This week sees another entry into the popular and well populated genre of character action titles, or as they are also called, hack and slashers. The gameplay is relatively simple, there is one protagonist, a bunch of close combat weapons that tend to do a lot of damage, a few ranged attacks that do little damage, and usually a colorful array of thousands and thousands of enemy mooks to hack and slash through until you get to the oversized bossfight. Simple enough.
The genre has been around since the early days of video games and shows no sign of going away, and with good reason—it's fun as hell and brings to video gaming the visceral feel that gamers often look for when they place their hands on the controller.
Recent years saw an increase in boss sizes and mook numbers, thanks to beefier hardware. It’s an all time favorite genre, and home to some of the most video game video games.
10. DMC - Devil May Cry
This much hated reboot by Ninja Theory took the venerated Japanese Devil May Cry games and applied a sheen of western grittiness to it. Protagonist Dante received a complete overhaul together with the entire rest of the cast. Everyone is there. The fans were very negative about this game before release, some could be swayed by the tight gameplay and gorgeous visuals, others remained negative, crying foul about a lot of things. It is still a great game, though it remains up to the individual if this is actually the best entry in the saga, or even a worthy one, or a horrible failure.
Platinum Games have a knack for designing challenging yet delightfully silly titles like this one. The story about a time traveling super witch is largely forgettable, what matters is the super tight gameplay and the splendid presentation. Bayonetta is a ridiculously pretty game that bursts with style. But most importantly, the game mechanics fit as tightly as the eponymous witches leotard. Taking apart angels and demons and deities and other creatures takes a lot of skill, but once that’s mastered, once everything clicks, this is a game to end video games alltogether.
8. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Another much maligned title. Lords of Shadow was slated to be an independent release by Spanish developer Mercury Steam. It eventually was shoehorned into the Castlevania saga when it was picked up by Konami and put under the wing of none other than Hideo Kojima. The production quality is superb, the art style reminiscent of a Guillermo del Toro. On the gameplay side, things could be a bit tighter, especially the camera, but after a few hours things fall into place, all crucial powers are unlocked, and things just flow nicely in this worthy addition to the Castlevania series.
7. Warhammer 40.000: Space Marine
Relic, the people who do everything Warhammer 40.000 these days, went and created this little, brutal gem for their own distraction, or so it seems. Space Marine is all about smashing, tearing and blowing up enemies of the Emperor. So not that different from the strategy titles, though this time it’s just you as a Space Marine, armed with a trusty chainsaw bayonet and a bolt gun. Strategy isn’t as important, this is all about keeping the flow of carnage up. The game’s mechanics are a bit sluggish in comparison, but beefy enough to stay interesting. It’s a great slasher and a must play for fans of the fictional universe in which there is Only War™.
6. Brütal Legend
After a really bumpy production history, being dropped by the publisher and taken up by another, and years in development hell, this title already had a rough patch behind it before it even got out the door. This fun brawler SLASH real time strategy SLASH adventure-ish game featuring Jack Black in the lead had a hard time living up to expectations. It’s not a bad game by any means, yet it did fall short in some aspects. Still, it is a very entertaining package with a ton of nods to classic heavy metal music, a great sense of humor and an art style that really comes into its own.
5. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
And here we have Platinum Games again. And another troubled entry. Revengeance was initially slated as an Xbox 360 exclusive release. Then the entire game concept was scrapped and development went over to Platinum, who crafted a high octane slasher in the vein of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry out of the material. Just as those games, MGR:R is fast paced, furious fun with an epic story told through too many too long cutscenes, as is the series mainstay. It’s great package that comes with even more awesome in the DLC that adds more playable characters.
4. Darksiders II
First there was War, now it’s Death’s turn. Darksiders, that Todd McFarlane inspired post biblical apocalypse universe, keeps featuring horsemen of the apocalypse in the lead. As the original Darksiders, this entry takes some hints from the Zelda games, while delivering a very distinct own sense of style. Death is a remarkably unique protagonist, the world is really well realized in both visuals and writing and the game itself is just a blast to play.
3. Ninja Gaiden 3
One of the mainstays of the character action genre, and one of the allegedly hardest game series of all time, Ninja Gaiden 3 delivered mostly more of the same, but with much easier accessible gameplay, which obviously drew the ire of the fans of the original series. Sadly it is felt quite strongly that long time lead developer of Team Ninja (not to confused with Ninja Theory!) Tomonobu Itagaki has left for greener pastures, as this game is mostly treading water. Fans are still waiting for Itagaki’s Devil’s Third to be released, and until that happens, this here is the closest they get to a fix for their ninja itch.
2. Asura’s Wrath
There is insanity, there are over the top games, and then there is Asura’s Wrath. In the race for the biggest, craziest bossfights, this title throws entities at you that dwarf planet earth. It’s a game that’s mostly mentioned for its sheer sense of utter insanity and Japanese over-bravado. It may not have the stopping power of a Bayonetta or a Devil May Cry, but the style and the sheer craziness of it all make up for a lot. If you like character action games and the Japanese video game tropes of both these games as well as shonen anime series like Naruto and Dragon Ball, this game will be right up your alley.
1. God of War: Ascension
Ah, nothing like the inevitable prequel that arrives after a trilogy has been concluded. Ascension tells the tale of how our beloved vengeful Spartan became so, well, vengeful in the first place. It also adds multiplayer. And the usual shenanigans like tearing heads off of greek deities and having slightly off screen sex with nymphs and other delights you come to expect from the series. It was a worthy pre-conclusion, and we will see if there is still some juice left in this series, if you catch my drift.