Aliens: Colonial Marines – Review (PS3)

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Aliens: Colonial Marines has been in development for so many years it almost became a running joke. And then over the last 12 months Gearbox and SEGA really got to grips with the game and showed off some pretty stunning demos at trade events.

Set after the Aliens film and before/during the events of Alien 3, Colonial Marines sees you take control of Cpl. Winter as a group of Marines make their way to the ship U.S.S Sulaco and, later in the game, LV-426 (the planet Aliens takes place on). Their mission is to find and rescue the missing Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop.

So the set up is kind of cool and as someone who loves the second Aliens movie I was really looking forward to finally going on another ‘bug hunt’. Sadly, what follows is a 5 hour trudge through a lot of similar looking corridors with a few open sections to break things up.

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Graphically the game just looks like a pale shadow of what was shown before release. Even if that was on a maxed out PC I’d expect the PS3 version to get somewhere close, look at Battlefield 3 for example. Colonial Marines can look good in places but lacks the polish and lighting of the pre-release stuff we saw.

The AI is quite bad and becomes more noticeable in co-op play because on several occasions all the enemies just targeted ‘Player One’, ignoring the other Marines entirely. For a large chunk of the game you’re fighting human soldiers as opposed to Aliens and it’s just not that fun.

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My main complaint with Aliens: Colonial Marines is the hit detection on the shooting. So many times I scored a direct hit with the red dot sight, only for it not to register at all. It makes the shooting so frustrating because I never felt fully in control of the weapons.

Sadly this also makes it way over to multiplayer, which is even more infuriating. The amount of times I was killed by another player while spraying bullets into them was ludicrous and made the online side of things a disappointment.

It’s not all bad, it has to be said. The pulse rifle sound effect is fantastic and the blips of the tracker are cool. I do wish they had used that to better effect though. Just a dash of horror in amongst the shooting would’ve been great. Some of the levels were enjoyable but the least said about the return of a character from the film the better.

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The characterisation and voice acting doesn’t do the game any favours, with more than one character suddenly having an attack of the ‘Cole Phelps‘ and randomly shouting lines when you’re right next to them. Considering how strongly you care about the characters in the Aliens films it’s disappointing to have no connection with the ones from the game.

Unfortunately somewhere along the line (and the events of that ‘line’ are a hot topic – check out Jim Sterling’s recent post) the game has gone backwards since the gameplay we were shown last year. I don’t ever recall seeing a game look so removed from the demos we saw. I know people always say Killzone 2 didn’t quite match up to it’s initial trailer but at least it was close. And the Aliens demos were GAMEPLAY demos, not rendered trailer footage. See below for a comparison video:

Aliens: Colonial Marines is a serviceable first person shooter with some dodgy hit detection. This is not the Aliens game we wanted or even the one were we shown before release. A massive missed opportunity that could’ve started a series of these games.

Rating: 4/10

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The Walking Dead – Review (PS3)

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I watched the first TV series of The Walking Dead and really enjoyed it. I liked Telltale Games ‘Back To The Future‘ games but their form has been patchy (their Jurassic Park game was widely panned) so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this game.

Firstly this *isn’t* based on the TV series although it does take place in the same Walking Dead universe as the comics which the TV show is based on. Slightly confusing but the main thing is that this is an entirely different set of characters.

You play as Lee Everett, a university professor. As the game opens you are in the back of the Sheriff’s car on your way to prison for the murder of your wife’s lover. Thankfully for Lee the zombie apocalypse comes at just the right time and you end up having to escape from the cop car to survive.

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Soon afterwards Lee meets a 9-year-old girl, Clementine, who is alone because her parents are out of town and her babysitter… well I won’t say any more 🙂 . Lee takes her under his wing and they try to get somewhere safe and work out what the hell is going on.

The Walking Dead is a point and click adventure game, which means while you’ll have some freedom of movement you’re limited to small areas and different object to interact with.

Mainly you’ll be talking to the other characters and learning about the group of people you’ve ended up banded together with. And this is where the game shines.

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Firstly it’s a cast of well written and acted characters. And secondly the writers aren’t afraid to put you in some very difficult situations, usually ending in you having to make a choice that will alienate one of the group. It’s tense stuff and because most the choices have a timer running down, you’ll often feel a sense of panic because you’re being forced to make a call on something quickly when you’d love more time to think it over.

