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Darksiders Preview

Moving Heaven and Earth?

Let's be honest; after Edge magazine's impressive 10-out-of-10 review, the action game everyone's really looking forward to post-Christmas is Sega's lady bruiser, Bayonetta (read our Bayonetta hands-on). But after getting our hands on a near-final version of Darksiders, we're convinced it still has something to offer that you won't find in the brunette starlet's hair-woven cat suit.

Darksiders, like most games these days, is set in a near-future Earth when an apocalypse has torn the world apart. Unlike Fallout 3 and Borderlands though, this apocalypse involves giant, skyscraper-stomping demons and you lobbing yellow taxi cabs at angels' faces.

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You play as War, one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse who's obviously billed as the next videogame hardnut after Kratos and Ninja Gaiden's Ryu. He's got a massive sword, a moody, shadowed face and a whole Mortal Kombat game's worth of violent finishing moves.

Off the bat though it's clear that combat isn't the main appeal of Darksiders; mashing the X button to swing your sword at various evil critters, before executing a violent and collectable orb-spewing killing move with B is very familiar to anyone who's ever played a Devil May Cry or God of War game - and, dear we say it, a bit generic.

Play beyond the epic but predictable opening scene - which has the armies of Heaven and Earth spilling over to a bustling human metropolis - and you'll discover more under it's burly surface. Zelda-style adventure elements, a pretty art-style and relatively meaty plot come together to form a fairly appealing action package that's not the "me too" we were expecting.

War's objective is, after illegally turning up on Earth to give everyone a good kicking, to break the "seven seals" on Earth which will allow him to summon his three brothers and punish the invading forces of Heaven and Hell in a more acceptable fashion.

This of course involves slicing up all kinds of gruesome demon bosses and angelic generals, and thanks to some decent voice and visual work there are plenty of colourful characters with whom to get acquainted.

Visually, as we've already mentioned, Darksiders is a really distinct and colourful offering, which is no surprise considering that comic book artist Joe Madureira is responsible for much of the graphical vision for the game.

In just the opening hour you'll battle through a destroyed Earth city, the burning caverns of hell and the contrasting Dracula-inspired architecture of a cathedral, where the demonic Bat Queen is awaiting your arrival.

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One highlight of the game's opening comes from another comic book favourite; Jedi-gone-voice actor Mark Hamill who provides the voice of 'The Watcher', a brilliantly-acted demonic prison guard who's been given the dog leash at the end of War's neck.

Visuals however aren't the only thing propping up the game's combat mechanics. Though on the surface billed as an out-and-out action game there's actually a wholesome adventure game deep at its core, with plenty of Metroid and Zelda references throughout the opening hours.

Boss battles reward you with all manor of items and abilities. One early boss fight gifts War the Shadowflight ability; a pair of demonic wings the Horseman can use to hover and glide over hot air. In true Zelda fashion you're gently introduced to your new ability through a section of action-puzzles, gliding above canyons with the aid of large heat flumes to reach your next destination.

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