Enslaved: Odyssey to the West First Hands-On

Ninja Theory's latest has plenty of adventure and a good deal of heart, and we've got the first hands-on look at the E3 demo.

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The powerful Monkey and the resourceful Trip are a team, thrown together by fate, not choice. Their adventures and evolving relationship make up the core of Ninja Theory's upcoming Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, an action adventure game set on the remains of an Earth torn apart by a long-forgotten war. Yesterday we spent some time with the E3 demo of Enslaved, and while there was a great deal of fun to be had playing as the physically imposing Monkey, the game's more subtle enjoyment comes when you aren't climbing walls and smashing enemy mechs. It's found in the relationship between the two main characters, who are doing their best to survive in a world set against them.

Monkey is the brawn…

Early on in the game, Trip--a resourceful hacker--and Monkey find themselves on a slave ship heading for an unknown destination in the West. Both manage to escape, and Trip, recognizing Monkey as her only means of survival in the great unknown wilderness, traps him by placing a device on his head. Their connection is immediate and simple: If Monkey tries to escape from Trip, she can cause him physical pain through this device, and if Trip dies by accident or otherwise, Monkey will also perish. It's the makings of an uncomfortable friendship in the game's early goings, but as we saw in the E3 demo, that relationship seems to deepen as the plot continues.

In the demo level being shown at E3--which takes place early on in the game's second level--the pair is searching for the crashed slave ship upon which they met. The ship has crashed in the remains of an abandoned city. As the pair head out, it isn't long before they're met by mech enemies who have remained dormant for years, only to be awakened by Trip and Monkey's presence. A frightened Trip is reluctant to follow Monkey's orders to move out of harm's way, so, as Monkey, you must take out the mechs using your formidable staff.

Combat controls are simple: On the Xbox 360 controller, X is normal attack and Y is strong attack. You can perform a charged attack by holding down the X button. Holding down the X and A buttons will perform a sweeping clearing attack that will knock enemies back, and holding down Y and B together will perform powerful focused attacks. Monkey is often outnumbered by mechs, and a color-coded feature called "combat awareness" will help you identify which enemy is primed for attack. When an enemy glows red, it's attacking; blue means it's defending; and yellow indicates when the enemy is open for an attack. Paying close attention to this system will let you better navigate your way through multiple enemies--in addition, you can use certain attacks (such as the charged attack) to temporarily stun your opponent before finishing things.

With the first wave of enemies defeated, Monkey and Trip come to an understanding via a brief cutscene. Trip might have a headset that controls Monkey, but when it comes to dealing with the mechs and keeping each of them alive, when Monkey gives an order, he expects Trip to follow it. Trip dependence on Monkey is clear but, as the demo continues, it becomes quickly apparent that while she might not be Monkey's equivalent in combat, Trip isn't completely helpless. For example, after being grabbed by a mech, Trip sets off an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that stuns nearby enemies.

…Trip is the brains …

More importantly, Trip is resourceful--a technology expert who can hack long-locked doors and improvise with the remnants of the tech that surrounds them. During one sequence in the demo, you create a commotion to distract nearby gun-wielding mechs so Trip can make her way across an open building segment. Later on, it will be Trip who creates a similar distraction (one of several commands you'll be able to give Trip with the LB button and a radial menu) using one of her gadgets.

Mixed in with all the mech-busting combat is a good deal of platforming. The agile Monkey can leap great distances and climb with ease, and during these sequences, you'll never need anything more than the left stick and the A button to get around. There's an element of timing when stringing together multiple leaps in a row with Monkey, but these platforming elements don't seem to be very punishing--you can't fall to your death in the majority of the platform sections (though you are open to enemy fire if you…ahem…hang around for too long).

The game's platform elements were best displayed in the demo during a sequence where Trip and Monkey, facing a section of the city that has been overrun with mines, are forced to improvise a solution. Trip asks Monkey to fetch a mechanical dragonfly, which they spot nearby, and Monkey takes to the rafters and nearby trees to chase down the speedy dragonfly, all the while with Trip in his ear, surveying his progress. Eventually he catches the dragonfly and hands it over to Trip, who, after a bit of tinkering, manages to turn the mechanical insect into a makeshift sensor of sorts. She links the dragonfly sensor into the visual relay in Monkey's headband, giving him the ability to see the sensor radius of any nearby mines. The two make it through the first wave of mines with little trouble, before encountering an open expanse of city that looks to be overrun with mines, mechs, and other dangers. It's on this foreboding note that the E3 demo of Enslaved ends.