The game has lots of different ways to play out, although the overall narrative remains the same regardless of how you play. At the end of each episode you also get a breakdown of what percentage of other players made the same choices as you. This is a real eye opener at times! Certainly on one choice I presumed everyone would do the same only to discover at the end of the episode I was in a 12% minority!

The biggest compliment I can pay the game is that Clementine is a believable representation of a child. I’ve never seen a child character in a game before that had so many of the nuances and speech patterns of a real child. And I strongly believe that is the reason so many people had such a strong emotional reaction to this game.

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Telltale set up the relationship between Lee and Clementine in an identical way to the relationship you have when you have your own child in real life. What I mean by that is that when you bring home your newborn child it can’t fend for itself. It needs your help and support until it becomes strong enough to start looking after itself. Of course the real life bond is much more than can be conveyed in a game but I genuinely believe Telltale have given a lot of people a little taste of what being a parent is like. If you don’t believe me (and have finished the game – beware spoilers if not) check out the huge amounts of #ForClementine hashtags on Twitter!

The game was released in episode format over the course of months rather than weeks. I picked up the bundle before Christmas and I’d recommend doing the same at this stage – I believe the first episode is available free as a demo. If you haven’t played it you should definitely check it out. I would’ve loved to have experienced it spread out, for season two I will do just that.

The Walking Dead isn’t perfect. I encountered a glitch at one stage whereby I couldn’t continue the game. My character essentially fell through the train he was supposed to be on every time I went through a specific door. Thankfully a reset and reload solved the problem but I’ve heard of some people having other problems as well. Nothing major though and when the story is this good it’s easy to forgive the odd issue here and there.

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Overall, I can’t praise this game enough. It’s a different style of game to the stuff I would usually play but through the excellent characters and writing, Telltale have delivered an emotionally charged and superbly crafted story that will likely leave you with a lot more emotional baggage than when you started. Play it. Now.

Rating: 10/10

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Haywire – Review (Film)

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Haywire opens with an explosive, brutal fight scene and barely pauses for breath until the credits roll.

It tells the story of Mallory Kane (played by MMA fighter Gina Carano), a mercenary of sorts who works for a shady company that has ties to the US government.

They handle all sorts of ‘operations’, ranging from hostage rescues to espionage. Soon enough Mallory realises something isn’t quite right and a conspiracy plot against her comes to light.

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As the film begins this is all already in the past. As Mallory makes an escape she ends up accompanied by a civilian, who she tells her story to and we get to see the events through flashbacks.

I really enjoyed Haywire, it had a good (if slightly predictable) storyline and Gina Carano was impressive as Mallory. Obviously her fighting background helped in terms of the physical scenes but she also acted well.

She had great support from a cast featuring Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Michael Fassbender. Channing Tatum also surprised me as I had heard from a few people that his general acting was poor. I don’t agree and while his character wasn’t massively demanding he did enough here to convince you. And finally a nice (if small) appearance from Bill Paxton never hurts 🙂

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Overall I thought Haywire was great. Nicely paced and with some spectacular fight scenes, it isn’t one for the fainthearted but if you like action movies then you should definitely check this one out.

Rating: 9/10

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Need For Speed: Most Wanted – Review (Vita)

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When I first saw screenshots and shot-off-screen footage of Need For Speed: Most Wanted I was quietly hopeful that maybe Criterion Games might be able to squeeze the Vita for all it’s worth.

And having got my hands on the game I can confirm that they most certainly did.

For the most part this is pretty much the exact same game as it’s console counterpart – having played a bit of the PS3 version the only differences I could see were changing weather, less traffic on the roads and the crashes were a bit less spectacular (cars in the Vita version don’t smash up as much).

To have managed to get the game onto the Vita with just minor changes is a feat unto itself – that the game also plays really well is the icing on the cake.

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Criterion have somehow got the entire PS3 map on here and graphically the game is gorgeous, although occasionally the action was so fast on the small screen I simply wasn’t quick enough to avoid the oncoming traffic. To be fair though that might also just be my ‘old-man’ reactions, perhaps younger readers will have no issues.

There are a plethora of cars and events to take part in and with the inclusion of Autolog you’re never far from trying to beat a friend’s time. The menu selection, using the D-Pad in game to select races, is a nice touch and means you don’t have to break from the action to set up races etc.

The online play, for up to 8 players, is reliable and solid – I haven’t experienced much in the way of disconnects etc. There is a full levelling system and separate mods to unlock for cars just on the multiplayer side and you can create your own events for people to take part in.

