Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Hands On

We get a second look at this intriguing action adventure game.

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In our first look at Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, we broke down the unique relationship between these two unlikely heroes and the various moves at their disposal as they attempt to stay alive in a ravaged world. Today we got a look at a few levels that take place later on in the adventure and were treated to a few new enemy types, intense action sequences, and even a new move to play around with. Enslaved is shaping up to be an interesting entry in the adventure genre, offering a diverse array of gameplay situations and an intriguing story, though we'll need to wait until it comes out in October to see how the final product fares.

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The developers from Ninja Theory walking us through the demonstration warped us to the fifth level, which is quite a bit farther than our previous coverage of the game, which centered on the second level. When the stage begins, the Brooklyn Bridge is in a state of ruin, making it difficult to cross the river that blocked our path. But resourceful Monkey has a trick up his sleeve that he had been hiding from Trip up until this point in their quest: a hoverboard. He calls it a cloud, and he can conjure this energy of light to cross water and fly off ramps. From a gameplay perspective, it offers you more freedom than you previously had in the adventure, but it's an intriguing tool from a story angle as well. Monkey is Trip's captive and cannot venture far from her without dying. But at this point in the game, a certain level of trust has been acquired, which allows this free-form exploration to be possible.

Using the cloud device, we surfed across the water, which was quite fun. The controls on top of the board are smooth, making it easy to glide across the water and perform a hairpin turn to churn the water in your wake. Our goal was to find a way for Trip to make it across the water, so we found a few pieces of debris floating nearby and leapt to a piece of the bridge that was still intact. Once there, we disabled the cloud and shoved a car into the water, creating a platform for Trip to walk across. We needed to perform this same basic action three separate times to help Trip make it all the way across, but it wasn't just a by-rote action. Instead, we had to look at the environment for clues about how to make it to certain sections. At one point, we needed to increase our speed to rocket off ramps, and the jumping was responsive enough to make the leap easy but enjoyable.

Once we reached the other side of the river, our time in the level was cut short, so we couldn't see what potentially hazardous situation was waiting for us. Instead, the developers took us to the fourth level so we could try out more traditional platforming as well as combat sequences. This level was draped in wild foliage, indicating that this once-thriving metropolis has been in a dormant state for quite a while. Monkey is built like a rock, so hand-to-hand combat is his specialty, but he has an energy-firing staff as well, which comes in handy when enemies equipped with guns are making your life miserable. The melee combat is fast and veers on the button-mashing side of the spectrum. But by mixing up light and heavy attacks, you can pound the mechanical menaces into a pulp, and a well-timed charged attack delivers a fatal finishing blow.

Combat is similar to what you would find in the Uncharted series. There are handholds, rails, and poles that you can grab onto, and they glow yellow when you come close to them. The platforming is completely linear--you can't veer off of these handholds to shimmy up a vine--but there is a bit of unpredictability mixed in to keep you on your toes. Like in Uncharted, your handholds will sometimes break away, but unlike in the popular franchise, time is of the essence. You can plummet to your death if you stay too long in one spot, and sometimes you have a second or less to leap to the next handhold before you meet your maker. The environmental changes did make us die the first time, when we didn't realize time was a factor, and made subsequent sections much faster and scarier than their more methodical counterpart in Uncharted. There are slight control issues in the platforming parts right now, but hopefully the sometimes-unresponsive feel will be cleaned up before release.

The most thrilling moment of our brief demo was when we faced off against a mechanical monster dubbed Dog. Monkey had left Trip alone to explore the world a little, and while she was unprotected, this vile beast began to hunt her. During a noninteractive cutscene, Dog sniffed the air while Trip hid as quietly as possible behind a rock. The tension began to mount as Dog got closer and closer to his prey. At the last second, Monkey, who was standing well above this scene, shouted down in anger, causing dog to give up on Trip and go after Monkey instead. The metal monster was too heavy to be supported by the makeshift bridge he attempted to cross to get himself closer to Monkey, causing him to fall into the vast emptiness below him.

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Of course, a mechanical dog can never be exterminated that easily. Soon after Monkey and Trip were reunited, the fierce monster burst back into view. A chase scene was immediately initiated, with Trip clutching frantically to Monkey's back as the two made their way as quickly as possible away from the charging threat. Trip kept up a running commentary of Dog's actions, urging Monkey to run faster to avoid being killed by the nemesis. It was a thrilling experience, and one that gives us hope that the action will be able to match the compelling story and characters to make this game something special. This early look made us cautiously optimistic for the finished game, but keep your eyes on GameSpot for more updates.

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