9.5

A beautifully presented game that, once you get used to the "terrible" controls, immerses you completely.

Lair. The game many dismissed as a total failure thanks to the slew of abusive reviews hurled at it.

The game's controls were the sole reason for the abysmally low scores it got from games magazines, retailers & internet sites. They claimed it's "poor controls" utterly ruined a game that was already filled with other "flaws" in the first place.

However, the Sixaxis controls made the game unique, not poor. It WILL take time for you to get used to them. It took me a couple of days to feel good with them. If you're a quick learner, however, it might only take 30 minutes or so. At first, you'll find it virtually impossible to keep your mount even close to straight, let alone pull off precise turns to get you within Stryker-range of a Warbeast (which is probably why they appear as enemies much later into the game). But as you slowly come to grips with them it'll feel much more natural & eventually you won't be able to imagine flying games any other way. If you really can't cope with it, there is now a patch that adds the feature to use the left analogue stick instead, but remember Lair was DESIGNED to be used with the Sixaxis.

But enough on the control scheme - we'll move onto the story. Now, the plot of Lair is, in fact, very simple (& rather generic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing). - SPOILER ALERT - It simply goes 'you fight with good guys against bad guys, good guys turn out to be not so good, you side with bad guys who are actually good guys & together defeat the bad good guys. Simple, right? - END OF SPOILERS - It's actually rather amazing they manage to incorporate as many missions as they did into a plot like that, but still, it would definitely have been nicer to have a longer game, or maybe some bonus missions.

The gameplay in Lair is a tricky one - aside from the already-mentioned controls, the game features a couple of things that will be guaranteed to annoy you to begin with, but that you'll get used to over time; the lock-on system is one of these. It will rarely target what you want it to. In one mission (the one featuring the massive battle over the bridge, think there's a video of it on this site) this becomes rather frustrating as, instead of targeting the Rhino that's tearing its way through your army, you sweep in & pick up a single petty human, have to target where to throw him (which achieves nothing, as it's not like he's stuffed with explosives) & then watch a several-second cinematic of him flying through the air into the water. While this looks cool the first time, it begins to make you go psycho after you've spent 2 & a half minutes picking up individual people & throwing them half a mile off, watching every metre of their descent, while that Rhino turns around for another sweep of your helpless men. However, this is about the only time you'll ever have a true problem with the targeting. most of the rest of the time it will lock onto objectives. The rest of the time that it goes for something else, it really doesn't matter that much, & you'll learn to be a bit more passive & just go with whatever the system chooses for you.

Another is the turning - dragons =/= cars. I rarely play car games, but still I was trying to pull off reasonably tight turns with the dragon & expecting them to come out fine, which even with the 'brakes', is impossible. Always play safe when it comes to turning, as otherwise you will spend about 30 seconds trying to turn around using a wall, pillar, or Warbeast. Like the other 2, you should be able to get used to this after a time.

The visuals in Lair are stunning, & I would love to know what drugs the person who designed the Maelstrom was taking. There is NO fog in any mission unless it's part of the scenery. The clipping errors are non-existent. And, to top it all off, the area around you in any of the large-scale battles (which there are many of) is utter chaos, the screen is crammed full with people - all with their own little bit of programming & all doing seperate things -, & boy does the screen get hectic! It is a complete mystery how the lag is virtually nil with that many objects on screen at once.

Lair is most definitely not an easy game, the controls only being a minor factor in that. As already mentioned, the screen will often be choc-a-bloc with enemies, & most of the time they will be enemies that can harm you. Dodging things like enemy dragon-fire is easy, but there are times when you're up against turrets that fire massive gouts of steam at you that can take you out in one hit, or turrets that fire a large spread of flaming arrows at you. However, it is rare that you will actually die in Lair - the vast majority of having to restart comes from mission failures. Mantas, boats, & other things that require protection die exceptionally easily - & they do it in droves. However, if it was an easy game, it wouldn't be any fun, would it?

All-in-all, Lair is a brilliant game that looks beautiful when you actually have the chance to look around in amongst smashing knights aside as if they were pebbles, chasing down Wind Dragons in dog-fights involving sudden twists & turns, diving out of the way of a blast of super-heated steam before moving in to tear the turret out of it's mounting, or gouging the eye out of a gargantuan Sea Serpent. It employs many new elements that may seem odd & unworkable with at first, but they just require a bit of learning. All it takes is an open mind.

Discussion