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Have we a God Of War 3 beater on our hands?

Opinion: Kratos will be looking over his shoulder for the new Castlevania, says Tim Ingham...

I bloody love a game that glistens, me.

I think it was 1997's MDK - from the appropriately named Shiny Entertainment - that first did it.

Lead character Kurt's reflective suit left me with widened eyes and a knackered CPU. It was a tantalising teaser of the future.

Looking back of course, that was all sprite-based nonsense compared to the king of today's glimmering crop - God Of War III.

Kratos' shockingly destructive romp on PS3 is the most stunning-looking game I've witnessed this year - not least because everywhere you look, something shines.

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Whether it's oily, giant foes or shimmering expanses of water - or just the ever-perspiring pate of Kratos himself - the game is wonderfully rendered throughout.

For those that love the shiny, it's incomparable - a mesmerising pendulous locket of a title that really rams home the 'Only On PS3' message Sony craves for you to believe in.

But now, finally, it appears Sony Santa Monica's opus may finally have a very real rival - and from a most unlikely series.

Castlevania's previous forays into the world of 3D haven't exactly screamed 'spectacular'. But with Mercury Steam's Lords Of Shadow, Konami appears to have something a little bit special on its hands.

The demo we get hands-on with showcases a graphical style with more than a hint of the Kojima about it. His advice on the title wasn't ignored, it seems.

Rain pounds down from the sky as we control an all new (and slightly pointier than expected) Belmont. This time, it's Gabriel - armed with a classic 'whip' in the guise of his skull-cracking Combat Cross.

We're thrown into our stormy evening's mission with little time for pleasantries; protecting straggle-haired, torch-wielding townsfolk from the hairy onslaught of the ravenous, wolfish Warg.

Gabriel does a lot of protecting, it turns out; the game's premise is that the skulking hooded hero is a member of the Brotherhood of Light, out to guard the world (and avenge his good lady wife's death) against the titular ethereal noblemen.

Each spooky Lord protects a shard of a holy relic, which, when combined, can bring people back from the dead. Handily, that not only gives Gabriel a good reason to twat all of them - but a faint chance of resurrecting his beloved.

This Emo dream is capped off with some serious voice acting - not least from RSC'ers Patrick Stewart (as baritone mentor Zobek) and Robert Carlyle as Gabriel. (Sadly, in earnest, booming, ponderous martyr mode. He sounds nothing like Trainspotting's Begbie - so it looks like that gaming fantasy will have to wait another few years).

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The gothic ambience of our first Warg-battling scene is striking. Surrounded by rain-peppered, texture-rich granite mounds, a tellingly huge iron gate refuses to budge. Grey hunks of matted Warg mane bound out of the darkness and begin circling Gabriel; paws menacingly splashing through gravelly pools as they work out their best route of attack.

The throbbing, crimson pupils of the Warg contrast forebodingly with the lightlessness of the sodden, makeshift gladiatorial circle which Gabriel wardens. This luminous scowl is strikingly complemented by flickering torch flames, charmingly reflecting in the grimy puddles around us.

The steamy exhalation of our hitched horse puffs forth - alongside the bloodthirsty breath of our bristly nemesis. It's resplendent; and rivals any opening in-game visuals we've seen this year.

The combat mechanic and camera are immediately reminiscent of GoW. Two buttons control different attacks of Belmont's Combat Cross, which can either be whipped across the screen or violently spun to unleash deadly combos.

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