… and they must work together to survive.

As the game progresses, both Trip and Monkey will grow in terms of their abilities. For Monkey, that means new combat abilities, focused attacks, and ranged attack capabilities. In the case of Trip, it will mean new commands you'll be able to issue and improved scanning that will give you a tactical advantage over the mechs that will hound you throughout the game. For instance, Trip will be able to identify mech weaknesses and identify which mech in a larger group would be the best to take out first.

In terms of both its gameplay and its narrative, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is all about teamwork. Add to that a vivid settings, plenty of action-packed set pieces, and two likable main characters (complete with some fine voice work and character animation), and Enslaved continues to intrigue us. The game is due for release this fall, but we expect to see some additional new content at E3, so stay tuned for our coverage next week from Los Angeles.

Discussion

137 comments
graavigala
graavigala

MOBS, no Kai did not own, she sucked, was annoying as hell and the shooting was horrible due to the fact that SixSux just sucks monkeyballs

graavigala
graavigala

MOBS, no Kai did not own, she sucked, was annoying as hell and the shooting was horrible due to the fact that SixSux just sucks monkeyballs

goomba0787
goomba0787

I would rather have had heavenly sword 2... this games environments look amazing. the story and characters however.. leave a lot to be desired.

DrEvilKoala
DrEvilKoala

@roganth No, physics take care of that. And I REALLY hope this won't be the case.

TheoleDominion
TheoleDominion

Also "Monkey" or "The Monkey King" was featured in the Jet Li and Jackie Chan film, The Forbidden Kingdom."

tobelight
tobelight

Story sounds alright but gameplay sounds hacky slashy button mashy so ill pass

NoLifeGamin
NoLifeGamin

Eh, i think Enslaved is one of those games you don't really know that's good or not until you played it. Saying that, I NEED a demo! Hope they release one. Don't wanna waste money like i did on FFXIII, that game was disappointing.

btwalker
btwalker

He is a MAN named Monkey. The story comes loosely from Chinese mythology--a story about a monkey king. I think the ties to the legend are the reason for the subtitle "Odyssey to the West" as well. To my understanding, it was a pretty relevant theme in the original. All that being said, I'm pretty excited. I think the environments look really lively and lush, not like all that other post-apocalyptic junk with deserts. These designers are apparently the only ones NOT taking their inspiration from Road Warrior...

drago9876
drago9876

Lol.... weird.... monkey carries a girl on his back..... What's next? Monkey uses the girl as a weapon

stu_gamer
stu_gamer

is it an actual monkey or just a man called monkey or a half monkey half man mutant type thing cuz as kool as this game sounds, its a bit odd.....nonetheless I am already considering getting this game

WilliamFajardo
WilliamFajardo

About time a new game is coming out from this studio! Heavenly Sword was fun, let's see if Enslaved tops it!

Fullmetallegend
Fullmetallegend

@KaBoOm I agree, should've just left it as Enslaved. Oh well!

KaBo0m
KaBo0m

The game sounds fun but the name they chose REALLY sucks

SibirskiyTigr
SibirskiyTigr

"Trip will be able to identify mech weaknesses and identify which mech in a larger group would be the best to take out first. "- thats kinda useless, I dont think many players will be using this feature, all they will be doing is button mashing :/ Maybe I'll be only one to use it haha

tombpit
tombpit

I think this game is gonna be great, not just a hack slash game.

patton223
patton223

Looks great this game. but it reminds me of journey to the west. after all the characters names are Monkey and TRIPitaka

roganth
roganth

hope her breasts move when she runs, that's what motion capture is all about - right?

anshanlord
anshanlord

too bad its not an exclusive title for PS3....Still Im buying this....

