Monday, November 22, 2010

Enslaved (PS3)

Escape from NY, the Island, Escape from LA and Running Man all have something in common.  They are cyberpunk stories of people trying to escape evil dictatorships in America.  Add Enslaved to the list as the official video game of that genre.

Ninja Theory is producing their second next gen game and Andy Serkis is still the acting director and voice for the characters.  For those of you light on your Lord of the Rings trivia, Andy Serkis is the animation director/voice behind Gollum.  But for those of you who weren’t lucky enough to experience his first game, Heavenly Sword, Enslaved has all the acting bells and whistles that you will need.


You play Monkey, a man with no past, no patience and great climbing skills.  He just wants to be free of the mysterious race of enslavers.  Instead, he meets Tripp.  She is a computer hacker with no street smarts to survive.  Instead she places a slave crown on you that forces you to help her get home safely (not a good first impression).

Monkey gets to do all the climbing missions, reaching from pole to ledge.  He also does all the robot fighting.  Tripp is the breadwinner of the relationship, pimping out Monkey with new gear, special upgrades and hacking.  She may be good with the computers, but she needs to be babysat a lot.

It's okay, you can come out.  I promise not to threaten to shank you.

Their relationship builds over the journey, as the two honeymooners work together to fight off the robot apocalypse.  The storytelling is superb in respect to it focusing on Tripp and Monkey’s relationship.  About thirty minutes near the end of the story the director decides to assume you have the backstory all mapped out and throws in a larger scheme.  Needless to say, it’s confusing near the end.

Best contestants for the show Amazing Race:
1. Prince of Persia
2. Lara Croft
3. Monkey
4. Nate from Uncharted
5. Mario with warp whistles


The game is one huge 3D game board filled with climbing, fighting and navigating—but mostly climbing.  Climbing gives you a sense of how gigantic post apocalyptic America is.  Since the game doesn’t let you die from falling, it is incredibly easy to jump from ledge to ledge.  In fact, the game won’t let you jump at all unless you are near a ledge where you can transverse.  This is helpful for anyone who has ever died millions of cheap deaths from a bad camera in Prince of Persia or Tombraider.  The downside is that you can be stuck on a tiny ledge with no way to get down because your character isn’t positioned in the right place to hop.  Finding the next pole or ledge can be tricky when you are trying to find the next sparkling piece of scenery to grab onto.  Luckily, most of the swinging levels are smooth sailing.  They really aren’t meant for challenge as much as they are to show you the great level design.

Combat is equally smooth and refreshing, though the melee is very limited.  You either have to fight droves of robots or you have to sneak up on a few mechs and take control.  Certain parts of the game ask you to take command of a certain robot and use their carcass as an EMP, explosive or as a machine gun turret.  These were the exciting parts of the game and I would have loved to see more utilization of mech takeovers.  Combat is probably the hardest part of the game because you can get ghetto stomped by four mechs at once and half of them have a shield that needs a special EMP move to knock out.  There are parts of the game where turret guns are blowing away your cover and you have a limited supply of plasma lasers.  Upgrading your weapons and shield are a good way to combat this, but you’ll notice the difficulty is still present.  Checkpoints are in odd places in a few parts of the game.  Sometimes they are right next to each other and other times it feels like an entire desert is between you and the next one.  In some cases, your checkpoint is before a substantial cutscene and you’ll have to sit through it again (unless you smash all the buttons and learn to pass it).  It’s not a deal breaker, but it is kind of an easy fix.


Ninja Theory blew everyone away when they had the PS3 with Heavenly Sword.  Now that we are clearly three years past that, how do these graphics look now that the PS3 and Xbox360 have it?  The PS3 version is colorful and the outdoor terrain is absolutely gorgeous.  Some of the in game cutscenes start off with some frame rate hiccups.  In later levels I found the sound cutting out for no apparent reason.  The loading of environments was slow as you could clearly see the textures rendering in the background in some cutscenes.  Ninja Theory has some great art design and some of the best art direction I have seen in a game, but their hardware might have some issues.
Monkey is the kind of guy who loses his Tripp, but realizes she was on his back the whole time.

The music is a mix of Matrix techno and epic drama orchestra, which adds to the tension and fury of the battle.

Best Game Story Rankings
  1. Alan Wake
  2. Resident Evil 4
  3. Final Fantasy 7
  4. Metal Gear Solid
  5. Heavenly Sword
  6. Enslaved


Probably the most engaging part of this game is the story and the characters.  Monkey and Tripp grow to trust in one another when they find out their lives depend on one another’s strengths and abilities.  Like most clich√© buddy films, both characters eventually get onboard to complete the ultimate goal.  But like in real life, if two people have conflicting goals, one usually has to surrender their goal so both can work together.  Rarely is a partnership 50-50 and lots of married couples will agree.  In the story, Monkey has to give up his freedom to help Tripp find her home.  At the end of the story, they are both working together, united as one.  Who will give up their life to work with you?  Better yet, who would you give up your freedom for just to help?

Content: PG-13
S words: plenty
Lord’s name taken in vain: plenty
Tripp’s outfit: Good for raving
Pigsy Character: A little weird

       + Great acting and character chemistry
+ Good balance of climbing and fighting
+ Taking over mechs is fun
--    More variety in melee would have been nice
-      Graphical nuances
--      The story drops off


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