Enslaved is an action platform adventure set 150 yrs in the future and a reworking of a 16tt century Chinese novel Journey to the west. This will be more familiar with older gamers, under the western name Monkey from the cult TV series of the 1970s. The game has some serious talent behind it, having the classic story rewrote for the future by Alex Garland and having script input from Andy Serkis, who is famous for Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Kong in King Kong. Andy also voiced and performed the motion capture for the main protagonist Monkey. This shows onscreen as he does seem to be the man to encompass acting. Not just on an emotional level with voice acting, but a physical level with his great talent for movement, which you will be able to see in the facial animation and body movement of Monkey.
Enslaved begins with the premise that the human race is all but destroyed. The main species on the planet are robotic slavers, whose sole purpose is to either enslave the surviving humans dotted about the world with headbands and put them to work, or kill them. If a human tries to disobey an order when enslaved the headband will kill them. The slavers roam around the world in slave ships capturing humans, which is where you Monkey, the main protagonist, starts the story.
The game unfolds with you waking up in an egg shaped cell, which is ironic really as in the original story Monkey was born out of an egg. There is chaos all around you, so you look out of your hatch to see what the heck is going on, only to be greeted by the sight of an enchanting girl at the end of the holding area frantically working a computer. This girl is called Trip, a reworking of the name Tripitaka from the original novel.
Trip accidently sets off a catastrophic chain of events using the computer and sets the slave ship on a crash course, damaging your cell in the process and knocking it over. Realising this Trip runs. Your only cause of action is to follow Trip and escape. As Monkey is a huge Neanderthal muscle bound male you quickly make mince meat of the cage and follow Trip. You eventually catch up with Trip just as she has just entered the last escape pod. You cling on for dear life on the outside of the pod, screaming at her to let you in as she hits eject, hurtling you both to the ground.
You wake up sore and concussed, with a headband on which Trip placed on you when you where unconscious. Trip explains to you that she had been taken from the slavers and must get back to her home to help her family. Despondent, Trip admits she had no choice but to force you to help her or she will die on the journey home at the hands of the marauding slavers. You refuse until you are told that you are both now symbiotic and connected in life and death thru this headband. Trip has reworked the headband so if she dies then so do you. There is no escape for Monkey as if you move out of range you will also die. This sends Monkey into a rage as you have now been enslaved by a human and forced to protect Trip at all costs or die. Trip explains to Monkey that she can also talk to you from distance; show statistics like vital signs, shield and ammo by using the headband and an added ability to scout an area when they access it for the first time. Monkey really has no choice but to help this girl on a 14 chapter journey of sheer beauty, exquisite gameplay and a compelling story. Luckily for you Monkey has come prepared with an arsenal of weapons and devices, oh and a cloud. Yes a cloud!
The style of gameplay of Enslaved is 3rd person action combat, with platform climbing and puzzles. The game really is a homage to Uncharted with the same gameplay elements. Enslaved has allot of platform puzzles, jumping and climbing and some stunning set piece action scenes. These are a joy to play and never get repetitive climbing an area, or figuring where to go next. Monkey really can climb like one and the climbing puzzles back this up. If you like platform games you’re going to love this. If you like action games and third person fighting games you will also adore this; in fact every gamer should like this game as it has something for everyone
The main meat of the gameplay is melee combat, which involves hitting enemies with your staff close up. The staff has secondary abilities as a long range weapon and carries EMP and plasma bullets limited by ammo, for the odd ranged combat. That works by over the shoulder firing at distance then going in for the melee kill, so don’t worry you won’t be stood at distance picking targets off. The bullets are always a juggle to have enough of and it mainly works as puzzle solving for taking down different types of slavers shields, then switching to melee and going in close with the staff for the kill. Basically Enslaved’s combat is about going in close and personal.
For close range you have a two button style system for unarmed combat. This might seem basic, but you quickly discover it is very deep, as there are combos to learn and ones to buy. The game has a clever level up system in collecting orbs from either killing enemies or gathering ones dotted around the landscape, which you assign to 4 areas for health and so pretty standard fare really. This does means multiple playthrus, as you will be pushed to find all the orbs in one playthru to unlock the trophies/points. What is a shame is the orb and level system doesn’t stay with you on a new game, but I guess it would imbalance the game earlier on.
The gameplay is not button mashing as each slaver class has a different way to be taken down, so you have to learn this as you progress thru the story. You have light and heavy attacks and can do a charge attack which will crush any armour or block. For slavers that have shielding you learn very quickly to use EMP at distance then go in for the kill. Gameplay itself is standard melee combat, counter and guard, with the usual health bars and shield regen. It works well and never gets repetitive.
The added bonus in gameplay is the symbiotic working of Trip and Monkey as you play together throughout most of the game. Trip is mainly A.I. controlled, but you can choose some of her abilities. Trip will scan an area before you enter it and show you via your headband. You then have to work together to get past it. Trip has certain abilities available by bringing up a wheel, like decoy and EMP. This means you will take cover and get Trip to decoy while you run and kill the slaver then get her to join you. You can’t overuse it either as it has to recharge after a few second so you must time it and run then wait again. Simple but works perfectly.
Monkey also has a cloud. Yes right a fluffy cloud. Ok it isn’t fluffy or white or an actual cloud so anyone who hasn’t seen the cult television series will think I am barmy. In the television programme Monkey would waive his hand in front of his face and a white cloud would appear that he would jump on and fly around the landscape. Well in the game it’s slightly different, they still call it a cloud but it’s really a hover board that he can move around fast and jump with into the air to go further. The developers have chosen when you can use this “cloud” and it is sparingly on a few levels. It does break up the gameplay from the same things happening over and over but to be honest that is Enslaved all over. Just when you start to think they are using the same thing it switches track, giving you new things to do. It’s just a credit to the level designers as you never feel bored or the game is running out of ideas and brings a perfect balancing of gameplay.
The whole game just comes together as one structured, beautiful piece of artwork, style and substance. The journey makes you care about Monkey and Trip’s struggle together due to being finally crafted in design and the emotion the developers have brought to the character and story. The gameplay is sublime and seamless as you progress thru each chapter and never tires as it mixes up between combat, puzzle solving and climbing. There is jaw dropping set piece battles and boss fights and the pace never lets up. The music works to enhance the experience as does the facial animations of the characters, which quite frankly I’ve never seen as good in a game before. The emotion they have on their faces just puts the rest of the industry to shame.
- 5 Stars!
“Overall Enslaved is a mesmerising story from start to finish and a true classic.“
Version tested X360