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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