Nioh is the hardest game I've ever played. Seriously, it makes

Dark Souls

look like

Animal Crossing

. But beneath the brutal punishment lies one of the best action-adventure games to hit the Playstation 4.

Team Ninja, the team behind the Ninja Gaiden titles, describe Nioh as a "masocore" game - a combination of masochist and hardcore. It sounds like a genre of metal, and that's a fitting description. Bloodbourne, Nioh and the Souls series - are the metal of gaming.

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Abrasive, dark and intense, these games earn a hardcore devotion from fans, and in the uninviting exterior, fans will find a transcendent experience like no other.

A scene from Nioh, a punishing action-adventure from Team Ninja.
A scene from Nioh, a punishing action-adventure from Team Ninja.
Nioh

is the black metal of masocore games. The game celebrates your death with the totally metal statement "Freed from this mortal coil." You'd better get used to that screen, because death is always near.

Set in 1600s Japan, Nioh's plot combines historical figures and warfare with Japanese mythology. Though the setting feels great, the plot often seems unrelated to the missions at hand.

The combat in Nioh is excellently refined. Players can chose between three stances, five melee weapon types, and three projectile weapons. The options will feel overwhelming to first-time players, but it's more about finding a style you enjoy, rather than switching constantly.

I chose a lightly-clad spear-wielding ninja, baiting out opponents with shurikens and hitting groups with poison. Others might decide to wear a full-set of heavy samurai armour and wield an enormous hammer. The choice is yours.

The game's first mission introduces core concepts in a baptism by fire. The first boss encounter is extremely difficult and might feel insurmountable to new players, but after getting past him, the game begins to feel beatable.

Though some of the environments seem a bit drab, the action never falters and a healthy loot and progression system keeps the player fully engaged.

Full disclosure here: A week to review this game is not enough time and I haven't finished it. Not only is Nioh difficult, it's very long. However, with the time I've had, I'm confident in saying it is a must-have for fans of the genre, and I look forward to diving back in.

Nioh

Platform: Playstation 4
Rating: R13
Verdict: A punishing ride through a hellish Japan