Sekiro - Shadows Die Twice review: Sharp resurrection of the Souls
(XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★★ Age: 18+
Ninja fans of a certain vintage may dimly recall Tenchu, a stealth assassin series last glimpsed a decade ago. Sekiro, the latest offering from Dark Souls creator From Software, began life as a Tenchu follow-up only to morph into something different.
That something nonetheless closely resembles Dark Souls, the famously difficult and cruel hack'n'slash series, but spliced with DNA from the Tenchu era as stealth, agility and special abilities add spice to the melting pot. The result is a Souls-alike set in feudal Japan that rewards aggression while encouraging covert assassination.
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It sounds like a curious mongrel but From knows its shuriken from its shinobi. Sekiro asks, nay demands, you master the parry, the well-timed thrust, the flurry of blows, the distracting gadgets (flamethrower, firecrackers, etc).
You pick off weak enemies from the shadows as you acrobatically clamber around the scenery with the aid of a grappling hook. Then you assault the boss head-on.
Marvellous, fearsome creatures (the headless ape is a particular delight) stand in your way and, like all From games, Sekiro shows no mercy, frequently humiliating you with fatal strikes. But you respawn (or avail of limited revive tokens), heave a sigh of determination and plunge into battle once more. Just like the Souls titles, perseverance and fearlessness are the key. Just when you think you can't beat it, you will.
(PS4/XO/PC) ★★★ Age: 18+
Metal Gear Solid, the wildly ambitious stealth special ops series, may be in limbo since its auteur creator Hideo Kojima quit, but Left Alive desperately wants to fill the void. Yet there's little of Kojima's cinematic melodrama here, just a solid if unspectacular sneak-em-up anchored in a clichéd war between neighbouring nations.
It innovates with its three-protagonist storyline and its emphasis on crafting traps such as IEDs and weapons such as molotovs.
But awkward controls, a punishing absence of sensible save points and frankly unpredictable AI render gameplay something of a chore. It has its moments of lucidity when its systems all come together for satisfying encounters. Few players, though, will conclude Left Alive is anything but a poor man's Metal Gear Solid.