PS3 Reviews: Knights Contract Review

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Knights Contract Review

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Graphics:

 

5.7

Gameplay:

 

4.8

Sound:

 

5.9

Control:

 

5.3

Replay Value:

 

4.7

Overall Rating:       5.4

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Namco Bandai

Developer:

Game Republic

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

Action

Both Killzone 3 and Bulletstorm came out on February 22. But a third game also arrived that day, even if you probably missed it amidst the FPS hullabaloo. It’s Namco Bandai’s Knights Contract, which actually looked pretty darn good when we first saw it later last year. The concept isn’t bad: you play as the invincible Heinrich, who is a little older than your standard hero and even walks with a limp due to a lifetime of heavy combat. He was once an executioner who beheaded witches and one of these victims was Gretchen, who cast a curse on Heinrich before his blade struck. So now the guy is immortal…and he only wants to die. And worse yet, Gretchen is now attached at the hip – so-to-speak – and she tags along in his bloody adventures. She can die so yeah, there’s some babysitting involved. And it isn’t fun.

The graphics have their highs and lows. Visually, the character designs and some of the special effects stand out as highlights; both Heinrich and Gretchen are drawn well and have plenty of sweet animations. Some of the bosses and enemies are pretty cool, too, and I liked a few of the backdrops. But much of the environmental design is either bland or lackluster in some way, and the cut-scenes have a few technical problems and tend to be a low point during the quest’s progression. Seeing Heinrich sliced to pieces while still remaining alive was entertaining the first time but soon got old (for reasons described below), and even those visceral effects get tiresome because you repeat the same attacks so often. The whole presentation needed to be cleaned up and despite a few “whoa, did you see that?” moments, the graphics are hit or miss and remain erratic throughout.

And speaking of hit or miss, the voice acting ranges from very solid to downright laughable, which is jarring. Plus, I just couldn’t determine whether or not I liked Heinrich; at first, I thought I did but after a while, his personality started to grate. Gretchen was okay but most other characters are voiced by actors who just phoned it in, and this caused much of the story to fall short of its emotional goals. On the flip side, both the effects and music are decent and fit the atmosphere and style; in particular, the soundtrack never seemed to let me down, even if the balance was a little off. In terms of effects, there are some truly wince-worthy pieces of audio, especially when it comes to nasty physical attacks. I couldn’t cling to this bonus forever, though; eventually, the uneven nature of the technical elements just became far too apparent. And then I had to focus on the gameplay… Wish I didn't.

So you’ve got two main characters and the player actually controls them both. You will only control Heinrich’s movements – Gretchen moves on her own, unfortunately – but you can execute attacks and skills for both characters with the face buttons and R2 button. See, you utilize the face buttons for Heinrich’s slow yet powerful scythe strikes, and you just press R2 to switch to Gretchen and use her spells. Those spells are totally insane and are way more powerful than Heinrich’s attacks; at first, I didn’t mind that. I mean, watching Gretchen grow to the size of a building and crush enemies like ants is pretty damn bad-ass. And almost all of her spells are awesome, too. But the difference in power really started to get to me, even though both characters have obvious strengths and weaknesses.

You really have to pay attention to what’s happening because even the smallest battles can prove deadly, and if you want to take advantage of your witch partner’s immense power, you have to keep her alive. …and that’s where we encounter the first and most glaring issue. Gretchen is entirely AI-controlled and because you have to protect her, you would’ve hoped Game Republic understood the need for a smart partner. But no, she’s a freakin’ out of her mind. She’ll stand in fire. She’ll run directly at enemies that can pulverize her frail body. She’ll watch a boss tear her up. The only way to save her is to have Heinrich pick her up and shield her while her health regenerates. Decent equipment doesn’t change Gretchen’s stupidity, and let’s not forget that if Heinrich gets slashed apart, it takes time for him to reanimate.

