The logic is sound. For decades gamers have been called upon to rescue the American president, be it indirectly in staving off threat of invasion to US soil in Modern Warfare or directly, in thwarting kidnap attempts in Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja.
One way or another, we've saved the President more times than Princess Peach. So no wonder Team Ninja has turned to the British Prime Minister in search of an alternate international figure to assume the role of hostage in need of rescue. Variety is the spice of life. Even for a cold, emotionless ninja like Ryu Hayabusa.
Nevertheless, as compelling premises go, Ninja Gaiden III's opening political gambit is lost a little in translation. David Cameron is about as unappealing a damsel in distress as it's possible to imagine (try it now: that reflection-in-the-back-of-a-spoon visage, framed by a flowing blonde wig, fluttering fake eyelashes at you as you carry him in your arms down the winding staircases of Big Ben).
Besides, Cameron always has his sleeves so precisely rolled-up in public in order to show the nation that he's perpetually primed for action. Let him fight off the bogie men. A few flesh wounds might inspire him to hang on to the NHS a little longer. At the very least get a Brit to carry out the rescue attempt. Perhaps we could get Lara Croft back from raiding those foreign tombs (or better still, a man!). Those Japanese ninjas, coming over here, stealing our jobs.
While satire might be some way down the list of Team Ninja's aims and objectives in this, the first Ninja Gaiden to be developed away from the steering hand of series producer Tomonobu Itagaki, lazy stereotyping appears to be top priority.
The 20-odd minute E3 demo features a parade of English clichés, from the Dick Van Dyke cockney accents of the Prime Minister's kidnappers you slice and dice around Downing Street ("Looks like we've got another Jack The Ripper on our hands" remarks one soldier upon finding his chopped up comrade, with biting 19th Century relevance), to the heavy fog that swirls around.
But beneath the stereotypes, Ninja Gaiden III enjoys many of the characteristics that, before Bayonetta at least, had made this Japan's premier hack and slash export. You've two primary sword attacks: one light, one heavy. Stringing these adjectives together in different combinations will create a variety of brutal offensive sentences.
Combos can be maintained and swelled by throwing pitter-patter shuriken between attacks, and occasionally a QTE-style button press will pop-up on screen in the middle of a sequence, a trigger for a more spectacular set-piece finishing move. Likewise, after a sufficient number of successive hits, Hayabusa's fist will glow red, a signal that you can insert an earth-shaking special move which will see the ninja automatically flit from enemy to enemy in the immediate vicinity, killing each in a flurry of lethal cuts.
As yet there is no combo counter on the HUD, so there seems to be less emphasis on high-score multipliers than in genre cousins Devil May Cry and Bayonetta here. Nevertheless, there's a steady stream of enemies thrown in your direction as you fight in streets with upturned Routemaster buses in the light of a silvery, Peter Pan moon. In the moment-by-moment interactions the game dazzles, with quick, responsive attacks that pack a visceral punch, showing the team's pedigree, even in the absence of its sensei.
Set piece follows set piece in Ninja Gaiden's latest, with a more steady stream of QTE interactions than seen in previous titles. At times, it almost spills into the kind of pantomime absurdity seen in From Software's 2009 Ninja Blade, convoluted button combinations used to send Hayabusa from the top of the Houses of Parliament into a gliding swan dive down onto his enemies in sequences that bend even the liberal physics of the ninja cinematic tradition.
At other times, the QTEs are tiresome and mundane, as you alternately squeeze the left and right triggers to climb a tall wall, stopping to takedown any enemy stupid enough to look over the edge down at you. Nevertheless, Team Ninja integrate micro-set pieces to the flow of battle with some elegance and, in the demo's final face off with a giant mechanical spider robot whose legs you must chop at in order to bring it to its knees, Ninja Gaiden III succeeds in matching its forebears for imparting a sense of unstoppable power in its player.
Less welcome are the invisible walls that punctuate every street in the demo. At times you're forced to walk around a car as trying to leap over its bonnet will see you pushed back by some unseen force of code. It's an anachronistic design characteristic and Tecmo Koei should be under no illusion that it makes Ninja Gaiden III feel out-dated from first touch. Every video game must have its borders. But wherever possible, they should match the visual extremities of a play space, and far too often Ninja Gaiden's invisible walls draw closer than its environment assets.
Visually the game is gorier than its predecessors. Fallen enemies crawl, mortally wounded along the concrete as you carry on the fight around them, while Hayabusa will run an unsuspecting foe through twice if you manage to sneak up behind him undetected.
The camera spins and pans, slowing time to take in particularly brutal executions, while blood fountains from wounds, splattering the pavement around. The developer does manage to splice together the ancient Japanese mythology of its theme with contemporary world seamlessly, as an eagle descends to Hayabusa's shoulder to save the game, just before a helicopter streaks overhead and turns its cannons toward you.
It's a reveal of mixed quality, then. Team Ninja has undoubtedly managed to keep the tone and feel of the series despite Itagaki's departure (no doubt aided by Ninja Gaiden Sigma director Yousuke Hayashi's steering). But the overreliance on QTEs at this stage in the development will split the audience. It may just be a result of the developer attempting to pack as many set pieces into the demo as possible, but following Simon Says button prompts will never be as fun as writing the interactive story oneself, and the balance currently seems off.
Likewise, while Ninja Gaiden has always been a series that carves a linear path for the player to follow, unless some of the more prominent invisible walls felt here are lifted, or arranged in more thoughtful ways, players may bang their heads against them once and not bother a second time.