Format: PS3 (tested), Xbox 360
Quick Time Events have a habit of diluting the gaming experience. They randomise the input sequence, changing ‘push a button to attack’ into ‘push a button for a pre-determined cut scene to play’, and break the cause and effect mechanic that underpins so much of videogaming history.
That simplifying is something that Asura’s Wrath can’t escape. Capcom and CyberConnect 2′s tale of warring deities and violent revenge is a bombastic shower of brutality and colour. A unique experience in storytelling and visual trickery, that somewhere along the line forgot that it was supposed to be a game.
Betrayed and banished, Asura is a potent mix of anger and strength, striving to right the wrongs done to him and free his enslaved daughter. He battles his way through eighteen chapters of Asian mythology, destroying demons and demi-gods alike in his quest for revenge.
Combat is swift and cathartic, and always follows the same pattern. You’ll rain down heavy and light blows, building up enough power to release your ‘Burst’, a cacophonous, context sensitve special move that turns all but the strongest of foes into dust. You can dodge oncoming attacks, and charge some of your moves for knock down blows.
There’s a lack of finesse to the brawling that, whilst it fits in with Asura’s rough and ready style, leads to button mashing rather than expertise. There’s none of Bayonetta’s lithe, intricate interplay between guns and fists say, and none of the crunching satisfaction of a God of War combo. It often feels shallow, undercooked and reliant on spectacle rather than nuance.
On rails shooting sections punctuate thrashing, titanic boss battles, but the game never lets its sequences gel together into a coherent whole. It’s too piecemeal, too reliant on gameplay breaks to tell its story.
In between the controllable fights, you’re led through a series of vaguely interactive cut scenes. Button prompts flash on the screen, tasking you with tapping the correct input, or hammering it as quickly as possible. These go on for far too long, and in the bite sized, twenty minute chapters, you’re often only in full control of Asura for half of the time.
Credits and story recaps litter the game space too, giving an episodic feel to what is essentially a straight run from A to B. It leads to impatience, as you fumble with the controller, waiting for your next shot at punching something in the face.
The rage mechanic is an interesting one, with Asura becoming more powerful the angrier he gets, but a lack of control over when and how to use it turns it into a bit of a damp squib. It’s symptomatic of the way the game moves you along, pushing you from cut scene to QTE before you’ve had a chance to soak up the atmosphere.
Asura’s Wrath is a gorgeous game, and its story is an intriguing one. The problem is, it gets too caught up in spinning its narrative, and fails to adequately compensate the player for their time. You want to destroy, you want vengeance, and whilst you might get some closure, you can’t help but feel that most of the journey has been taken out of your hands.