He can’t die, but it takes a little while for him to return to form. And of course, during this time, the enemies swarm Gretchen and she will likely die…and when she dies, it’s game over. Yay. And I’m absolutely convinced that Gretchen somehow loses even more IQ points when Heinrich is reduced to a bloody pulp; while you slam on buttons trying to revive the big man as fast as possible, that stupid witch runs around like a chicken with its head cut off. Then there are plenty of bad game design decisions: in one section, if Heinrich is knocked off a ledge, the game ends. For boss fights, I think every last one implemented the now-common QTE (Quick Time Event) system, and this soon got annoying. It’s most annoying because towards the end of the fight, you have to hit all the QTEs exactly or the boss regains some of his health and the battle continues.

And lastly, there’s the camera, which is often problematic. There were times when one of my heroes disappeared entirely off the edge of the screen, and the camera often doesn’t keep up with the action. Combine this with a bunch of frustration when you die seconds before taking down a tough foe (this happened a lot), and the game quickly becomes more of a chore than anything else. It’s unfortunate, too, because Heinrich has a huge assortment of attacks and combos, and all of them are fun to learn and execute. Gretchen’s magic is great and always a joy to behold, the story isn’t terrible, the character advancement mechanic works well, and the in-your-face attitude of the combat is a definite plus. It’s just too erratic and unrelenting; you always feel as if you’re at a disadvantage, and that’s often due to poor game design and development decisions. In short, it’s a missed opportunity.

Knights Contract misses the mark. It’s just way too irritating. I’ve never liked babysitting missions in other games and I was immediately concerned when I heard this title would be all about babysitting. But I figured, “well, if my partner is smart, it could be great.” Yeah, it didn’t work out. Gretchen is horribly stupid, rejuvenating Heinrich takes too long, they go overboard with the QTEs in the boss fights, the camera can completely betray you at exactly the wrong moment, and the technicals are all over the place. The combat has a lot of promise and the mechanics themselves actually work quite well (at their core). Some of the voice acting is good, you really get to know the characters quite well, and the super-cool visceral stuff is a big plus. But when all is said and done, it just isn’t worthy of your time or money. Maybe a rental on a rainy day.

The Good: Some fitting music and solid character design. Decent storyline. In-depth, sorta satisfying combat mechanic. Fast-paced, challenging battles.

The Bad: Uneven visual presentation. Some characters are terribly voiced. Horrendous AI. Frustrating, often cheap gameplay design. Overdone QTEs. Camera can let you down a lot. Character strength balance is off.

The Ugly: “Oh yeah, good plan…run right at ‘em, bi***.

2/26/2011 Ben Dutka

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Comments (23 posts)

Alienange
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 1:07:38 AM
Reply

You have to babysit someone who can grow to the size of a building and crush enemies beneath her feet? All the while your controllable character walks with a limp? Oh man, I knew babysitting games usually suck but my hopes were up with this one. Thanks for making me no longer care about this crap.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

The Doom
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 7:49:21 AM

And it's not even that. Apparently she's a masochist since she likes to run up to enemies to be torn apart

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

ZettaiSeigi
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 1:17:49 AM
Reply

I LOL'd at the Ugly part. "Oh yeah, good plan... run right at 'em, bi***."

I think the general consensus on this game is that Gretchen is horribly stupid. Too bad as it breaks the game completely. It looked promising at first.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

The Doom
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 7:56:42 AM

I also Lol'ed at the character's name. I know he's supposed to be German, but naming him "Heinrich Hofmann" makes it WAY too obvious :P

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

frylock25
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 2:01:01 AM
Reply

another must miss title of 2011.

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Qubex
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 2:08:39 AM

Yes!

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Lawless SXE
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 2:15:44 AM
Reply

"she’s a freakin’ out of her mind" Since when have you been Italian? Also, in the first paragraph I think you mean "late last year" instead of "later".

I've read in a few places that the biggest drawback to the entire game is Gretchen's stupidity. The other problems can hardly be overlooked, but I think if that was cleaned up then it would have been received far better than it has been. It's a shame, it had a LOT of potential.

