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The Tech Behind Heavenly Sword

Posted by Jay on Tuesday, April 10, 2007

From GamePro’s Heavenly Sword Week, Day 2 comes more info about this awesome looking title. The article focuses on a little on story, art, and more importantly, uses of the Cell processor. Pretty cool stuff, check it out…

The PlayStation 3 needs a hero, and Heavenly Sword may be just the game to do the job. The game’s development history has been cloaked in secrecy, but a short playable demo turned heads at last year’s E3 2006. Luckily, we convinced the folks at developer Ninja Theory to grant us an exclusive look at one of the most hotly anticipated games of 2007.

Set in a fantasy world that blends aesthetics from both ancient Europe and Asia, Heavenly Sword pits Nariko, a ferocious warrior with crimson hair, against the legions of a genocidal invading King. The titular Heavenly Sword was once in the possession of a god-like force, but has since fallen to the mortal world. Although the sword is a gift to effect massive change, this blessing comes with a sacrifice: those who carry the sword sign their own death sentence. In fact, Nariko has only hours left to live when the game opens.
They Shall Drown in Lakes of Blood

The visuals in Heavenly Sword are downright delicious, with dreamy twilight lighting, expansive vistas, and waterfalls that look vastly superior to the ugly tumble of particles in other games. Nariko’s clothing and scarlet mane respond to gusts of wind as well as her never-ending flips and spins. What’s more, Heavenly Sword is the first PS3 game to really stress the console’s much-hyped Cell processor. In Heavenly Sword, the Cell enables incredible numbers of enemies to be on screen at one time. The trick is that Cell treats entire regiments as a single unit of artificial intelligence when they are at a distance; as they draw closer, Cell gradually divides the army into smaller and smaller groups, so they eventually become individual troops with unique fighting styles and tactics. The Sixaxis motion sensing responded respectably, but it wasn’t an central part of the action just yet, a fact that may change as the game progresses.

The Secrets of Cell

Heavenly Sword is one of the first PS3 games to tap into Cell’s true potential. Here are the highlights.

* Artificial Intelligence To keep up with the hundreds of on-screen enemies, Cell treats distant armies as a singlular “hive mind.” As they approach Nariko, Cell splits their intelligence across squads, and finally, individual troops.

* Graphics Wind gusts swirl Nariko’s hair and clothes, and bazooka blasts send out showers of dust and rubble. 1080p support is still a question mark, though.

* Physics When firing a cannon, Nariko can influence the trajectory of the projectile using the Sixaxis. Ninja Theory claims it needs the Cell to handle these complex calculations.

Disappointingly, Sony wasn’t yet ready to share all of Heavenly Sword’s secrets. 1080p support is still an unknown factor. Heroine Nariko herself is also an enigma. What’s her background? Where does she come from? Sony remains tight-lipped for now, but we expect to hear more details soon.

But those questions can wait for the time being. If the final version lives up to its premise and promise, Heavenly Sword will be a gift from the gods for PS3 owners worldwide. With any luck, 2007 will be the Year of the Sword.

Stay tuned all this week for more coverage on Heavenly Sword week!

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