Asura's Wrath is one of the prettiest games I've ever seen. After we've suffered through countless titles that fail to deliver inspiring art design despite boasting exceptional engines, Capcom's latest epic sticks out like a cell-shaded beacon; a hand-painted masterpiece amongst photocopied mediocrity. Its story of warring Hindu gods is presented in lavish, stylish glory that genuinely appears to have been sketched by the angels themselves.
But that's quite enough about the visuals, because explaining exactly what Asura's Wrath is trying to achieve is going to take some serious work. Imagine a cross between God Of War, Sin And Punishment, Heavy Rain, Okami and a television series box set and you'll still be nowhere near the mark.
Players will assume the role of Asura; a Hindu deity whose daughter has been kidnapped by a cabal of nefarious demigods. It's therefore up to the muscle-bound powerhouse to track down his nemeses and dispatch them. Rather than a single massive narrative, the story will be broken down into bite-sized segments that resemble episodes of a television series, with a major boss battle or plot event providing a finale at the end of each one. This should make for an incredibly moreish experience - and one that refuses to be tied down to a single genre.
In the episode I was able to play, Asura had tracked down a corpulent demigod known as Wyzen who apparently had a lead on his daughter. However, plenty of goons stood in his way. I was ready for a standard brawler... but a few seconds of confused fumbling later, it became evident that Asura's Wrath had turned into a gunfight. The twinstick controls acted much like Sin And Punishment, with an on-screen crosshair providing precise aiming and the ability to move in any direction.
Killing enemies and landing hits charges your 'Burst' meter, which is essentially the main objective of the game. When you've managed to do so, you'll be able to trigger a QTE-laden cutscene that advances the story and provides ridiculous, over-the-top action. This time, though, Wyzen was just content to talk to me... but after I decided to cut the conversation short by kicking him in the face (yes, that is an option - and one that can be used at any point during the chat), he pressed the attack personally.
Asura's Wrath suddenly became a tight and capable brawler, offering a selection of furiously fast light punches and powerful slow blows with a magical missile thrown in for good measure. The action is quick, slick and incredibly responsive - and reassuringly traditional to boot.
Once the Burst gauge was full again, I was able to trigger another interactive cutscene where I had to use a selection of Quick Time Events to boot the fat god off a cliff. Awesome. QTEs have a deservedly bad reputation, but they work incredibly well here thanks to an obvious correlation between button prompts and player actions. The sheer range of prompts was vaguely reminiscent of Heavy Rain, which can only be a good thing in terms of bringing honour back to the much-maligned interactive cutscene.
And then Wyzen rose up from the abyss, the size of a mountain range and sporting skin carved from solid rock.
I think I may have drooled onto the controller. The action switched back into shooting mode, with fixed forward movement and a degree of lateral control. As well as bombarding Wyzen with magic, Asura was capable of grappling incoming projectiles and hurling them right back (another QTE, naturally) - which caused major damage when they connected. The assault was fierce and visceral, but it wasn't long before the overweight deity was vanquished once again.
And the Wyzen rose up yet again... the size of an entire planet.
He reached down to crush Asura beneath a city-sized finger, but our hero manifested four extra arms to take the pressure and send it right back, launching into a furious combo of punches that shatter his stony nemesis and sends him hurtling into the blackness of space.
And that was fifteen minutes of Asura's Wrath. It's bonkers, unpredictable, unrepetently OTT and unbelievably satisfying... but only time will tell whether its cutscene-driven structure can deliver the value and replayability we crave. We can't wait to find out what happens in the next episode.