29
Nov
10

Review — Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (Xbox 360)

Enslaved“Enslaved: Odyssey to the West” was created by Ninja Theory, a videogame development team that is known for its PlayStation 3 title, “Heavenly Sword.” The team has progressed since its PS3 debut, but the real question is: Did Team Ninja do enough or will it just enslave your wallet this fall?

WARNING: Text beyond this point may contain spoilers!

Story: 75
“Enslaved’s” story gives a nod to a famous Chinese folklore, “Journey to the West,” with its main character Monkey, who must go through a unique journey to reach enlightenment in a fictitious world.

As the game opens, Monkey is being held captive by a group of robotic slavers on a gigantic airship. Monkey finds a way to escape his holding cell and meets up with the game’s supporting female character, Trip, who plays a major role in the story but a minor role in gameplay.

In Monkey’s attempt to escape, he is knocked unconscious and awakens on the ground to find himself once again a slave, but this time to a suprising captor: Trip. Due to their escape from the airship, they are now 600 miles away from her home. Trips only hope is to enslave Monkey because she needs his help to get back to her land unharmed. This creates a tense bond between the two that keeps you interested in their ultimate outcome.

Enslaved

  • Price: $60
  • Concept: fun but mindless
    platforming and fighting
  • System: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Genre: Action
  • Length: Eight hours
  • Replay Value: Low
  • Recommendation: Rental
  • Score: 73

This story’s premise is bolstered with high production values, the game’s astounding voice acting and engrossing characters. The world is believable, and Team Ninja’s clever use of an apocalyptic setting is pivotal in immersing players from the start. The team didn’t limit their graphical presentation to the greys and browns we have been accustom to in recent post apocalyptic games. Instead they used vivid color palettes and landscapes, providing an inspired setting with a fresh look.

After this brief first level, the story is spread thin. After fighting your way through countless robots, you return Trip to her homeland, where you learn that it has been overrun by slavers. Trip is enraged from the events that unfold but comes back to reality with Monkey’s help and a plan for vengeance. She wants to find out who is behind the robots and their motive for taking everyone captive.

This is the only other piece of main story you will encounter in the entirety of the game’s 14 levels, which is a disappointment, considering the game’s potential. The hook is catchy from the start but loses its hold after the levels begin to blur and drag on.

At the end of the game, there is an epilogue that explains why the slavers are taking the citizens and reveals the cards the game has been holding back. The game’s final revelation, although not bad, is out of place and doesn’t fit the game’s overall continuity.

When confronting the man behind the robotic army, it is a real human actor, which is distracting from the games fantasy-art style and animated characters. This makes for an unfitting and awkward closing to what could have been a profound revelation.

Gameplay: 70
The gameplay that “Enslaved” employs is solid, but repetitive at the same time. Monkey never gains more than a few attacks that stick with him for the entirety of the game, and this is hard to overlook in a game where combat is the primary form of interaction.

Primarily, you destroy your foes with hand-to-hand combat via your energy staff. You can break up the combat, occasionally, by shooting stun and explosive projectiles, provided you have the ammo, which in most levels is limited.

By collecting orbs, you are given the ability to upgrade your heath, shields and attack power, but the overall combat ends up being simple. When you’re not turning robots into useless junk, you’re traversing the games environments with a rudimentary form of platforming.

The game is comparable to Naughty Dog’s “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” providing similar advantages and disadvantages. You never get the sense of precise timing, or the accomplishment of a daring leap because the game controls all of these aspects for you. This kind of platforming becomes mindless gameplay that comes off as weak development and only serves to take control away from the player.

Graphics: 80
“Enslaved” is being powered by Epic’s now mainstream Unreal Engine. Due to the widespread use of this game engine, “Enslaved” falls into the same graphical category of the countless other titles that use it: stale.

I like the Unreal Engine, but it seems as if no game makes use of it in a distinct way, and this game is no different. I would like to see this world with an original game engine that makes it feel new and unique, not just “re-skinned.”

The character models are believable, but the animations can get awkward outside of cutscenes. Trip, in particular, could have used more attention to her animations and move set.

Despite the game’s unoriginal engine, it has some stunning locations with exceptional art direction and color palettes. The environments within the levels are repetitive, but overall the game moves at a face pace, which helps to keep the player from noticing.

Design: 60
Design is one of the major downfalls of “Enslaved,” and this factor is what separates successful games from bargain-bin games. The design of the game is hindered by a rinse-and-repeat concept.

You always platform the same way through every level, and, by the time it’s over, you feel as if you have played the same level 14 times. The enemies never change from a handful of robots that are fought the same way throughout every level.

This repetition, mixed with mindless platforming, makes for a mundane experience. If you couple that with the fact that you don’t have much story to go by, it makes “Enslaved” hard to finish, even if you want to see who’s behind all the chaos.

Audio: 80
The voice acting in “Enslaved” is a notch above what most games have to offer. Ninja Theory isn’t shy to cast a professional set of voice actors, and it shows. The characters, although they may look odd, have voice actors that sell you on their performances . I wasn’t thoroughly impressed by the musical score, but it served its purpose in this setting.

Conclusion:
Overall, I came away from my experience feeling disappointed. I can’t help but feel like this game didn’t really matter to me. The player will have fun for a little while, but its easy to forget and there is no incentive or reason to play it again.

It almost seems as if the developers came up with a good combat idea and story but never went beyond that — neither one was fully realized or fleshed out. This leaves the player feeling uninvolved and bored as they mindlessly tap “A” to get from one area to another.

This doesn’t mean that enjoyment cannot be had with “Enslaved,” but its price is hard to justify for eight hours of gameplay. If you’re looking for a brief distraction this fall, then renting this game is your best option.

Overall Score: 73

Written by Jeremy Lloyd/Edited by Ben Wade


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