A fantastic PS2 action game
Sorry to post this late, but I erroneously put this in my blog, rather than the Reviews section. But here it is again, for all to disagree upon.
Let me get this out of the way right now: I want to like this game. I really do.
If the new 3D Castlevania game, Lords of Shadow, had been released appropriately in the early to mid aughts, this review would be entirely different. Graphically, the game looks good. Not fantastic, but not chunky either. Just pretty good. You start out helping some villagers beat off a horde of Lycan wolf-man creatures, throwing you immediately into the action ala God of War. Actually "ala" is too soft a word, more like "exactly as seen in" would be better. If the Lycan's were skeleton/demon things, you would be Kratos. You even have a bloody chain weapon! It just so happens to be a crucifix, err I mean Combat Cross. Castlevania is famous for its whips, but if you've played the game you know this is definitely not a whip. It is comes from the same manufacturer as the infinitely-extensible-and-retractable-screen-filling-chain-blade-combo, the Blades of Chaos.
Most of the first chunk of this game consists of one extended QTE, broken up by small amounts of hacking smaller enemies. The Quick Time Events, unlike in God of War 3, are somewhat varied, providing button-specific timed presses as well as any-button timed presses, but none of them are enjoyable. Horse riding? QTE. Mid-sized wolf creatures, of which there are tons? QTE. Ice Colossus? You get the picture.
Not to be picky, but the contact physics is also a bit on the sketchy side as well. When you're running through a screen, Gabriel will be bumped high and low in a very rough--and to be truthful, last gen--manner. When he runs on a flat surface--and I just saw that Jeff noticed this same thing in the QL--it doesn't feel like he is running on anything, but slightly above a neutral rendered "floor". Loading times, at least for the PS3, were excessive, only slightly eased by the smokey voice of one Patrick "the highlander" Stewart. It also seems every few minutes the menu system is jumping in to disrupt any immersion you may have achieved in order to remind you to purchase more moves or concept art. Character models are cool, especially when you meet Pan, as well as the Ice Colossus. However, the story wreaks of a half-cocked Lord of the Rings rip off, right down to the Gandolfian narrator.
This game suffers from a duality of brand hype, and AAA title expectations. By that I mean, if the name Castlevania was not on the box, this would be in the $29 bin at your local retailer within weeks (as it stands, this is still a possibility). This is a very, very mediocre game. This doesn't measure up to what a Konami-published major title, which made it pretty high on many a most-anticipated list. It is a disappointing thing, but this game could have been amazing. Should have been amazing. But the gameplay is so dated, the interface won't relax enough to let you just play the game, the graphics are just ok, and the game just leaves you with a Dead Rising-esque "this is not fun, why am I still playing this?" vibe. I mean, it's freakin Castlevania. Why does it have to be so bland?