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Need For Speed: Most Wanted probably isn’t going to convert you into a driving fan if you don’t enjoy the genre but if you have even the slightest interest in racing games then this is the best thing out there for the Vita. Aside from the racing this is a stunning example of what can be achieved if the Vita version of a PS3 game isn’t simply handed to a third party to port over. It gives me hope for the future of the handheld!

Rating: 9/10

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GregHorrorShow’s Top 20 Multiplayer Maps

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I was looking back through some old blogs a couple of weeks ago and stumbled across my Top 10 Multiplayer Maps feature – I could not believe that was published way back in 2010!

Since then we’ve had lots of great online games featuring some superb level design – so here’s an update, with the 10 now 20:

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20. SAO PAULO BUS DEPOT (Max Payne 3)


Max Payne 3’s gritty, dark universe comes through in the multiplayer as well as the single player and Sao Paulo’s Bus Depot is a prime example. Run down and seemingly abandoned, the design of the map is fantastic. There are so many different ways in (and out) of the depot itself, as well as vertical levels, that you’re never far from trouble. Perfect for settling those Vendetta’s 🙂

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19. SYR DARYA UPLINK (MAG)

I haven’t played MAG for far too long but this was always my favourite of the huge maps on offer in the game. The initial capture points are perfectly placed and having them upstairs means it’s difficult to take but equally as difficult for the enemy if you do manage to secure it. The final point in the warehouse has so many twists and turns that it housed some epic battles for me.

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18. COURTYARD (Resistance Burning Skies)

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Sadly because of the lack of video for Vita games I don’t have footage for this one – but it’s probably the map I enjoyed most throughout my time with the Burning Skies multiplayer. Set in and around a two storey building, including the street it’s on, Courtyard is a mixture of up-close indoor gunfights and some longer range firefights on the street and surrounding areas. Perfectly designed for smaller 4v4 online battles.

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17. OPERATION 925 (Battlefield 3)

The Close Quarters DLC for Battlefield 3 is among the best DLC I’ve ever played. And the map design of the levels is the main reason for this. Operation 925 contains a host of destroyable walls/glass which means no-where is safe to hide! The video above is an excellent look around the level. As well as the two levels of the building you also have the underground car park to contend with, which opens out nicely after the tight corridors leading to it.

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16. VALPARAISO (Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

With plenty of hills to fight up/down on, this is a wonderfully varied map boasting four differently styled bases that will keep you entertained for ages. The mixture of jungle environments just within this map is a testament to how well made it is – you’ll start in dense jungle before breaking into the open for a while until eventually you’ll find yourself in another dense jungle setting for an enclosed final base.

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15. SEASIDE – GLAMORGAN, WALES (Resistance 3)

I still maintain that Resistance 3 was a hugely underrated game and that extends to the online. Glamorgan’s mix of small one floor barns/buildings makes for a strong map and while the bridge in the centre can be a choke point, the fact that you can also go around the sides means it never becomes too much of an issue. Raised platforms at each end also offer the opportunity for sniper fire but it’s when up-close and personal that the map thrives.

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14. HIGHRISE (Call Of Duty:Modern Warfare2)

I’m not a massive fan of Call Of Duty but the multiplayer is pretty fun in short bursts and the Highrise map is one of the highlights of the series. Set, essentially, in the upper floor of two buildings and on another building’s rooftop inbetween – this is a close quarters map with plenty of scope for sneaking into the enemies’ tower. One of my favourite tactics was using the lower walkways to get into the opposite tower and launch an attack behind the enemy – that is of course if I could get in without being spotted… easier said than done.

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13. LONDON UNDERGROUND (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)

Like almost all Uncharted online maps London Underground is based upon a single player campaign level. And this one runs the full gambit. Three vertical levels of fun and a speeding train that passes through the level, killing anyone in it’s path. Fortunately Naughty Dog also put some of the objectives on the tracks or near where the train passes, just to add to the chaos! This is a really well designed map with lots of entrances/exits to all rooms, meaning you’ll need to stay focussed to keep hold of objectives.

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12. FIREBASE GODDESS (Mass Effect 3)

Another multiplayer that I really need to spend some more time with is Mass Effect 3. Firebase Goddess is a great map with lots of ins-and-outs and a cool exterior section showing the destruction that has occurred at the base. With the play in Mass Effect 3 being horde-based the numerous entrances make for some tense moments and you’ll need a good squad of players to hold down locations and complete objectives on this one!

