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Knights Contract

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: PS3
Category: Action/Adventure
 
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Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games

Features:

1 player
5043 KB Game Save
480p/720p HD Video Output
DualShock 3
In Game Dolby Digital
Rated M Mature

It is the Dark Ages, and the plague has devastated Europe. The witches, women who are blessed with supernatural powers and long lives, have been blamed for the plague although they've constantly helped people. During an execution of one witch, a curse is let loose on the executioner via a witch's spilled blood. A hundred years later, we meet Heinrich, the same executioner who is now blessed and cursed with the inability to die. On his travels, he meets the same witch who had cursed him, and the duo enters into a contract. If Heinrich can help Gretchen stop the other resurrected witches from wreaking havoc on the world, he can have his mortality back.

Graphics

The game's cinematic areas are appealing, but the in-game engine displays muddled textures and a boring palette. Most of the game has an oversaturated, low-detail look to it. It can be a bit grating on the eyes after some time. The majority of the environments are bathed in browns and grays that we've all grown to loathe during this gaming generation. Not many of the monster designs are very imaginative, as the exposed muscle and twisted bone structure look like they've been ripped out of Namco Bandai's recent Splatterhouse game. The character designs, on the other hand, look fine despite showing some overused traits, such as multiple facial scars and ornate tattoos.

Cut scenes are riddled with instances of screen tearing to the point that it's distracting. Oddly enough, it only happens during cut scenes and nowhere else in the game. The title also suffers from tremendous amounts of slowdown in the oddest places. Lock onto a large creature in combat, and you'll see it lose some frames of animation. Go into a menu screen to upgrade your characters or save the game, and you'll notice the game struggling to generate the menus. Again, it's odd because the rest of the game runs at a fairly smooth frame rate.

Sound

In terms of audio, Knights Contract is almost flawless. The effects are great, with the right amount of oomph for each hit. My subwoofer thumped more than a few times with some of the hits and slayings I performed. Unfortunately this was probably the game’s best highlight for me.

The music is comprised solely of epic orchestral pieces that nicely fit the theme. It's something you'll want to turn up while fighting. The soundtrack is actually quite good, with a full orchestral score that is both sweeping and subtle. The music is implemented quite well in places, and does a good job conveying the intended tone of many scenes. Again, the music is arguably the best part of the game.

The game features an English vocal track and the voice acting is done well enough, but can be a bit scattered. At times it sounds great, and at others times it sounds like the actors couldn't be bothered to actually care about their performances. It's especially disappointing to hear one character's lines delivered perfectly and then listen to another character in the conversation speak as woodenly as possible.

Gameplay

Knights Contract's control system is done well enough for most gamers to get by, but it can be frustrating sometimes as you progress through the game. Basic movements and combat actions are surprisingly responsive. I found it is not very difficult to pull off effective combos and some advanced magic moves. I must say I’m not a fan of the PS3 controller; it just does not have the comfort of its Xbox competitor. It took me some time to really feel comfortable with it again. The pretty gory execution finishing moves can be a bit annoying to pull off the first time around, but once you get the timing down you should be fine. The Quick Timed Events are another story. They can be painful because of the smaller time windows on various moves. Adding to the punishment for missing your timed event is your opponent's health meter, which is partially replenished every time you miss. This can happen numerous times over the course of the game; I thought it was bit cheap, but it will force you to improve your timing.

The other frustrating bit I found with the controls is re-spawning after being badly injured or dismembered. In order to re-spawn you must button mash the A until you come back to life. The amount of mashing is quite ridiculous in my opinion and you will find yourself getting a serious amount of finger fatigue trying to save yourself.

Your character is Heinrich, an executioner cursed with an immortality spell. He used to kill innocent witches under the command of Faust, a corrupt political leader looking for absolute power. Blamed as responsible for the Black Plague, these witches who had nothing but good intentions originally have returned a few hundred years later to take revenge on humanity. Heinrich wanders around the decimated world, searching for a way to be freed of his curse, when he meets up with Gretchen. She is one of the dead witches that has returned in a different body to stop her brethren from exacting their revenge. Gretchen is now deemed a traitor among her peers, but she is the only one who can break the curse on Heinrich. A contract bound with blood is signed and from there and the duo make their way through the game as partners.

Right away it becomes obvious that Knights Contract desperately wants to be a God of War like game, but unfortunately it never reaches God of War levels. In fact it doesn’t even come close. Heinrich has a limited number of uninspired and not very effective combos that he can unleash against the monsters, but overall we have seen most of this in better form elsewhere. The killing of enemies nets the gamer souls that are used to purchase magic upgrades, which can be pretty cool here and there. Gretchen casts spells that will help out in combat, but she leaves herself quite unprotected, and you will be saving her more than not. The game play feels choppy and incomplete — not very becoming of a PS3 game.


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