An excellent game that PS3 owners can definitely sink their teeth into...
The world is on the brink of destruction. The connection between Heaven and Earth has been severed, resulting in demonic beasts ravaging the poor inhabitants of Earth and the souls of the dead becoming stranded in a state of limbo (they're stuck as ghosts on Earth). The Brotherhood of Light (BoL), an order of battle zealots who fight the forces of evil, has been contacted by Heaven and been given a message. The BoL contacts Gabriel, a member of the BoL, and tells him that this message is related to his beloved wife Marie, who recently died. Gabriel thus embarks on a quest to save his dear wife and ultimately save the world.
The overall story of saving the world is cliche, but the real underlying story here is about Gabriel and his spiritual journey of reflection, self-discovery and redemption. I don't want to spoil anything, but Gabriel's story and personal journey is very touching and meaningful.
My only criticism here is that there were plenty of plot holes and loose ends involving the story. I heard that some of them were intentional b/c of DLC, which is fine (I suppose), but others were areas that needed to be fleshed out some more. Also, the cliffhanger ending is a major WTF!!! that really makes the player reflect on the events of the game (though the DLC seems to deflate some of its' initial impact).
The visuals are amazing! The main draw here is the environments, they are truly breath-taking. The environments are lush with color, full of detail and diverse in presentation. Castlevania is known for dreary castles full of decay and death, but LoS is full of lush green forests, sun-drenched deserts, ice-encrusted castles, poisonous and nausea-inducing bogs and much more. Every environment is unique in visual design and full of character. For example, the forest area is full of tranquil waterfalls, dilapidated ruins and giant cliffs, while a castle area has libraries packed full of ancient tomes, decaying furniture and ice crystals that seem to drain the life and color out of the once majestic halls and rooms. This is the most amazing environmental designs I've seen in a game (next to Uncharted).
The character and enemy visuals are good, but pale in comparison to the environmental visuals.
Overall, the visuals are quite good, with the background visuals taking center stage. The backgrounds help immensely with player immersion and building upon the story and Gabriel's personal journey.
If you've ever played Dante's Inferno, God of War, Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and/or Shadow of the Colossus, then you'll be at home here. Castlevania: LoS is basically the bastard child of a union between God of War (GoW) and Shadow of the Colossus (SotC).
Gabriel has a whip-like weapon called the Combat Cross that he swings around like Kratos (GoW) and his Blades of Chaos. There is a "heavy" vertical attack button, a "light" horizontal area attack button and the obligatory jump/grab buttons. Gabriel even has a "rage" meter like Kratos for doing stronger "flaming" attacks and a different meter for "healing" attacks. The combat controls are tight and easy to pick-up and play. This game requires a bit more strategy to combat than it's button mashing counterparts. Almost all the enemies dart across the screen, can block/counter and utilize other move sets to disrupt people who attack recklessly.
A handful of boss encounters play out like the boss battles from SotC. Gabriel must climb up giant golems and damage various weakpoints to kill the boss. These battles are quite fun, but not as enjoyable or as sophisticated as the battles from SotC. The battles here have more "action sequences" mixed in than actual manual climbing and player controlled attacking. The action sequences are scripted events that require the player to follow a few button prompts and timed button presses to advance the event. These make the battles feel more like interactive cutscenes than actual player controlled fights. Basically, they disconnect the player from being fully immersed in the game.
Gabriel never obtains any new "main" weapons (like swords, spears, etc...) just 4 sub-weapons like knives and holy water. New weapons aren't necessary, but they sure would've helped spice up the gameplay by offering more options in combat.
Overall, the combat is fun and effective.
The music is absolutely phenomenonal!!! It is all orchestral pieces with a sound that is a mix between the Gladiator + Pirates of the Caribbean movies. There is full of sweeping melodic strings, heart pounding drums and blaring horns, all of which set the various moods/themes marvelously.
The VA is quite good, with all the characters having various unique ethnic accents (English, Gaelic, etc...) that really bring them to life. Patrick Stewart is the star here. He gives a riveting performance as both a NPC and as the narrator of the game.
The sound effects are meaningful and good.
The game is a one playthrough only, but there are a couple unlockables (Solid Eye and Bandana from MGS4, new difficulty and artwork) and plenty of Metroidvania type hidden items to discover after obtaining a particular new ability. The story, music and gameplay are enjoyable enough to warrant subsequent playthrough.
Final Score: 9/10
I highly recommend this game to anyone who owns a PS3/360. The music and environmental visuals are the hook that will draw players in and the compelling story will keep people playing till the end.