Games: Stellar Blade’s Sexy South Korean slash ‘em-up offers a flashy slice of cyberpunk action

Neil evaluates the console debut from Seoul studio Shift Up

Stellar Blade
Gameplay resembles the best PS3-era hack and slashers gussied up with modern bells and whistles

Stellar Blade (PS5, Sony)

SOUTH Korea is no slouch when it comes to tech, with Kim Jong-un’s southerly neighbours having given the world Samsung, LG and your auntie’s Kia.

But, as Parasite, BTS and Squid Game prove, the culture-savvy kimchi-munchers are also muscling in on entertainment, and the console debut from Seoul studio Shift Up – greased by Sony’s deep coffers – offers PS5 gamers a flashy slice of cyberpunk action.

Ever since the demo dropped, all gamers could talk about was Stellar Blade’s highly sexualised lead, right down to an optional ‘skin suit’ which highlights her curves in all the ways Buffalo Bill’s didn’t. But Stellar Blade is much more than gratuitous titillation.

When Earth is overrun with the monstrous race of Naytiba, an army of well-endowed, machine-enhanced warriors are drop-shipped to kill their Elder.

As sole survivor, it’s all about Eve, who teams up with local human Adam (see where this is going?) and plucky young engineer Lily to save mankind.

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Stellar Blade
The new slash 'em up is easy on the eye - and the gameplay is decent too

Melodramatic in that oh-so-Asian way, its predictable plot is sci-fi 101, and hardly helped with overly-earnest voice-acting that begs for a dose of humour. But where Stellar Blade sings is in its combat. Bayonetta meets NieR - mixing the jiggling female sword-slaughter of the former and intricate RPG systems of the latter - it plays out like the best PS3-era hack and slashers gussied up with modern bells and whistles.

However, if it’s visually comparable to Bayonetta (not to mention audibly, with a swoony lounge soundtrack and plummy English accents), Stellar Blade is a very different beast when it comes to the meat and spuds. Its dizzying diet of strikes, parries and dodges - all with a head-melting array of buffs and upgrades to tinker with – leaves button mashers taking a dirt nap.

Its mix of sword-swinging and gun-based ultraviolence, with a blizzard of special moves and context-sensitive hoopla, is a button-blistering blade ballet with final bosses that’ll require fistfuls of Ritalin to keep up with.

Stellar Blade

Yet, while the lickety-split old-school combat soaks up more aggressive slashing than a pub urinal, a precision platformer this is not - and Eve’s clumsy jumping lets the side down.

From a city hub, you’ll traverse all manner of monster-infested locales, from deserts to outer space, picking up lashings of optional quests en-route to bolster Eve’s skills and unlock ever-sexier togs for our shapely heroine.

Stellar Blade
There are many environments for Eve to explore

Of course, it all looks gorgeous, with three eye-candy options favouring performance, resolution or a happy medium. All are polished and bug-free, and with nippy loading to boot.

Stealing from the genre’s best, Stellar Blade is this year’s best new PlayStation IP, offering both an eyeful of digital bums and some of the finest combat committed to binary.