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Review

Valiant Hearts: The Great War Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PC
Robert Handlery on Google+

All blood runs red.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is one of the most human and sensitive games about war ever released. Set during World War I, the game is more about the personal struggles of its characters than it is about the larger historical details and political realities of the devastating conflict. It takes a few small missteps, but the game successfully couches grim truths in a story with endearing characters, gorgeous art, and moments of jubilance and adventure, making its tale about how war destroys lives accessible and appealing to players of all ages while still giving the war's tremendous human cost the acknowledgment it deserves.

The game begins by making it clear that this isn't a simple tale of good vs. evil. Karl is a German citizen living in France with his wife and newborn son, but as the war breaks out, Karl is forcibly separated from his family and sent back to Germany, where he must join the war effort. Meanwhile, his father-in-law, Emile, is conscripted into the French forces. Neither of them are motivated to enlist or fight; rather, as is so often the case in war, they are ordinary people who are swept up in conflicts beyond their control.

Over the course of the game, you play as both Emile and Karl, as well as a Belgian nurse named Anna and an American named Freddie who enlists with the French forces. These characters aren't traditional action heroes; the older Emile, for instance, has to scramble and struggle a bit to hoist himself over obstacles, and instead of running and gunning their way through the game's side-scrolling stages, characters solve a series of environmental puzzles to proceed.

These puzzles cleverly find many different ways to combine simple elements like tossing objects to distract enemies, pulling levers to activate machinery, and issuing commands to your devoted canine companion, Walt, and they're just challenging enough to be engaging and satisfying, without being so difficult as to interfere with the story's momentum. And throughout the stages, you can find collectibles that shed light on the historical realities of the war, illuminating the miserable conditions soldiers engaging in trench warfare had to live with, for instance, or the ways that the war affected the rights and workplace responsibilities of women.

You spend a lot of your time in Valiant Hearts helping people.

There's a lot of death in Valiant Hearts, but very little direct violence. You do occasionally have to clobber an unsuspecting enemy soldier from behind, and you may blast a few planes out of the sky in one sequence, but most of your time is spent helping people rather than attacking them. You provide first aid to the wounded, rescue people trapped in buildings, and give a soldier a nice, clean pair of socks. In this game, you are not a killing machine. The war itself is. There's an appropriate feeling of futility that comes from charging into battle again and again and seeing soldiers on both sides fall in droves to artillery blasts and machine-gun fire. Things become increasingly grim as the game and the war progress, and a late-game stage set during the hopeless Nivelle Offensive is particularly hellish.

It's not all grimness and death, thankfully. There are scenes of beauty, too, like a sequence that takes place on a starry night in Paris just as the war is beginning. Here, you play as the headstrong and capable Anna, a wonderful character who is determined to do whatever she can to help people during the war. After performing some quick automotive repairs, you drive down the city's bustling streets in a joyous scene during which you avoid cars and other obstacles in keeping with the music.

Beautiful moments like this keep the tone of the game from falling into monotony, and make the devastation of the game's grimmer scenes more impactful. Not long after you leave the beauty of Paris behind, you're in the Belgian town of Ypres, where the sky is filled not with shimmering stars but with toxic gas. Reinforcing the fact that lives on one side aren't worth more or less than lives on the other, Anna rushes to assist any injured soul she comes across, no matter the uniform he might be wearing.

But sometimes the only thing you can do for people is acknowledge the sacrifice they've made.

Though the mechanics are simple, Valiant Hearts admirably puts you in a wonderful variety of situations, having you do everything from cooking a meal for a high-ranking officer to fighting a boss battle against a zeppelin using a pipe organ as your weapon. No matter what you're doing, the game's art style pulls you in. There are always wonderful details in the background to give the scenarios life. In one scene set in a POW camp, for instance, you see a prisoner being intensely interrogated in the window of one building, while in a nearby structure, French soldiers carouse and listen to music as their prisoners suffer. Through it all, the endearing designs of the characters, with their eyes charmingly obscured by their hair, make it easy to care about them and their struggles.

The game's storytelling isn't always as cohesive as it should be. There's a jarring disconnect between the French-accented voice we hear Emile use during gameplay and the British-accented voice that speaks for him during between-level cutscenes. Freddie's storyline fits too neatly into the familiar narrative trope of a man out for revenge against the person responsible for the death of the woman he loved, making his arc feel more like something out of a generic action movie than a proper tale of war. And on multiple occasions, the game leads you to think a dire fate has befallen one or more characters, only to reveal, like the bad resolution of a TV cliff-hanger, that this wasn't the case. But these are minor blemishes on a visually beautiful game that deftly moves between moments of joy and moments of tragedy, and ultimately doesn't shy away from the fact that "great" is just about the last thing any war should be called.

