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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Member Review for the Xbox360

TheDiesel By:
GENRE Action 
PUBLISHER Namco Bandai 
DEVELOPER Ninja Theory 
T Contains Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Review

One aspect of video games that make them so interesting is that with the right amount of technology and imagination, one can make anything they desire.  With every Intellectual Property, or IP, that gets green lit, it brings one team's journey to bring a story to the public in a way they attain and direct it the way that will bring their vision onto a TV screen.  With Ninja Theory's Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, their futuristic take on the Ming Dynasty lore paints a glorious picture and sets the player on a memorable journey, but can the gameplay resonate the same brilliance?

Enslaved introduces you to Monkey, a man built like a tank who's always on the run, but the player is introduced to Monkey not in his free form lifestyle, but in a containment capsule on a flying slave ship.  After a certain prisoner escapes from her containment capsule, overriding the system allows you to bust out of your capsule and beginning Monkey's attempt to escape the ship.  Here Enslaved gives you a tutorial of how to play, borrowing much from Uncharted 2's tutorial by introducing a very cinematic piece while giving the user the basic rundown of how the game's mechanics work.  While running through the slave ship, which through a series of unfortunate events is slowly dissipating, Monkey manages to escape on top of the last escape pod, piloted by the mysterious woman who previously escaped from the pod, and crashes into the post-apocalyptic world below.  When Monkey awakes from the crash, he is wielding a new headband, and the mysterious girl, named Trip, is near him.  Trip explains that the headband will kill him if she dies or if he goes too far away from her, so Monkey must follow every command Trip gives him to ensure his survival. To get Trip to remove the headband, Monkey must take Trip back to her homeland, and across the country in a battle for survival.

And what a country it is in Enslaved.  While most post-apocalyptic worlds have a gray contrast to symbolize the destruction and torment the population endured, Enslaved paints the fading country as one of a re-birthing ecological environment.  Lush green landscapes surround what was once a bustling New York with grass growing in and around the dissipating highways and buildings, while the excess of Mechanical sewage and fluids show the darker sides of the landscapes as the centuries of slavers' uses of mechs continue to seep the life out of its scenery.  Just taking the time to stop and look around really gives an amazing immersion of the scenery, really showing how much the developers took time to make a beautifully crafted world for gamers to relish as they continue through the Odyssey.

But the scenery alone will not drop your jaw as the attention to detail for the characters will set the story in a way few games can.  Using state-of-the-art facial recognition, Monkey and Trip show pure emotion in their script and portray a combination of fright, anger, and remorse for the situations they find themselves in.  With each chapter, Monkey and Trip become a little more closer and exchange conversations in which show preemptive humor in sticky situations to try and lighten the mood, and frustration if one of them doesn't achieve one of their goals.  With Enslaved, these conversations really bring each chapter together by wondering what they'll do or say next, and is a breath of fresh air to the many games that are out recently that treat character development like an after thought.  Co-Director Andy Serkis and Ninja Theory did an excellent job capturing the art of emotion through technology and really hit the jackpot on their intended target.

But no video game is without its gameplay, and Monkey is equipped accordingly with his changing red staff.  Strapped to his glove, his weapon extends to a full bow staff to vanquish any foes.  Monkey's melee attacks are assigned to a weak and heavy attack, with a combining button presses to do a circular sweep that pushes away enemies.  Monkey's staff can also attack enemies from range with a plasma and stun blast, but with these attacks named nearly sum up all of the combat.  Give or take a couple counter options later in the game, you're running a very simplistic combat scheme that without the evading and countering combos, would feel almost along the lines of Dynasty Warriors.

But this isn't to say that the combat is not fun, for the combat in Enslaved is super fun.  Facing packs of mechs and wailing on them with a giant staff is unexpectedly rewarding, especially when the finishing blow shows an angry Monkey blowing through mechs sliced in half.  Monkey can also do takedowns against turrets and specific enemies, and they are easily the most adrenaline pumping aspect of the game.  Watching Monkey rip a mech's arm off, stabbing it in the chest, then tossing it to other enemies to initiate a grand explosion that just excites and amazes, grabbing Monkey plenty of Enslaved's currency: Tech Orbs.  Advancing the combat moves requires Monkey to grab these Tech Orbs, which he can received by finding them throughout the levels or defeating various mechs.  These tech orbs can upgrade Monkey health, shield, how versatile Monkey is in combat, and how powerful his plasma and stun shots are against enemies.

While Ninja Theory spent what looks like most of their time on making a grand outlook of a game, there are parts of Enslaved that lack a decent amount of polish.  Many times Trip would be continuously stuck on collision, keeping her from making it to where she needs to go; thus at points forcing you to restart from a previous checkpoint, which in turn could mean facing bosses over again.  Also, some puzzles are vaguely shown where to continue to solve it, which could lead to frustration, plus some mechanics of puzzles, specifically moving  trams from Monkey's command menu sometimes refuse to work on multiple occasions that could lead to extended time waiting for mechanics to work.  Though annoying, these are small infractions that should not turn you away from Enslaved.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West provides an gripping story told through amazing attention to detail in regards of invoking emotions, lush landscapes, and exceptional graphical achievements.  If Ninja Theory cleaned around the edges and run another coat of polish on the title, Enslaved could have been compared to platforming Action-Adventure greats such as Uncharted or the Tomb Raider of old.  For now, Odyssey to the West provides a compelling title that is worth looking into, and will consume story-lovers around.
  • + Compelling Story
  • + Amazing Landscapes
  • + Jaw-dropping Animations
  • + Adrenaline-Pumping Takedowns
  • + Simple, Pick-Up-And-Play Combat...
  • - ...that could use some Depth.
  • - Some AI Pathing Issues
  • - Puzzle Mechanics Need Polish

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