" Had more issues been fixed prior to launch this would be a winner straight down the board. "
Title: Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven by Activision
Format: PS2 Stealth Fighter
Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult
The Hype: The third game in the Tenchu series and the first to hit Playstation 2, Wrath of Heaven (WoH) gives us more characters, more stealth kills, and tons more ninja action. But is its Ki strong enough to escape the hell of the thousand ninja knockoff games? Read on, my monkeys. Read on.
What This Monkey Thought...
Graphics: Wrath of Heaven is, undoubtedly, a beautiful title and represents a significant number of graphical enhancements from its predecessors (and expectedly so since this is it's official jump to the PS2). Smooth textures, solid animations, and some down right badass ninja moves make Tenchu almost as much fun to watch as it is to play. Especially impressive are the lighting and reflective effects, though since the game mostly takes place at night you won't get to see them much. Still, it's a nice bit of eye-candy that is kept from the illustrious "5 out of 5" only because of its lack of detail at key moments (i.e. blood spraying from random orifices on targets rather than where you actually hit them) and the bland colorscape the levels use. 4 out of 5
Playability: The original Tenchu was actually
the first stealth fighter made (originally beating Metal Gear Solid to market
by about 6 months) and, thus, is credited with inventing the genre. And while
some people are perpetually frustrated by the relatively impotent sense of being
an under-armed special operative behind enemy lines (a la Metal Gear Solid or
Splinter Cell) the premise fits really nicely with a ninja performing infiltrations
and assassinations. There is something down right invigorating about gliding
across rooftops, dropping silently behind a target, and slicing his throat with
a wakazashi and that mood of subtle violence is conveyed nicely in the story
driven campaigns. Taking the role of one of two ninjas, you must assault various
levels, either eliminating or sneaking past guards, to find your target and
show them the finer points of a shuriken (get it? Finer POINTS? Oh, god…I'm
such a geek). Enhancing this thrill are "Stealth Kills", single hit kills executed
through some really cool cut scene action when you manage to sneak up on a guard
Unfortunately, as you might have expected, all that just qualifies as the good news. The bad news is that while it may be the first and most logical stealth action game on the market it's a long way from being the best. The root of this lies in two very simple but critical flaws: an AI that's a long way from competitive and a camera that can only be described as "Craptacular". For the AI the problem is a very limited scope of action. Mirroring their 32 bit heritage, the guards in WoH are among the most dense and lifeless modern gaming has to offer. They will come across the bodies of their fallen comrades and shrug it off with a simple "oh well", they will see you but only chase you about 40', they will never look "up" to find you, and they will attack with the most amateur combos which require a mere "hold block, now attack" strategy to defeat. What all this means in layman's terms, is that should you be spotted by a guard you have 2 very easy choices. Duke it out with them, because there is no challenge in slaying them even up to 3 or 4 at a time, or simply run away for a few seconds. Once you're out of site the guard will give up looking and will go back to "idle mode"…which then makes it ridiculously easy to sneak up and do a stealth kill. But maybe all that's for the best since the camera, the painfully inept and utterly worthless camera, is so hard to control that you will spend more time stumbling onto enemies than you will sneaking up on them. I have never seen a camera this bad in a game that so critically requires good camera work and it will frustrate you more than is anywhere near acceptable. 3.5 out of 5
Story and Drama: As is common with most video games, Tenchu has a story but it's a whole long way from being interesting. I'll give them credit for trying, but inevitably it just plays out as "go here and kill. Okay. Now, go there and kill." On the upside, though, they manage to come up with a bunch of cool reasons for you to kill including betrayal, rape, greed, and slavery. 3.5 out of 5
Multiplayer and Replayability: Though the root of WoH is the linear campaign mode, Tenchu does include a number of cool things to keep the game playable. First off, there are 2 characters to take through (with a third unlockable), there's 2 player deathmatch, and…most fun of all, there's a 2 player co-op mode so you can chop off heads with your best friends. Keen. 4 out of 5
|In the end, Tenchu is has some very strong elements and can be a lot of fun to play but is kept from being exceptional or particularly memorable by the lousy AI and just plain shitty camera. Had those issues been fixed prior to launch this would be a winner straight down the board. As it stands it's good for some light play but I wouldn't think about it too seriously.|
The Good: Fun concept, great graphics, and co-op!
The Bad: How can you have AI and a camera this bad in a game that depends so heavily on both?
The Overall Ugly: Fun but inferior to many of the same genre games out there.
What it's Worth: Rental