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Score: 60%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Southpeak Interactive
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:
X-Blades takes you on yet another hack-n-slash adventure that starts off a whirlwind of non-stop action, but eventually becomes repetitive and drawn-out.

As far as looks are concerned, X-Blades will appeal to the anime or Japanese gamers out there since Ayumi has the very distinct features of that art style. And Ayumi isn't the only one sporting that look. The various enemies that she faces on her quest could easily have been pulled from any number of Japanese RPGs or cartoon series.

The environments, while detailed, quickly feel like an endless series of the same catacombs and while there are a few places where the game diverges from this setting, most of the levels tend to blend together, which doesn't help the game at all in the long run.

Audio isn't bad, but it could be better. Ayumi doesn't shout out a lot of one-liners, so there is very little annoying repetition. In fact, the only real time she talks while fighting is during boss battles. As for in-game cut scenes, the adventurer says a lot to advance the game's plot, and while her voice isn't annoying, there are quite a few times when it just doesn't sound quite right for the character.

X-Blades puts you in the role of an anime Lara Croft. As Ayumi, you have come across a map to an ancient and lost set of ruins and buried deep inside is a powerful artifact that can supposedly grant god-hood, so of course Ayumi goes after the artifact, and even if it doesn't grant her any powers, she could always hock it.

It isn't long before our heroine gets her hands on this artifact and is infected by a dark power that threatens to take over her body and kill her. Her only hope is to continue looking through the temple to find the dark artifact's more benevolent counterpart. And so the game's adventure begins.

At first, Ayumi's only attack is with her gun blades that not only let you hack away at anything that moves, but can also fire bullets at your opponents. But fairly early, she gets the ability to buy new magical abilities. These abilities range from an area-affect attack that will stun multiple enemies to ranged-blast attacks. Most of these attacks also align themselves to certain elements (Rage, Life, Fire and Ice), and certain enemies are more susceptible to attacks of a certain alignment; using water attacks against a Fire Elemental for instance.

X-Blades features an interesting, but not too precise aiming system. The target in your sights appears in a red ring on your HUD, but you really don't have a lot of control of who that enemy is. During some of the boss battles where the game throws many minions at you, it became hard to lock down on your main target when necessary, especially since there is no way to stick to a particular target. The game simply chooses one of the opponents on screen. I would have much preferred a way to lock in on an enemy and strafe around it instead of simply trying to keep the creature on my screen.

X-Blades follows the "throw as many enemies at you as possible" approach to difficulty. But then again, that's what you typically see in games like this, so anything else should hardly be expected. And while there are a few tougher minions out there, the only times I actually died was when I ran up against bosses who required a bit more finesse or only reacted to certain types of attacks.

Game Mechanics:
There is only one real gripe I have with X-Blades's control scheme, and that is how the game lets you activate the various magical abilities you purchase as the game progresses. In the lower left corner of the screen is a wheel divided into four quadrants. You can assign your powers to one of these quadrants, and you activate it by pressing the button associated with that quadrant. Now, this isn't new, but for some reason, the buttons the developers chose to map those quadrants to don't make a lot of sense.

The top quadrant and right quadrant are the Triangle and Circle buttons respectively. That's okay because they line up pretty well with the GUI, but since the Square and (X) are used for jumping and attacking, those buttons can't be used to activate magical attacks. Instead, the (L2) and (R2) buttons are used for the remaining slots. That just doesn't make sense to me, especially since the D-pad is completely left untouched and works well for that various task (it was good enough for Rise of the Argonauts). Instead, the abilities are split up across the controller, and two of them are in very unintuitive positions.

X-Blades is neither the best or worst hack-n-slash on the market, but even though it has a nice style and fairly interesting story, the repetitive actions could very well force it to blend in with the background noise of the genre. Unless you are a big action fan, and you don't mind turning off your brain when you play, then avoid X-Blades. At most it is a rental since there isn't really any replay value to speak of.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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