XI
you are not logged in
Review

Review: Enslaved: Odyssey To The West

Destroyed beauty.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on Enslaved for quite some time now for one simple reason – Ninja Theory’s previous game ‘Heavenly Sword’.  Whilst the actual gameplay was good, it was the character development that kept me hooked, and I was genuinely drawn to Nariko and Kai in their desperate fight for survival.  The prospect of another game like that made me very excited indeed.

Enslaved starts with one of the main protagonists – Monkey – imprisoned aboard a flying slave ship heading for parts unknown.  This journey is interrupted by a young red haired woman – Trip – who has snuck aboard and overloaded the systems, causing a malfunction and a fair few explosions – one of which knocks over Monkey’s cell, damaging it enough for him to escape.  What follows is a tutorial of sorts, as you guide Monkey through the burning ship looking for an escape pod.

You eventually locate an escape pod, but unfortunately Trip is in it and isn’t very keen on letting Monkey in – mainly because he looks enraged.  The pod ejects with Monkey clinging on for dear life, and crash lands some way away – knocking him unconscious.  When Monkey comes to he finds Trip has fitted him with a slave headband, meaning he does what she says or gets zapped right in the brain with an energy pulse – oh, and if Trip dies, the headband overloads and Monkey dies with her.  Trip’s assignment is simple; she needs to get home – which is 300 miles away across an Earth destroyed by war and patrolled my ’Mechs’ - and needs Monkey’s help.  How can he refuse?  (He can’t).

The first thing you will notice about Enslaved is the striking visual style that has been produced using the Unreal Engine.  Gears of War may have coined the phrase ‘Destroyed Beauty’ – but Enslaved takes this to the next level.  Cities have been devastated and left for so long that nature has taken over.  The juxtaposition of organic and man-made is breathtaking to behold, and on the occasion you get high enough the view of the city makes you stop in awe.

At its heart Enslaved is a third person adventure game in the same vein as Uncharted 2.  Traversing the land involves lots of climbing, puzzle solving and manipulating the surrounding environment.  As his name would suggest, Monkey is very athletic and as such does the bulk of the work throughout the game.  Climbing feels very much like it does in Assassins Creed – where you just have to jump in the general direction of the next hand hold and Monkey will automatically snap to it.  Anything that can be climbed has a slight shimmer to it, and whilst some of you may not like that idea it is an absolute God send in the later levels when things get hectic – and believe me they get very hectic.

Trip is the electronics wizard of the pair, and can normally be found hacking doors, hatches, and generally anything with a power supply.  Whilst you never take control of Trip directly, you do interact with her throughout the journey by carrying her over dangerous terrain, or throwing her (yes you read that correctly) over gaps she wouldn’t be able to jump.  Early on Trip also takes control of a robotic dragonfly which she programmes to be Monkey’s ‘eye in the sky’ – spotting landmines, scanning enemies and pointing out structural weaknesses.

It’s not all about the puzzles though, as the Mechs are on the prowl and hunting you down.  This is where Monkey’s combat staff comes in handy.  The weapon has a combination of melee attacks – quick and weak, or slower more powerful hits.  The staff can also be charged to release a quick burst of energy which will stun enemies with pesky shields.  Plasma can also be collected throughout the levels which act as ammunition for the staff, allowing it to fire energy bolts which become essential in later levels.  As if that wasn’t enough the staff also provides a limited shield capability.  Monkey also has a ‘Cloud’ which can be deployed in certain areas.  This is essentially a hard to control hoverboard which allows access over dangerous ground.

Combat is definitely not Enslaved’s strong point – which is odd considering Heavenly Sword was all about the fighting.  The melee feels a bit cumbersome, and a lock-on feature is sorely missed as things can get very confusing.

Collecting ‘Tech Orbs’ that are scattered about allows you to purchase upgrades that will better key areas of your staff, or increase your health.  If I’m being totally honest I found these upgrades a bit boring, and just ended up maxing out my health and shield.

The enemy Mechs you meet throughout the game are an odd bunch.  The generic grunts are boring as hell, both to look at and to fight, but every time you are on the verge of becoming disinterested Ninja Theory pulls a surprise out of their hat and introduces one of the more gruesome varieties.  I won’t spoil them all here, but I will say being tracked down by a giant Mech dog was one of my more unsettling game experiences of 2010.

By far the highlight of the game though is the story and character development.  Alex Garland provides a compelling adventure which is complimented wonderfully by Nitin Sawhney’s musical score.  Watching the relationship between Monkey and Trip develop is a genuine pleasure and one of my highlights of the year.  A special mention also needs to go to the quality of the voice acting as it never misses a beat, or dissolves into hammy overacting as it did in some parts of Heavenly Sword – that game was the tester, whereas Enslaved is the real deal.

So that’s it then right?  Awesome game – ten out of ten.  Alas I wish that were the case – but Enslaved does have a few flaws that stop it from reaching greatness.  The camera is appalling, and in the heat of battle it will frequently freak out, spin around and face anywhere but where you need it to.  There are also a few occasions where you have to defeat wave after wave of enemies – and it feels like these sections could have been made a lot shorter.  Having to defeat so many enemies in a row is boring and a lesson in frustration.