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11. DRONE (Call Of Duty: Black Ops II)

I’ve found that my taste in Call Of Duty games tend to favour the Black Ops side of things rather than the Modern Warfare series. In terms of multiplayer I’d say Drone is my favourite of any Call Of Duty map. Tightly designed with plenty of ways in (and out) of buildings, you’ll need to keep a constant eye in all directions to avoid enemies flanking you. The main room with the slide doors will have you second guessing yourself – everytime you hear the ‘swoosh’ of the door opening you have milliseconds to decide… friend or foe?

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10. MAWLR GRAVEYARD (Killzone 3)

Killzone 3 has a lot of maps that revolve around a specific feature and MAWLR Graveyard is no different. The central route through the map means going through the path of a metal crusher – activated by a button on a raised platform. It’s very satisfying to spot a group of enemy soldiers making a run for it, hit the button and watch the kills stack up. But you also have other ways around, with two rooms on each side for close quarters action – which are linked by an underground tunnel. Fantastic stuff.

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9. CASTEL GANDOLFO (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood)

The majority of levels in the Assassin’s Creed series have been effective but nothing special in my opinion. However Castel Gandolfo (a real province in Italy) is a fantastically made map that generates an amazing amount of tension during games. Set across two floors of the building, including some of the exterior as well, it’s crowded enough to lose your pursuers but not so busy that you can’t get a good chase on. Great placement of Trap Doors’ adds a further edge to proceedings.

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8. GRAND BAZAAR (Battlefield 3)

Battlefield 3 has given us some of the biggest maps ever seen on a console shooter and Grand Bazaar is a stunning example of how good design can enhance the player’s experience. Basically an alleyway with lots of entrances/exits and the ability to flank around both sides, this is a map that makes it easy to get caught up in the choke-point of the alley but gives you the option of stepping back from the carnage and making a dash via a different route to try and claim a flag. It’s this freedom of choice that makes Grand Bazaar such a strong map.

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7. THARSIS DEPOT (Killzone 2)

Set on the same refinery as the single player mission, Tharsis Depot is full of steel and has an elogated bottleneck between the bases down one side of the map. Co-incidentally that is also where one team has to defend in search and destroy – which usually leads to all kinds of chaos. With two floors to choose from there are plenty of ways to surprise your enemies and I am a HUGE fan of holding down the corridor just off the main room in the middle to shotgun any enemies that come my way.

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6. THE SANCTUARY (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)

This map is my personal favourite from Uncharted 2. Whether it’s plunder, elimination, deathmatch or whatever – The Sanctuary almost always throws up a great match. The underground tunnels are a fantastic addition in that they effectively add a third layer to proceedings and the risk/reward of positioning the Hammer on the exposed ledge is a stroke of genius. In fact you can also climb to the top of the tower in each base, above the main rooftops so technically The Sanctuary has FOUR levels to play with. A monster of a multiplayer map considering how compact it is.

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5. PORT VALDEZ (Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

This was one of the maps from the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 beta and it is still one of my favourite maps on the game. The balance between defence and attack (in Rush mode) in terms of positioning of buildings etc is truly superb. The last few bases of this massive map are fantastic and you really do have to consider your tactics. Making a run for it is all well good but you can almost guarantee a host of snipers will have their sights trained on the entrance of whichever base you’re at. A really well designed map, especially considering the size and amount of bases in it.

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4. CHATEAU (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)

Chateau is one of those maps that creates it’s own centrepiece as the game progresses. At the start of the round the roof is set on fire and soon enough the rooms in the upstairs of the building catch alight, the floor crumbles as it burns and flames lick the walls. It is some truly stunning stuff. And that’s to say nothing of the zipline from a hole in the top floor down to the adjacent garden or the downstairs room with overturned furniture that can be used as makeshift cover. A well designed map full of character.

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3. CASPIAN BORDER (Battlefield 3)

There are so many great maps in Battlefield 3 that I could probably do a Top 10 list just based on that title alone but the one that stands out above the rest for me is Caspian Border. Finely placed objectives and a wonderful mix of high and low positions mean sheer fun. The four main areas are far enough apart that it makes sense to grab a vehicle but if you find yourself stranded it isn’t too far to run. Add jets and helicopters into the mix and you have a recipe for some seriously amazing mutilplayer action. Outstanding.