The Good
Gorgeous visuals full of lively details
Engaging puzzles and imaginative scenarios
Anna is a great character
Some powerful depictions of the human cost of war
Refreshing emphasis on helping people in wartime rather than killing them
The Bad
Freddie's storyline is cliche
Some other minor inconsistencies and weak moments
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Carolyn played through Valiant Hearts on the PC before writing this review. It took about six hours. She prefers Walt, the dog in Valiant Hearts, to Riley, the dog in Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Discussion

119 comments
rubenlsan
rubenlsan

What a great game... totally worh my money!!!

mr_azim
mr_azim

It's a good game, much longer than I thought it would be.  A few fun set-pieces, but a very quiet/somber game.  Don't expect anything too exciting, but it's a good chance of pace when you want something relaxed.

NTM23
NTM23

I really enjoyed this game. I beat it a few days ago.

Epicurus-Reborn
Epicurus-Reborn

PC? Damn this would be an awesome xbox/ps arcade game.

RogerioFM
RogerioFM

What happened with George from the first trailer?

ascendedcobra
ascendedcobra

Great game! I'm working on that last achievement to save carl with out mistakes. I think the narrative voice is the same one from fallout new vegas that does the lonely guitar player lol.

Interesting how the reviewer mentions Anna as being a great character. They all were great but hers was probably the least developed of the main four. This leads me to think the review was just trying to be politically correct lol.

Was hoping if I bought the xbox one version I would get the 360 version for free for 2x achievements.

pop_yoo
pop_yoo

I'm probably mistaken, isn't the British voice actor the narrator? But now that I think about it, there is a part where Emile write a letter and speaks English, yeah that's kind of weird.


Anyway, I love this game, some things with the story I would have wanted to be different, more unpredictable. It's still a solid game, I finished it in two sittings. I like that there's a hint system if you get caught up in a puzzle, some will say it makes the game easy but you're not forced to use it.


This review tells you exactly what you need to make a purchase.

fend_oblivion
fend_oblivion

Anna is not the only character to help people on both sides. Military medical doctrine calls for the humane and ethical treatment of all persons wounded in battle—regardless of politics, deeds, or ideology. 

guitarpete462
guitarpete462

Will there be a separate review for the PS4 version? I plan to get it there. 

Konuvis
Konuvis

Is this just on PC? Is it coming to PSN?

rskueem
rskueem

Words cannot express how I feel about this game. It's 100 years since WW1 started and i have to say Ubisoft Montpellier did a great job on this game. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a great WW1-inspired 2D puzzle-adventure game, using the engine behind Child of Light and Rayman games.The beauty of UbiArt Framework is that every scene in this game and Child of Child looks handmade painting! Interesting puzzling and fantastic story,emotinally involved with characters, combined with its gorgeous visuals make a game well worth it's price. The art in this game is masterpiece. The game is full of feels :(  The soundtrack of the game is brilliant.^^ One of the most beautiful storytelling games I have played this year. Hope Ubisoft keeping making games like this along with their AAA games :)

YearoftheSnake5
YearoftheSnake5

Man, I wish this was on Wii U. Seems like it would be a great fit. Nevertheless, I'm interested and will probably get it for PC. I didn't know this game existed until the review.

wilson_diabetes
wilson_diabetes

This reviewer has probably never played Call of Duty before. That game actually makes war seem fun and thrilling!

kalgert
kalgert

Just to kick the hornet's nest:


This game is a lot better than that "Thing" The Last of Ass, I had more emotional ties with this one than it

tom_cat_01
tom_cat_01

This UbiArt Framework engine is incredible: Rayman Origins/Legends, Child of Light, and now this... all look amazing.

LeftyDPS
LeftyDPS

Just completed this and it is one of the best games I have played. It isn't particularly long or difficult, but the story is fantastic, and so is the art design.


However, it is also evil for making me cry, but that seems to be common after reading some other reviews on the internet!

NTM23
NTM23

I don't know if I should get this on the PS4 or the One, if I were to get it at all.

hitomo
hitomo

war and relegion... mankinds two biggest problems

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

I've liked the Ubi-Art stuff more than the actual Ubisoft games as of recent. This game and Child of Light were both really great games. In my opinion both are near perfect examples of what I think makes a good "indie" game. Fun to play, not overly complex, and artistically interesting.

placksheep
placksheep

Great review! Cool looking game, but I don't think the gameplay is interesting enough to warrant my gaming dollar.

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

Thanks for the review Carolyn! This looks awesome, and will probably pick it up soon.

I'm happy to see more games starting to tackle hard issues like war, without devolving into some silly power fantasy of mowing down groups of 'bad guys'. 2013-2014 will be remembered as the years when videogames really took the first step towards becoming 'art'. 

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

There's no indication on this page of which platforms the game is available on, how much it costs or who made it.  That's all standard information which should be listed before the review even begins.

