Note to developers! If you're going to copy a videogame, you better make sure it's a damn good one. After all, no-one's going to moan that you blatantly ripped off Genji 2 because nobody's going to care. Rip off God Of War? Then you'll have more people sitting up than the Sony lawyers. That seems to be the path Darksiders: Wrath Of War has taken and it seems to have nailed the God Of War tribute act down to a fine art.
This might have THQ jumping up and down screaming "NOT FAIR!" but it's meant as more of a compliment than an insult. God Of War is arguably THE finest adventure series since a blocky Lara Croft started raiding those tombs all those years ago, yet it's also a series that few have dared imitate, knowing it's a delicate balance that is easily upset by clumsy hands. In the lovely, soft, lady-like hands of Vigil Games, Darksiders looks to have found what made God Of War so special. Namely, a cute mix of adventuring, puzzles, exploration and combat. Well, replace 'cute' with 'gory' and hey presto, you have yourself a juicy videogame for us PlayStation 3 owners to sink our teeth into.
HE'S A HORSE WHAT?
In Darksiders, you play War, one of the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse (note: not a 'god' of war but War himself). You might think that this means a videogame where you ride around on a horse setting fire to peasants and scaring children, but unfortunately, it doesn't work out that way. Having brought about the apocalypse, War gets stuck in a battle between demons and angels and is soon betrayed and left on earth without his powers.
And so, the classic videogame formula of slowly gaining one power at a time kicks in as you set about your task of finding out who betrayed you and why. Then hitting them.
Fortunately, Vigil isn't focusing on the story, but on War living up to his name and reigning down chaos on those around him. Chainguns, horses that can be upgraded and arms strong enough to pick up and throw car wrecks are part of your arsenal. Beyond that, War can carve his enemies up with a sword and use a chain to pull them in or push them away... which sounds very Devil May Cry. Needless to say, this isn't about hitting enemies up in the air, juggling them with a six-hit combo and then having the game shout "AWESOME!" at you. This is about being brutal, being bloody and impaling dark angels through their hands before beating them to death. It's nasty.
LEGACY OF PAIN
Those who have been gaming since the creaky days of the original PlayStation will remember Legacy Of Kain. Darksiders owes its look to that landmark title too, with a huge, open, ruined city punctuating the first half of the game before War descends into the fiery depths of the Abyss. Given Darksiders isn't due to storm onto the shelves until 2008, it's already looking the part.
That's thanks to the crayons of Joe Madureira - a comic-book artist who is giving this a dark, creepy vibe to help it stand out from the likes of, well y'now, God of War. Which puts Darksiders in an unusual position.
Does it cling to the coat-tails of Kratos and suffer the label of a pretender or risk everything on finding a streak of individuality? Vigil Studios has until next year to answer that question. Moreover, the Sony lawyers have to wait until next year for the answer. Let the epic battle begin.