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2. LENTE MISSILE BASE (Killzone 3)

This is a map that I simply love playing on. The way Lente Missile Base spans so many levels is brilliant and, of course, the fact that missiles actually take off from the basement (and you can get killed if you’re foolish enough to be down there) make this one of Killzone 3’s best experiences. Like some of the other centre-pieces in the game’s online offering there is a switch you can push to cancel the missile launch. It’s the little touches like that which really give the level a touch of character. From tense fights in the main tower through to open battles in the courtyard and below to tight skirmishes in the tunnels under the base, there is always something going on in this map.

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1 RADEC ACADEMY (Killzone 2)

Yep *still* the daddy of all multiplayer maps, Radec Academy is a superbly designed map with both open areas and some really tight corridors/stairways which leads to some intense firefights. The positioning of the search and destroy targets (for both teams) is inspired – essentially requiring you to hold a room that has three or four different entrances. Meanwhile there is the opportunity to snipe from the balcony overlooking the square – but you’ll have be quick to take those chances as people don’t hang around… unless you’re lucky enough to find an unsuspecting soul taking stock in one of the doorways opposite. Then of course you have the tunnels that run between each base and the building at the back of the map which can get quite crowded if a speaker spawns down there. Overall for me personally, it’s tough to think of what more they could’ve done to improve Radec Academy…

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And there you have it – an updated list featuring the latest and greatest multiplayer maps… well certainly the ones I enjoy playing the most.

Because it’s such a divisive subject and because of the sheer number of maps out there across a huge amount of games, I fully expect you guys to have lots of maps that you love and feel should’ve been on the list.

So light up the comments and let me know which of the above are your favourites and which maps you’d add to the list!

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Enslaved: Odyssey To The West – Review (PS3)

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I was a bit late to the party on Enslaved. The game came out in late 2010 and I picked it up last Summer but only got around to playing it during the festive break.

Developers Ninja Theory have a good track record with story based games (they also made the excellent Heavenly Sword) and they don’t disappoint here.

Based on the old Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West’ by Wu Cheng’en, Enslaved tells the story of Monkey and Trip as they make their way across a devastated World. After managing to escape from a ‘slaver’ ship Monkey awakes to find Trip has attached a ‘slave headband’ to him and he must do as she commands. If he doesn’t do as she says, goes too far away from Trip or Trip herself dies then the headband will inflict pain or even kill Monkey.

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Set 150 years into the future following a global war, mechs now prowl the lands – still carrying out their programming to eliminate humans despite the fact there are almost no people left out in the wild.

The game is gorgeous with the wonderfully overgrown cities sprouting plants and wildlife. The characters themselves are rendered and motion captured superbly, carrying on the sterling work Ninja Theory started with Heavenly Sword.

You’ll be doing a lot of Uncharted-style climbing because Monkey’s agility means he can get to places Trip can’t. The combat is better than average but doesn’t stand up to something like Batman or Sleeping Dogs – possibly a little bit of an unfair comparison as the game came out so long ago.

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While you don’t control Trip directly, you have a radial wheel to issue her commands (pretty ironic really considering the slave headband situation). Simple things like ‘move’, ‘press switch’ and ‘distract’ mean this is never too complex and can help you out of some tricky situations.

I’m not familiar with the original novel so I can’t comment on how closely the game follows the book (aside from a shift in time: the novel is set in ancient China). I enjoyed the story though and thought the characters were really well rounded and very well acted. Andy Serkis (Monkey) and Lindsey Shaw (Trip) derserve some praise for helping to bring the characters to life.

There were a few issues with the balance of gameplay – some of the fights felt like they went on too long but at least the game checkpoints during most of these battles. There’s a tricky chase scene that caused me some grief because it required some *very* accurate positioning.

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My main complaint was the last boss – you fight through it in different stages and once you beat it you get a small cut-scene and then have to run over to a platform and press circle to kill it off and end the game. Sadly the game doesn’t checkpoint here so if you die you have to start the 15 minute process all over again. Particularly trying if you die on that last bit three times like I did!

Despite those issues, Enslaved is a really good game and definitely an enjoyable third person action adventure. It’s not quite up there with the Uncharted series or Red Dead Redemption but it can hold it’s own among the others in the genre. You can probably pick this up really cheap now and I you see it I’d recommend taking a chance on it.

Rating: 8/10

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