Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Updated Impressions
We take another look at the vibrant postapocalyptic world of Ninja Theory's upcoming third-person adventure.
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Stepping out into the world, Monkey is by surrounded flowers. Lush green trees sway gently in the breeze. Creeping vines and scattered patches of moss blanket nearby buildings. The sun is out and the birds are singing, yet other than the decayed ruins of long-abandoned cities, there's no sign of human life. It may be a postapocalyptic world, but it's far removed from the dusty brown wastelands often thought of when human life has been pushed to the brink of extinction. "Enslaved feels like a road movie," says producer Tameem Antoniades. Judging by what we've seen so far, Monkey's journey is going to be along a very beautiful road.
We were shown a new section of the game that takes place around three hours into the story mode. Monkey and his travelling companion Trip had reached an impassable ravine. In order to progress, Monkey had to find a way to cross while also clearing an easy path for the less physically able Trip. He left her behind a set of crates and mentioned that a nearby crane may be the best way to get across. He set off on his own and attempted to make his way toward the crane. Being the strongest of the pair, Monkey can reach places that Trip can't. He can climb up walls, swing from bars, and push blocks to create platforms.
We saw Monkey first climb a nearby wall to reach a set of poles. Areas that he can climb or cling onto are highlighted yellow so they're easily visible. The wall had several bricks sticking out, which he used as grips to climb up the wall. Once at the top, he swung across several poles to reach a platform where a nearby mech was waiting for him. Mechs are the most common enemies you encounter in Enslaved. They are remnants from the world war, which left only 50,000 humans alive. They work like mines, remaining dormant until disturbed, after which they spring into life and attack. This mech was an old version, with its underlying structure of rusted nuts and bolts clearly visible. We were told that mechs become more sophisticated as the game progresses, taking on sleek human forms. This one was no match for Monkey, who quickly dispatched it with a few swift swipes of his staff weapon.
Monkey proceeded to climb further upward, swinging off of more poles. By building up a good rhythm, he was able to move quickly between them, without having to swing over the top each time. At this point, we noticed some smaller details in the environment, such as blossom petals falling from nearby trees as he brushed past. There were also hints at the backstory in the environment. For example, an old election poster with a picture of a candidate on it was still plastered on a nearby building. The text below the picture read "Vote hope not war," but the word "liar" had graffiti over it. The tranquility was quickly spoiled, however, as Monkey encountered another set of mechs. They were different from the earlier ones as they were armed with shields, which deflected Monkey's attacks. In order to destroy them, Monkey had to acquire some stun ammo for his staff, which was sitting on a nearby platform. Once he had climbed over the platform and grabbed the ammo, he launched several stun shots that disabled their shields making them easy to destroy.
Later, Monkey encountered a group of mechs that had stun weapons of their own. Stun attacks cause you to freeze momentarily, leaving you defenseless against your enemy. However, mechs glow blue just before launching a stun attack, allowing you to anticipate the attack and dodge out of the way. This encounter also gave us a glimpse at the combat system. Pressing X launches a standard attack, consisting of small swipes with the staff, while holding it down executes a stun attack. Y launches heavy attacks, which consist of long sweeps of the staff and overhead lunges. You can combine these with evades, counters, and blocks to create combos. You also have focus attacks, which are extremely powerful but require the use of a limited supply of energy, which is gained during combat.
Eventually, Monkey made it to the crane. After walking up a small ramp toward it, the crane started to collapse. The music became much more dramatic, and the camera began to shake, building up tension. Swift platforming was needed to make it off the crane before it fell over, with quick-time prompts popping up for larger jumps and aerobatics. Fortunately, the collapse of the crane also set loose several poles it was carrying, which fell to create a bridge over the ravine for Trip to cross. However, before she could make it across, a dog mech appeared. It was much bigger than the other mechs, walking around on all fours and towering above the two protagonists. It saw Trip, but before it was able to attack, Monkey ran in and grabbed her. A chase scene followed, with the duo jumping over obstacles while being pursued by the mech. Eventually, Monkey tricked it into running into a ditch, but he advised Trip that it probably survived and that they should take shelter.
The next section saw the pair running into a tall building. The dog mech swiftly followed, breaking into the building by knocking down a wall. Monkey picked Trip up once more, this time carrying her on his back and jumped up a set of crates to escape. They made their way toward the New York theatre; a run-down building filled with relics from before the war. On the way, Trip saw a charged-up power cell and explained it could be used to power the homes of the small communities of survivors littered around the city. She asked Monkey to get it, but he initially refused, saying it would be an unnecessary diversion, particularly as they are still being chased by the dog mech. However, she eventually brought him around to the idea and they set off to retrieve it.
The power cell was surrounded by several mechs, all of whom had large overlapping activation radiuses. This meant if either of them disturbed just a single one, all of them would be activated. Fortunately, Trip had a few tricks up her sleeve to make the job easier. Though she is largely controlled by the AI, you can issue certain commands to her to help solve puzzles or distract enemies. You can tell her to heal you, take cover, or launch a holographic decoy version of you. Additional commands can be purchased with orbs, which are found hidden in treasure chests. Here, she scanned the mechs and identified a fault in one of them, which meant its activation radius did not work. This allowed Monkey to sneak up on it and execute a takedown move. The move then destroyed the mech and launched an electromagnetic pulse blast, disabling all the nearby mechs. This made it easy for Monkey to finish them all off and grab the power cell, ending our short demo.
Enslaved is due out in the third quarter of 2010 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Keep an eye on our Electronic Entertainment Expo coverage for more on the game this June.