There are also a number of visual glitches such as screen tear and textures popping in and out of existence – and whilst this doesn’t bother me I know it’s a problem some people like to be made aware of.  What does bother me though is some horrendous slowdown towards the end of the game when things get crazy.  I appreciate there is a lot happening on screen, but I have seen games deal with a similar amount without any bother at all.  Top marks for ambition though – the end level is a peach!

Pros

  • Fantastic visual style
  • Great musical score
  • Compelling story
  • Character development
  • Nice combination of puzzles and platforming

Cons

  • Appalling camera
  • Combat can get repetitive
  • Lots of glitches
  • Slowdown

I’ve agonised over what score to give Enslaved.  I desperately want to give it a ten purely for its fantastic story, but a fantastic story does not a good game make – it needs the gameplay to back it up and that’s where Enslaved falls down in places.  What we are left with is a flawed masterpiece, but one that you definitely need to play.

Score: 8/10

52 Comments
  1. Kamokazi-UK
    Member
    Since: Sep 2009

    I may have missed it, but what was this reviewed on? I’m under the impression that this one was a multi-format game.

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:12.
    • cc_star
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Forever

      Same game on PS3 & 360

      As usual for multi-platform games, its engine works better on the 360, so if you own both consoles and would like less screen tearing or framerate drops then that may be worth a look, but it’s not perfect on there either, just better.

      Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:21.
      • nemesisND1derboy
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        Actually, its “as usual for Unreal Engine 3 games. Games can be done better on PS3, read F1 2010, Final Fantasy XIII and Castlevania as examples. If devs put the work in, the difference can be seen!

        Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 18:35.
      • skibadee
        Member
        Since: Oct 2009

        that’s not true for every game cc_star.

        Comment posted on 12/10/2010 at 03:23.
    • Dan Lee
      Common like the rest of us.
      Since: Jun 2010

      the review copy was PS3

      Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:21.
  2. Porcupine_I
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    this game has a great story and fantastic storytelling. i loved it and i can forgive the glitches, although i think it would have deserved a better presentation/Engine.

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:18.
  3. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Good read, good review. I dont know why, but, I am just not exicited by this game. I might give it a look when its hovering around the £15.00 mark but at the moment I just dont feel the need to rush out and get it?

    Strange as its got a good mark from you guys too…..

    Is it me?, whats the general mood surrounding this game?

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:21.
    • Dan Lee
      Common like the rest of us.
      Since: Jun 2010

      i think everyone loves the story, but not so hot on the gameplay mechanics

      Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:22.
    • rht992
      Member
      Since: Apr 2009

      they story is great, settigns great, the combat is a bit flawed but when you get to the half way point it kind of makes sense and you learn the eb and flow of fighting. basically go get it!

      Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 13:18.
  4. Person678
    BOOM! Headshot!
    Since: Jan 2009

    Personally I’m loving every second of it. The combat is great in my opinion once you’ve picked up the counter and focus moves to broaden things a bit. Haven’t had problems with the camera either. Can see what you mean though.

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:24.
    • Dan Lee
      Common like the rest of us.
      Since: Jun 2010

      very interesting youve not had camera issues; mine just wouldnt behave at all

      Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:29.
      • Person678
        BOOM! Headshot!
        Since: Jan 2009

        Haven’t had any noticeable problems with it at all – Not massively far into the game yet though, Chapter 5 I think.

        Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:41.
      • Person678
        BOOM! Headshot!
        Since: Jan 2009

        Camera that is. Agree on the glitches, had a bit where the bridge didn’t go down so had to restart from the checkpoint.

        Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:42.
  5. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Nice review, very nicely written. I’ve also been following this game over the past few weeks and have really enjoyed the opening sequence you get to play in the demo. I’m going to join love film, there’s simply too many games now that deserve a playthrough or 2, without warranting the 40 quid purchase price such as this. In future, i’ll only be actually buying games that i’ll be keeping for months and going back to time and again.

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:25.
  6. bugsy6
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    Yep this for PS3 and Xbox 360, not sure which it may be better on, but considering heavenly sword was a PS3 exclusive maybe they are mmore used to working with the PS3.

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:27.
  7. pOOpInFlames
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    I had lots of fun playing this game.
    Will trophy-whore this one

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:30.
  8. minerwilly
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    Is it a particularly long game ? I have some £1 Rental vouchers for 2 night rents.

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:34.
    • Dan Lee
      Common like the rest of us.
      Since: Jun 2010

      14 chapters each roughly 30-40 mins long

      Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 09:43.
      • RadicalMave07
        Member
        Since: Sep 2010

        wait, doesn’t that sound very similar to uncharted 2 and how it works?

        Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 10:08.
      • Ryan1991
        Member
        Since: May 2009

        Why? Because it uses chapter?

        Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 12:04.
      • rht992
        Member
        Since: Apr 2009

        no its pretty much the same system as their first game which came out before uncharted

        Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 13:20.
      • minerwilly
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        Thanks Dan for your reply , I guess I can rent it twice .

        Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 17:09.
  9. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    Good review, although i was put off by the demo i might pick it up later at discount.

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 10:23.
  10. mcduff1979
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    i got this friday and i can safely say its a very enjoyable game and will keep playing it for some time to come

    Comment posted on 11/10/2010 at 10:48.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Latest Comments