Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (Hands-on Preview)

Early PS3 owners will already know that developers Ninja Theory can make stunning looking games. Their last effort, Heavenly Sword, was a bit unlucky as it was released too early on in the PS3’s lifecycle to become a significant sucess. Despite the much healthier numbers of PS3s out there now, Ninja Theory have decided to play it safe with a multi-platform release. And who could blame them with a game this good looking?

Before we lucky handful of fans get three delicious hours with a complete build of the game (ahead of the world’s press, by the way), Namco Bandai’s Lee Kirton gives us a bit of background about the game.

Enslaved takes place 150 years from now, in a post-post-apocalyptic environment, meaning the world has seen numerous wars and diseases and humanity has almost disappeared. The people left have known nothing but pain and fear all their lives. The crumbling cities have been deserted for so long that the plants have reclaimed the land as huge trees burst through concrete and green ivy and flowers attempt to smother every building.

The plot is only very loosely based on the 16th Century Chinese novel, Journey to the West. In truth, it’s a whole new story, penned by film writer Alex Garland of The Beach and 28 Days Later fame. Apparently Garland is a big gamer himself and also had some influence on elements of the gameplay as well as the story.

And who could forget Andy ‘Gollum’ Serkis? He not only voiced and mo-capped the lead character, Monkey, but directed the other actors for the motion-capture sessions too. After the amazing work he did on Heavenly Sword and what I saw playing Enslaved, it’s a great decision. The game utilises the same mo-cap tech that James Cameron used for Avatar, importantly though, Ninja Theory used it first. Games 1: Hollywood 0. The games also uses the Unreal III engine, but NT has completely redeveloped it to get the very best out of the famous tech.

Play Time

The game begins with farm girl Trip escaping from a slave air-ship controlled by the robots. There’s no explanation as to how she got there, but I’m sure all will be explained throughout the course of the adventure. You play as Monkey, a brutish Wildman also desperate to escape the robot’s ship. The game gets off to an awesome start as Monkey has to climb around the outside of the exploding vessel. It’s really taking on that train climbing opening from Uncharted 2. At the end of this stage Monkey grabs onto Trip’s escape pod as it plummets towards the ground far below.

He regains consciousness to find that Trip has fitted him with a metal, slave headband. She knows she’ll never make it back home without his help and he probably wouldn’t be too co-operative seeing as she wouldn’t let him in the escape pod earlier. If Trip dies, the headband will kill Monkey, so it’s in his best interests to protect her at all costs.

This sets up an interesting relationship for the pair as they’re not friends, but will have to learn to rely on each other throughout their journey. The tech-savvy Trip scans enemies throughout the game to learn about their weaknesses for Monkey. So while some first-time fights will have all the danger of a boss fight, eventually they might become standard foes for Monkey to plough through with ease.

Click here to read the rest of my hand-on Preview at Dealspwn.com

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