Enslaved first hit shelves about three years ago on both the major consoles, but there was no love for a PC version. So now, finally, they’ve decided to release it on the PC format to try and cash in on its relative success. I never had a chance to play the games previously on the consoles, so going into the game I was a little bit hesitant. You see, there are usually two types of PC port: there’s the one where developers spend hours loving transferring every aspect of the game and adding in as many graphic options as possible and there’s the one where they just dump everything from the consoles onto the system and say ‘that’ll do”. So which one does Enslaved fall under?
My suspicions were first raised when I received the message “loading: do not turn off your console” forcing me to glance tentatively over at my Xbox 360, which was already off. I wondered if somehow the game was trying to hack into it as I played. Of course, I’m nit picking. They just couldn’t be bothered to change the wording. Understandable, but definitely not forgiveable. But hey, it doesn’t affect the game play does it? It could still be fine. My next stop was the options menu. I like playing my games at the highest graphic settings, but all my excitement for this slowly faded as I saw the two measly options in front of me. One was for the gamma. Not a great help. The other was whether I wanted subtitles. I wasn’t happy, but finally, I took a deep breathe and actually booted up the game, thinking that the lack of graphic options and disappointingly worded instructions might not have ruin the game play anyway.
The story of Enslaved is inspired by the Chinese novel “Journey to the West.” Inspired in the same way that the sun is inspired by a light bulb anyway. The game is set in a post apocalyptic future where mechs have taken over the world. Any humans that are still alive seem to be slavers, capturing and selling off anyone else they can find. You play as Monkey, some sort of criminal being transferred somewhere on a massive prison ship. The game isn’t clear on the details but it is probably explained later in the story. He watches as a woman manages to escape from the cell opposite and fiddle with a console that in turn makes the ship start to crash. Monkey manages to fight his way out of his own cell in time to just about survive the crash. He awakes to find the woman standing over him, having placed a band over his head that causes him massive amounts of pain when he disobeys her. She tells him her name is Tripitaka and that, if he wants the band removed, he has to escort her home.
My apprehension continued as I finally got to play the game and discovered what can only be described as a ludicrous amount of mouse acceleration. I struggled to get used to it and, couple with the motion blur that the options wouldn’t let me turn off, I quickly started to feel sick. “It’s okay,” I thought, still desperate to like the game, “as long as the camera doesn’t move too much, I’ll live,” whereupon the game tried to make me jump onto a ledge I couldn’t see. I had to wrestle with the camera cause stupid amounts of motion blur. It was like looking at one of those optical illusions where a picture appears if you defocus your eyes in the right way. I’m no developer, but how hard can it be to make a set of options for a PC? I know that PC gaming has fallen out of favour in recent years, although I couldn’t tell you why, but we’re still a fairly large demographic. It would be nice to actually receive a game aimed for us, instead of being lumped with console’s leftovers.
The worst part though, is that the game play was actually fun. It takes the form of a generic hack and slasher, kind of aping Batman: Arkham Asylum‘s attempt at free flowing combat and, for the most part, they pull it off. It’s nowhere near as fun as the likes of Devil May Cry or the previously mentioned Batman games, but it links the story together nicely and you can pull off some interesting combos using the light and heavy attacks. But the game is incredibly linear. There are plat forming elements as well, but the game doesn’t let you make up your own route. You can only grab onto the things it specifically tells you to. In the end, all you’re doing it walking down an oddly shaped corridor. That’s not a bad thing in itself, I have never had a problem with linear games before, but it creates moments where you should easily be able to leap over a two foot high wall, but the game doesn’t let you because you’re actually supposed to jump on the pipe suspended twenty feet in the air.
I kept having a problem with the camera as well. The game kept trying to tell me I could move the camera around to look at things easier, but whenever I did that it always reset itself back into an unhelpful angle a few steps down the road. Every two steps I had to move it, then I got sick because of the motion blur, took a few steps and had to move it again. By the end of the first corridor I could already feel a headache coming on. Couple this with the lack of exploration and the very linear platforming style and it took me ten minutes to find what they actually wanted me to jump onto next.
It’s such a shame because all the good parts are dog piled by the bad so quickly you can’t even remember what they were. For example, I really liked the characters. I thought Monkey had the right amount of cool aloofness and unwilling hero traits to be likeable. Trip was kind of cute in her own way and the conversations between the two often produced a chuckle. But then you’d get into the dull, linear levels where all you have to do is get to the other end of a tiny map the exact way the game told you to and I quickly forgot why I liked anything the game offered because my mind was just filled with boredom, due to killing the same brown and grey mechs over and over again.
In summary, the actual game was all right. It will not set your world of fire, but is passable if you can deal with the obnoxious camera, sickening motion blur and complete lack of any graphical options. After playing it for a few hours, yes that’s all I could manage, I had a splitting headache and had to lie down to stop the world spinning. Unfortunately, my experience was completely ruined by these things and I was not prepared to make myself ill for the sake of dull, repetitive, albeit competent, combat. The world is lovingly put together and beautiful, especially when compared to the dull brown corridor-fest of Call of Duty, but the linear platforming style removes any appeal.
If you are unaffected by motion blur and have a computer good enough to play it without altering options, maybe it’s worth picking up. Personally, I will wait for them to patch in some graphic options, then maybe revisit it, but I won’t hold my breath.
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