(R) Enslaved (PS3/360)

October 11th, 2010 -

Summary: Enslaved tells a story about a man without a past and a girl just trying to get home. The gameplay varies between God of War/Uncharted-esque platforming and Heavenly Sword style gameplay. For good reason too, considering this game is made by the same folks who gave us Heavenly Sword. The overall plot is cookie cutter, but it’s in an interesting enough setting that the cliche plot can be forgiven – possibly even make up for such an issue. There’s a good chance that you will guess what’s going to happen next; however, you won’t care because you’re having too much fun.

The Good

Setting and Locations: It’s rare in a game that I’ll literally stop what I’m doing and just take in the scenery. A couple note worthy games would be Uncharted 1 and 2, as well as Gran Turismo. Sure, it’s set in a post apocalyptic future where pretty much everyone is dead and everything is all broken and torn down, but it’s the way that it is presented that’s both interesting and beautiful. Unlike Fallout where they choose a dark brown “everything is radiated” look, Enslaved went for a “everything is returning to Eden” look. Seeing commonly know structures of today covered in lush green jungle like foliage gives it an awkwardly beautiful look that’s somewhere in between Uncharted 1 and Fallout 3.

The Hover board: Typically these “sections” that developers add to mix up the gameplay usually end in tears of frustration or tears of boredom. This was actually one of my favorite things about Enslaved, and I was quite bummed that you couldn’t just drop your hover board down whenever you wanted. The animation made it look fun to ride, and the control made it simple enough to understand. On top of all that, with the exception of one time, you’re always in an open free roaming environment to “skate” around and explore, finding hidden collectibles.

Basic Gameplay: The basic gameplay in this wasn’t quite as button mashy as God of War or Ratchet and Clank, but resembled the design. If you imagine an enemy you have fought against in these types of games that blocks everything you do, until you catch it on a back-swing or roll behind it, that pretty much summarizes 90% of the enemies in this game. Which kept it interesting and added suspense when needed. Instead of fighting off hordes of enemies, you typically only face 4 or so at a time, and even then you take on 1 at a time. Sometimes they will get frisky and gang bang you, but typically you have time to strategize your next move.

What Escort? Even though the skeptics stereotyped this as one giant escort mission (*shivers*), I was surprised to find that this was not the case. You play as the Guy swinging the staff around protecting the girl who is all brains and can hack into things. She also has a distraction command that you can ask her to do at any given time if you are being pinned down. So in essence, it’s less escort/more co-op with a CPU.

Character Design and Portrayal: Initially the main characters name threw me: Monkey? At first it seemed like they were just playing on the fact that he jumps around like a monkey. The more I thought about it, it finally dawned upon me. It seems that Monkey is based off The Monkey King, who is the main character in the novel Journey to the West. The Monkey King is a pretty popular mythical character and has been recently portrayed by Jet li in The Forbidden Kingdom and has also shown up as DLC for Little Big Planet. The game isn’t an accurate portrayal of the character or story, but loosely ties around the original story for its basic character structure. Its pretty obvious now huh? (interview with Andy Serkis)

The voice acting in this game was great, in some cases on par with Uncharted. I like the way they start and build the relationship with the 2 leads and… I wish I could say more, but if I did I would have to spoil the plot. I will say the ending left me a little confused, so pay attention.

The Bad

Aiming: Part of the gameplay is the ability to shoot “plasma” from your staff like a rocket. This is a welcome addition to the melee gameplay and adds a nice balance so that you won’t get too bored of one or the other. However, this comes at a cost. What kind of cost? Well, it’s almost useless… Even if your aim is spot on with your target (and mind you there are cross-hairs for the weapon and a cross-hair on your target, and they both turn red when you are lined up), the room for error is measured in nanometers. In many occasions I would fire one off at an enemy charging at me and it would literally go right through them. Without spoiling anything, there are some crucial moments that require you to make a shot on a target that’s no bigger then the end of your staff, and it’s moving around. Controller twisting frustration…

Choppy Gameplay: In the tutorial it tells you that if an enemy has a shield up, just tuck and roll behind him and get him while he’s off guard. Yeah., about that… sometimes when you try this you will either clip into his animation and end up right smack in front of him, or he will clip and instantly turn around. This kind of an issue can make monkey look like a Metroid ball pretty quickly.

Audio: While the character delivery was great, the audio sync left a little to be desired. It didn’t completely ruin the experience, but at times when the cut-scene is about 10 seconds behind on the audio it breaks the connection to the experience. If that wasn’t enough, there were some moments when large chunks of metal were slamming into each other and monkey was ju
mping with no sound at all, except for the girl telling you to watch out. This wasn’t a one time “oops we missed that” issue. There were quite a few spots where I see something happening but there’s no audio to justify that it’s actually happening. To its credit there were a couple moments in Uncharted and other games where this happened, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as this.

Difficulty Spike: Lucky for me that I play fighting games. As the game progresses, the difficulty of the enemies do not get any harder, until the very end. Sure, there are sub boss battles, but they almost felt like training sessions so that they can just add them into the cue of bad guys to throw at you. At any given time you battle maybe no more then 4-5 enemies on screen at once, until the end. I would have liked to have seen a more fluid progression on that. It only threw me off slightly, but I can see how other people who play this might get a little frustrated with it.

I BEAT IT! Now What?: After beating the game I was hoping for more. Challenge rooms? New gameplay mechanic? Custom character skin or something to encourage me to go back and play it again… But alas, nothing. The menu has an option for DLC, but there isn’t anything available right now. At the moment, the only reason I would go back and play this game is to collect all the collectible items that I missed. If you’re interested in that, then they have nicely added a chapter selection feature which outlines how many more of each collectible you have left in that chapter. Honestly though, I’m typically not that type of gamer, and if I had bought this and not rented it, I might go back and collect everything, but chances are I wouldn’t.

Final Verdict:

Enslaved took me on a thrilling Odyssey to the West – it had its happy moments, it had its sad moments. It showed me that “Hey not just God of War can pull this off” … “Not just Uncharted can look this good” … “We can do that too,” and they did. Which leaves me with a bitter sweet taste. On one hand I loved Enslaved, and I kind of wish I bought it instead of renting it, because I really enjoyed it. On the other hand, all that it brought to the table was everyone else’s ideas dressed up in one package, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Sure, you can debate that this game is “basically this and this and this,” but more than others… Enslaved feels like someone sat down and played some of the Game of the Year games of the past few years, took notes, and said “Hey! US TOO!”

I can’t blame them for trying – this is a business, and if this is what’s going to sell, then go for it. It just didn’t feel very original. In the end though, regardless of if it was a rip off game, or it had some tech issues, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I don’t regret playing it at all. I’m not sure how to call this one, I strongly suggest playing it… but due to its lack of replay-ability, I can’t fully stand behind buying it.

Score:
Rent

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