indicate items and structures that can be used, enemies' most vulnerable points, and so on. This function also s-l-o-w-s everything down - and in a game that's as hyper as this one, a bit of slow-motion respite can be pretty useful.

someone who should be chopping infected flesh like a crazed specialist surgeon, Ken seems to spend an inordinate amount of time running around. He can even run along walls and up the faces of buildings, like Spider-Man. And when he's not running, he can be found abseiling, leaping or even flying. The upshot is that Ninja Blade feels surprisingly close to a 3D platformer.

We're not exaggerating. The levels are even built along straight tracks without much scope for exploration. In fact, the only breaks slotted in seem to be for mutant extermination and fights against ridiculously huge boss monsters. You could be playing an unrealistically cool version of Sonic the Hedgehog here if it weren't for all the gore and Hollywood ninjas.

Quicktimed out
Ninja Blade's biggest gimmick, though, is its (over)use of quicktime events. The simplest of cutscenes is transformed into something basically interactive through the display of joypad button symbols, which you need to press bang on time in order to keep the action rolling.

This is fun for the first cutscene, slightly less so in the second and third, and completely irritating by the 786th time Ninja Blade bombards you with its overenthusiastic QTE-ing. The thing is, you're not even risking much during these sections of the game: if you get your fingers tangled and mess up, the action just rewinds a few seconds and you're allowed to try again. You might as well just rewind the cutscenes and play them through again, if you ask us.

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Combat here obviously utilises blades to slice, dice and generally chop up, and these can be upgraded as long as you've racked up some 'blood crystals' - which are amassed by cutting up the rotten creatures you encounter.

The developer's QTE fetish gets some favourable coverage in the form of finishing moves, where you need to press an arbitrarily assigned button to land the killer blow at the end of a string of attacks. This, at least, is rather satisfying.

Even though it's a bit of a flashy game, Ninja Blade is surprisingly shallow. It's not particularly long either - you can see everything in less than 10 hours, which doesn't help much with replayability.

Worst of all, the novelties it wants you to like, it shoves in your face quite rudely many times over - resulting in a hack-and-slash that could have ultimately been a lot, er, sharper.

The verdict

It's not looking that sharp, to be blunt

  • Quick, flashy mutant-slicing action
  • It's got ninjas
  • Not enough room for exploration
  • Way too many QTE cutscenes
  • Full of clichés
6
Format
Xbox 360
Developer
From Software
Publisher
Microsoft
Genre
Action, Beat 'em Up

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