Drilbit777
Drilbit777

Looks pretty good shame WIi U got left out again.

howiex89
howiex89

Just finished the game, really worth the money. Great stuff Ubi.

grin89
grin89

why do the major aaa developers always get it wrong and the indie game developers always get it right? if only this game were a triple A title.

Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

I've played the game, Ana* isn't a great character... All she does is is nurse wounded... The only reason she's interesting to you is because she's a woman and you rate games based on your tolerance and gender bias. Stop reviewing games. I'm sick of them.

nickterry420
nickterry420

by the way, this game is on sale for $7 and change on the xbox market place.

NTM23
NTM23

@Epicurus-Reborn Yeah, both PSN and Xbox Live. I didn't know whether to get it on PS4 or the One, but I got it on the One. It's great, and I'm pretty sure there's little to no difference between any of the versions (though not sure about last-gen ones.)

kalgert
kalgert

@wilson_diabetes Actually, I have to agree on that since The Baron fights makes him look like one of those 80's cartoon villains that always get away, just as you did a lot of damage to their stuff

Urizen316
Urizen316

@kalgert The Valiant Hearts trailer shown at the Ubisoft conference was more emotional than the entire 12 hours it took to finish that overrated "greatest game of all time"...

Fastkill10
Fastkill10

@kalgert i dont agree, they are both very emotional games. Probably one caracter of this game cativated you more than The Last of Us caracters. Both games have a beautifull and immersive history however it is hard to compare because they are diferent games(WW1 and zombie apocalypse)

Naquada
Naquada

@kalgert Huhuhu, you replaced 'Us' with 'Ass' and that's clever, huhuhuhuhuhuhu

Guest1001
Guest1001

@hitomo Ooh, so edgy ...

... Oh no, wait, the other thing. Immature.

coop36
coop36

@DinoBuster Agreed. Theyre kindof a palate cleanser from all the AAA open world stuff these days.

mattcake
mattcake

@grin89 Indie/cheapo games aren't rated relative to a AAA release. For full price (4x as much as this game) we would expect a lot more, and this style of gameplay probably couldn't be diverse enough to warrant it.

RedWave247
RedWave247

@grin89 Pressure and expectations from higher ups, basically. They tell the developers what to do with the game or what to add. Said higher ups also tend to have little to no experience designing or even playing games. They're there for the bottom dollar and nothing else.

Plus, there's constant pressure to get the game finished, so many times, it's about meeting deadlines, not putting together quality.

Indie games, on the other hand, are done with much smaller studios with no pressure from higher ups, and less worry about meeting a release schedule deadline.

hurricanea7x
hurricanea7x

@grin89 you know this game is made by Ubisoft,right? might want to check your facts before making statements like that.

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

@Sound_Demon But, but, Anna nurses EVERYONE regardless of uniform, that's not a cliche or anything, I swear!


Except it totally is, but only the Freedie character gets called out for being clichéd because it seems like the only cliché Caro hates so much (the whole man loses woman, seeks revenge, scenario)...


There's definitely a strong socio-political slant with almost all of Caro's reviews though, I agree, it's a bit excessive and makes much of her work/opinion hard to take seriously, even when I agree with her, she takes her personal hang-ups and bias a little too far imo.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@hurricanea7x @grin89 

Indeed, someone might want to know that Ubisoft published this game - and Child of Light.

@RedWave247 

You need to be reminded too, dude. Perhaps it's easy for you to jump on that query by grin89, but you might want to consider the relevance of that query when it is made under a review for a game which is developed and published by a big-name and not an indie.

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

@nl_skipper @Sound_Demon I actually love this on Carolyn's reviews. If it was up to me, the politics in her reviews should be even more prominent. 

Some of us do take it seriously, and it's people like Carolyn who are injecting much needed seriousness into game reviews. As an industry, we cannot continue living in the comfy spot of not dealing with the cultural context in which we exist, but thankfully sites like Gamespot are helping to change that.

ianpac
ianpac

@Ailurusf @nl_skipper @Sound_Demon Great idea, lets inject personal politics into reviews.  Lets have an anti gun reviewer downgrade all FPS games because they promote gun violence.


Every time Carol reviews a game with a "strong independent" female character in it you can guarantee she will be calling it a great game irregardless of whether it is or not.  This makes her reviews unreliable unless you agree games should be judged on how they display female characters.


Her opinion is supposed to be focused on gameplay not her personal gender bias.  She should be rightly called out for this every time she does it so people are aware her slanted her reviews are.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War More Info

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  • First Released
    • iPhone/iPod
    • PC
    • + 4 more
    • PS3
    • PS4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Valiant Hearts: The Great War tells the story of five crossed destinies and a broken love in a world torn apart.
    8.4
    Average User RatingOut of 104 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Valiant Hearts: The Great War
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft Montpellier
    Published by:
    Ubisoft
    Genres:
    Action, Platformer, 2D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence