And So It Begins...
The intro for NIOH for PS4, sure starts off with a bang. I was at full attention after the first 30 seconds. Following a solid set of movie clip, you are thrust into the Dark Souls-esque gameplay almost immediately. For anyone whose played BLOODBORNE or any of the souls series, you will feel right at home. While similar, there is just enough that is different with NIOH that makes it much more than a 'me too' type of game. First off, the Japanese style and language is strikingly different and even better, you start off in a tower in London. While I won't spoil the story line, let's just say that trotting the globe seems definitely in order.
Beauty and the Beast
On the technical side of things, the first few hours of NIOH are definitely a mixed bag of awesome and some shoddy graphical hiccups. First off, on a PS4 Pro, you have the option to basically run at 4K locked @ 30 FPS (Movie mode), 1080p @ 60 FPS (Action mode) or finally, 4K at a variable framerate (Variable Movie mode). After trying all three modes, this game definitely begs to be played @ 60 FPS for the smoothest action. As you can see from the shots included here, the game has some gorgeous moments but some low res textures and bland environments range from minor quibbles to a major distractions. Luckily overall, the voice acting, sound effects, sweeping score, and for the most part, the graphics are quite solid. Just don't play at 30 FPS. You've been warned...
The enemies have a lot of 'copy and paste' type design on the human side of things but the it's the ghastly creatures that you encounter that really shine. Also, I think of the biggest strengths of the game right now lies in weaving different cultures together while keeping a distinct Japanese style that Team Ninja is known for. It's a mix of horror, delight, intrigue, and history taking place across several centuries.
Yay or Nay
Part NINJA GAIDEN, part BLOODBORNE, and mostly it's own unique style, NIOH is definitely something to watch. After several solid hours of quality time with the game, I'm definitely leaning toward yay on this one. The gameplay is tight, the story is strange but intriguing, and mostly, as shown below there is some amazing design with skills, power ups, weapons (sword, axes, bows, guns, etc) and Spirit Guardians, it is familiar but oh so fresh and new. The biggest thing holding the game back right now for me is the inconsistent level design. While several brilliant moments have already taken place, I'm in the middle of a burning fishing village that is bland and confusing on where to go next. Not a deal breaker but be ready for some patience in dying, finding your path but always being paid off in the end with some dangling carrot around the corner. Gamers, rejoice! NIOH is here and it's quite awesome so far.