Friday, January 18, 2013
Review: Enslaved: Odyssey To The West
At times, I find myself cleaning up my excess inventory so that I don't look like a loser who has more video games than friends – that, and trading in PS3 games will reduce your next JB Hi-Fi DVD/video game binge by about ten bucks a pop. Very rarely do I give them a chance to plea their case, but Enslaved was a special game for me... a special kind of shit that doesn't quite smell like what I'd be used to, and it kind of looks different too, but... well, you know where this is going, so I'll talk about it a bit more formally. Enslaved is the kind of game that only really has one thing going for it, two things that have a lot of potential to make this game good, and a bunch of crap that just sticks to the wall and stinks up the joint.
In the future, most of humanity is wiped out by robots and nature has taken over. Okay, so far, so good. But then comes some sort of doomship, which is apparently a slave ship. But never fear – the badass known only as Monkey manages to bust out and... well, he attempts to escape, except most of the escape pods have already left the ship. There's one left, but some chick named Trip escapes in it. Never fear, as Monkey, the most badass video game character known to mankind, holds onto the pod as it drops about a quadrillion feet down onto the ground. But because Monkey is such a badass, he survives (barely, but he survives nevertheless). Trip likes a man who has nice big, rippling muscles that survive death defying stunts such as falling so many feet from the air not even god knows, so she installs a head piece that'll kill him if either she dies, they're too far away from each other, or if he leaves the toilet seat up. Given that Monkey could most likely survive a 2-on-1 handicap fight against Bruce Lee and a Bengol tiger, I guess you can say Trip's found the only method that can actually kill Monkey – what a smart chick. And hot. And... kind of a bitch now that I think about it. You can tell she doesn't like Monkey for his personality – she only likes him because even a punch right across the face from Captain Falcon would only deplete a small portion of his hit points.
Oh and there's some shit about mechs and how Trip has to head home so they journey to the west or some fucking bullshit nobody actually cares about because the story is so wafer thin that you can see right through it. The ending sucks harder than a Taiwanese hooker as it concludes jack shit and actually only serves to ask even more questions, but fuck it, this is a more character driven experience than anything. Despite my embelishment of Monkey's actions, he's not a likeable character and neither is Trip. Monkey is a meathead whose only positive characteristic is his Herculean strength, while Trip is sneaky and manipulative, although she's quite a tech wizz as she can hack into pretty much anything technological. In fact, the only likeable thing about the characters are how their relationship develops. It first starts off with Monkey only helping because he has no choice, but over time, he grows to like, even love her, and the feeling is reciprocated. I only wished that they were actually likeable – so much effort was put into characters that are unrealistically selfish and otherwise bland for survivors of some apocalypse. Halfway through, you meet another character and... oh wow, a likeable character! Why? Because – and get this – he has a personality that you can actually enjoy! Now, I don't know why he's so fucking fat, unless he always lucked out when his tribe or whatever had to eat each other and he hogged all the bodies for himself, but hey, he has a sense of humor that's enjoyable to be around! What's not to like about him... unless he smells bad...
What makes it suck is how unfulfilling every moment of gameplay really is. The platforming in this game not only took a few classes in the Uncharted school of platforming – quick, climb up the conveniently placed rocks – but for fucks sake, you can't even die! Monkey never misses a beat on those ledges. He will ALWAYS make it to the next stone or chasm or whatever because he's Monkey! He's a badass motherfucker and you mustn't forget that. Ever! To forget is to realize that the platforming and what it's really there for is like what happens in the Ninja Theory headquarters while they think of ways to unfairly deprive us of 60 buttfucking dollars because god forbid these jokers can actually make a game with good gameplay! I mean, if you want to know their true intentions, look no further than the puzzles and the chase sequences – the puzzles are just long, drawn out tedious lever puzzles that slow down the game and end up having less logic the further along you go; meanwhile, the chase sequences have you chasing something on some disc board and, unless you have no hand eye coordination, it's so easy to get to the big robot that kidnapped Trip. I suppose if I must spell it out for you - The chase sequences are just there to show off the pretty graphics while the puzzles are either easy or complete bullshit. Guess what they put more effort in?
Now, to be fair, there was a legitamate attempt at a combat system, which is fine by me because that's what you did more often than not. Sure, the enemy variety wasn't big and the attacks list is smaller than the Vita's sales figures, but with that came a more realistic (well, psuedo-realistic really) combat engine and really, every decision made here at least complimented one another. The enemy variety was necessary – you have your generic grunts, big guys, shield guys, big guys with shields and gunners. The combat list is a necessary response with a combo attack, a vertical attack, a charged attack, a sweep and two sorts of plasma bullets (attackers and stunners).
This is the kind of thing that'd work if Enslaved had deliberate pacing or, at the very least, was made by a developer who knew what they were doing. I mean it's not like either of the Batman Arkham games are teeming with variety or anything, and it seems like they have similar strengths too! But alas, Enslaved's combat doesn't give it much opportunity to have anything bounce off of themselves. Instead, it just feels like a mediocre hack and slash game that wanted a slice of that God Of War pie without making any effort to be as brutal or over the top as it, or even remotely fun for that matter. It always feels like it's just going through the motions, like in case they can't shoehorn some crappy puzzle or "cinematic" chase scene or if they're looking for ways to fill up time, it's like "oh there are now waves of enemies". Parts like that especially piss me off because it shows how wafer thin combat really is. There are only basic strategies like using stun plasma bullets and/or wailing on them with the combo attack, and since you're fighting so fucking often, it wears you down. A few scenarios try to be interesting by having enemies in different positions and having a good arrangement of enemies to try and dick you over, but those are far and few between – at other points, the lack of commitment behind execution of the combat engine shows like disgusting zits on a pair of E-cup titties.
It's a shame, because the game at least looks good. There's some pixellated textures offset by some blurry ones, and lag is immiment, but beyond that, it looks brilliant. The landscapes of this post-apocalyptic world look convincing. There's plenty of green and while a puking analogy would seem fitting, no, it actually looks rather serene. Whether it's the forest you start in or the city you eventually head towards, it looks so peaceful after the obliteration of most of mankind. The city is appropriately ravaged, with mossy, rusty metals and moldy old buildings. It really does feel like you're there and it's not some fucking desolate, radioactive wonderland either, which is what really stands out about this game. The animations are also rather smooth, especially the facial features. The emotions on their faces fit their dialogue and tone of voice, which helps to bring the story to life despite the actual story's insipidness.
Speaking of voice acting, the characters, mediocre as they are, have ace fucking voice actors. Each of the emotions conveyed by them is not only appropriate, but they're conveyed so well that they manage to really draw you into the experience! The only minor nitpick is that Monkey is a bit tricky to understand sometimes due to Andy Serkis's accent, but if people can stomach the Irate Gamer, then you should be fine with this. As for the soundtrack, it's mostly ambient pieces, though when it gets loud, it manages to make for some epic music during fights. Nothing really memorable or anything, but it's got decent enough ambiance and that's probably enough when it comes to soundtracks from this generation to be considered passable.
There is potential to be found in its story as the characters' relationship is very well developed, but the characters themselves are mostly unlikeable and the story itself is an afterthought, especially that disaster of an ending. There's also potential to be found in its combat, but it becomes an insipid chore the further in you go. That's it. There's more time put into its story and set pieces than the gameplay and it shows. Enslaved is more interested in jacking itself off and because it's got such a small dick, nobody else can give it a whack. Avoid this like Square avoids making progress on Final Fantasy Versus XIII.