Does anyone else think that Namco is going to do the same thing they did with Enslaved and try to blame low sales on release timing?
Peace.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 10:33:27 AM

Count on it.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 4:03:19 PM

Yeah, except Enslaved was actually good.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

kraygen
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 2:44:21 AM
Reply

"And I’m absolutely convinced that Gretchen somehow loses even more IQ points when Heinrich is reduced to a bloody pulp; while you slam on buttons trying to revive the big man as fast as possible, that stupid witch runs around like a chicken with its head cut off."

Died laughing when I read that. This is why I hate these kinds of games. Protect the AI character, oh by the way, they're a suicidal maniac bent on death and destruction, but only if it's their death and destruction.

I actually saw a friend on my psn account was playing this and didn't know much about it, so I watched a video, I was then wondering why he was playing it.

Sorry you had to play it Ben, hope no controllers or tv's were harmed in the making of this review.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

The Doom
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 7:54:28 AM
Reply

Dark Void - Failed
Quantum Theory - Failed
MindJack - Failed
Knights Contract - Failed

When will these Japanese developers learn that trying to westernize DONESN'T WORK!

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Temjin001
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 9:05:47 AM
Reply

I wanted this game to be good.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

The Doom
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 9:10:14 AM

For a moment Iwas actually going to give it a shot. ...and then I saw more gameplay videos of it... I don't want the game to be easy or anything, but when you do combos, have gretchen cast a spell, and impale an enemy 3 times, all to kill a basic enemy, the game's going to get inane really fast

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Teddie9
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 9:11:26 AM
Reply

yeah good AI is what a game like this needs....not many games with this concept have
achieved this.

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Teddie9
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 9:24:26 AM
Reply

oh and I'm surprised Namco isn't on life support yet...

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Deleted User
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 9:36:05 AM
Reply

In escort missions, shouldn't the weak stay back at all times? I don't know why Namco Bandai just rushed this game out the door vs. Killzone 3 and Bulletstorm and thought it was a good idea. Even worse, why they didn't think frustrating gameplay and bad cameras wouldn't be a detriment to players?

Too bad as the game sounds very interesting. Maybe I'll pick it up for $10 in the bargain bin because that's where it's clearly headed for.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 10:34:22 AM
Reply

I was optimistic about this game at first, but after seeing new gameplay and noticing that Namco didn't even TRY to create any hype around it I kinda saw this coming.

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hadouken
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 2:25:47 PM
Reply

Man I still have some interest in this but I also hate protecting people missions-- weak sauce.

It's going fairly cheap on ebay so maybe I'll pick up later on.

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AnonWTF
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @ 7:58:04 PM
Reply

You watch your language young man!

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___________
Sunday, February 27, 2011 @ 12:45:00 AM
Reply

what?
a namco game stinking?
nahhhhhh, that cant be right!
;)
poor ninja theory, there all alone in a sea of a poisonous publisher!
i just hope they dont corrupt them.........
so sad when a fantastic developer gets destroyed by the publisher AKA pandemic, bioware, ID, obsidian, IW, treyarch, radical entertainment, raven software ect ect.
now i can see why we have so many indie developers these days!

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Lawless SXE
Sunday, February 27, 2011 @ 9:49:55 PM

Which publishing company would you like to see pick up Ninja Theory? Or would you simply rather see them continuing to try to sell their games to whoever wants to buy them?

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IonHawk
Monday, February 28, 2011 @ 1:23:48 AM

Umm, BioWare is doing perfectly fine with EA, I think. All their games with EA (and the ones before that) have been fantastic, and have also been huge hits

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___________
Monday, February 28, 2011 @ 8:40:09 AM

id love to see NT bought by sony but thats never going to happen so either 2K or THQ would be good.
EA are starting to go back to their old ways.
there turning into the new antivision!

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