DaGhOsT187
DaGhOsT187

@ termadoyle and what mistakes would that be? Heavenly sword was a great game !!!

termadoyle
termadoyle

Hope they have learned from their mistakes in Heavenly sword.

trollkind
trollkind

I remember how blown ayway I was from the first gameplay footage of Heavenly Sword and then from playing the actual game. Somehow all the preview material of this one just makes me worried. At least I might be surprised in a good way when it's finished.

smoman5000
smoman5000

game looks great and this first impression is a good one. this might be a sure-fire purchase to me.

santinegrete
santinegrete

Intersting... imagine if Trip can Hack a Mech AI to help Monkey in combat... I'm sure Ninja Theory has that kind of idea. That will be great. Also, I was missing the timed jumps but I hope they don't do they too forgiving nor too diffucult. I miss those platform adventure times ...

PKA34000
PKA34000

looks like it shouldnt come out just yet give it a couple of months and i bet they will have a stunning demo

DarkFantom1
DarkFantom1

This game sounds like its getting better and better.

Axelander999
Axelander999

They played the 360 version... Bummer Ninja Theory. It's like playing the new Bungie game on PS3

mightycloud
mightycloud

Heavenly Sword showed that Ninja Theory can do brilliant combat mechanics, but I'm very intrested to see how they flesh out this dynamic duo. I canny wait.

businessfox
businessfox

I must say, this game looks really good...

xGlenn11x
xGlenn11x

I will keep track of this. In some strange way, the art style reminds me of Beyond Good and Evil from a few years back. :)

Jacknoll
Jacknoll

Looks like the story could be epic. Also, the locales look cute with great bloom and soft lighting effects.

Marques123
Marques123

We'll see, I'd like to try a demo first.

muppen
muppen

Can't say I've seen enough of this game to make up my mind yet, but I will keep an eye out that's for sure.

riou7
riou7 moderator moderator

I'll keep an eye on this game :D

manada
manada

I hope AI works well for single player, will keep an eye out and wallet space

KoRniTo
KoRniTo

Besides the dumb names for the characters, the rest seems pretty solid. Tracking this game for sure ;)

MOBS
MOBS

Yeah really Heavenly sword was so good I went back and beat it on Extremely hard difficulty. Nightmare difficulty. I dont do that for many games nowadays. I was deflecting Bohans blast back at him like a pro. Its a throwback to a time when games required real skill. IM hyped about Enslaved, I hope it made with the same gameplay ethic.

rogerjak
rogerjak

@ graavigala Kai was freaking awesome! Wut joo talkin' abot?

woonsa
woonsa

Monkey is the brawn... that didn't sound right. Monkeys are VERY intelligent.

MOBS
MOBS

@DaGhost187 No, really Heavenly Sword failing finanicially had nothing to do with the PS3 installed base at the time. It's a sign of the times. People are more into gun games these days. Uncharted 1 came out the same month as Heavenly Sword and it sold over a million copies world wide. PS3's small installed base didnt hamper its sales at all. WHY? Because people are more into shooting games and easy instant gratification games. They dont really want to use the brain power to memorize a dozen combos. Why? Gamers are lazy nowadays. That's why the wii is such a hit, you just have to waggle the controller like a moron. Anyway, Ill definitely get enslaved for Ps3, day one purchase. Ive been following its development over the year. Its going to have facial motion capture directing by Andy sederkis (Gollum) and Ninja Theory said they got lots of pointers from a hollywood director on how to storyboard cinemas. So Enslaved will be even more cinematic than Heavenly Sword. @graavigala SHUT YOUR MOUTH! Kai owned! The archery part of HS was awesome.

graavigala
graavigala

Heavenly Sword had the most annoying side character ever created in video games... i hope this game doesnt have same as that did

F-14-D_TOMCAT
F-14-D_TOMCAT

Heavenly sword was an epic adventure, with a deep, emotional and moving story, filled with awesome characters who left a lasting and touching impression on you. I thouroughly loved every aspect of the game from the awesome graphics, the combat,the colourful fantasy world, the characters and most of all the epic story. And i know Heavenly sword2 would have been awesome too. Anyway a brother is allowed to dream, so maybe, just maybe one day Ninja theory will make our dreams of heavenly sword2 into reality.