Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Enslaved Odyssey to the West Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Genre Escape from New York action
MtAMinutes to Action 2
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

The First Hour is all about first impressions. But it’s very hard to go into a game without any preconceptions, probably best illustrated by my recent foray into Fable III, a sequel to a game I didn’t like very much. But sometimes games are just so far off your radar, that they fall into your lap as a mysterious disc, ready to be explored and uncovered.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is one of those games. The only thing I know about it is what I can glean from its name and cover art. Let us see... the title alone seems to suggest something related to slavery and An American Tale, while the cover might make you wonder why the slaves are running from a Colossus. And then you might question the colorfulness of such a dire situation, and why that girl from Heavenly Sword is hanging around?

Yes, I am in the great situation of playing the first hour of a game I know nothing about. My first impressions can truly be formed by just the game itself and none of the surrounding hype. But first, a real quick primer. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was released in 2010 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, developed by Ninja Theory (creators of Heavenly Sword, so that explains the girl). Scores were good, sales were lackluster, and Andy Serkis of Gollum fame did motion capture.

Okay, let’s get into this, here’s the first hour of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

Minute by Minute

00 -  I select New Journey on the high tech looking menu and the first hour of Enslaved begins. Difficulty is being left at Normal, with Easy and Hard also available.

01 - Chapter 1 - The Escape. “Welcome to slave ship nine-zero-nine.” My character is apparently locked in some kind of capsule on a space-ship. A red-headed woman jumps out of her capsule, messes with a computer, and bad stuff starts happening to the ship.

02 - Explosions everywhere and my capsule is knocked over. Suddenly, our hero can just punch off the door, couldn’t do that before? He climbs out and I get control.

03 - This guy runs very uniquely, he takes off with a dash with the touch of the stick and wildly swings his arms. I like it, there’s a real primal look to it. He also has this strip of leather hanging off that looks like a tail, too.

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Monkey Ship Mechs

05 - More explosions as I run and jump along, super linear so far.

06 - After the hull explodes nearby, I get sucked out revealing that we’re not in space, just in the upper atmosphere. At least I can breathe out here.

08 - A mecha appears and starts shooting up some other prisoners. Our hero approaches a lone guard and demands he tell him where his “gear” is. The guard says he can’t, but relents because I’m much bigger and crazier-looking than him. He tells me about the storage room, but then the computer announces that this particular guard was helping a prisoner and executes him through his helmet right on the spot. Umm... why don’t they put these things on the prisoners?

10 -  My gear consists of some gauntlets that turn into energy weapons, time to take on the mech.

11 - X and Y buttons unleash a staff attack, and I have a shield that automatically pops up to deflect bullets. Useful!

13 - I fight a few combat mechs and the computer announces there are only six escape pods remaining. There’s a real sense of urgency right away in Enslaved.

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Monkey Ship Pods

15 - The red-headed chick from Heavenly Sword closes a door right as I reach it and won’t open it. Guess I’ll have to find another way to escape.

16 - I’m out on the starboard wing of the plane now fighting mechs, they get sucked off when destroyed, nice effect.

17 - Parkouring around required almost zero skill, you just tap the A button and press the thumbstick in the direction you want to go.

18 - HAHA! The wing of the plane just clipped the Statue of Liberty’s torch. Random but effective in a lot of ways. Whoops, just tossed a door into one of the remaining engines.

20 - Wow, now things are getting crazy! The plane has banked and is flying/crashing with the wings vertical now and I’m hanging onto the bottom wing for dear life. There’s a skyscraper approaching in the distance and I need to scramble just to make it high enough in time before the half of the wing is knocked off.

21 - One escape pod remaining. Impact in 20 seconds.

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Monkey Ship Explosion

22 - I reach the outside of the pod just as Red is strapping into the pod. She presses the eject button even though I’m staring at her from outside the window and we launch. The plane crashes into the city and we land in a grassy, templish area. Kind of weird for what has to be New York City, right?

23 - Chapter 2 - The Old City. Inside a large, dilapidated building with rubble everywhere and a deer chilling out. There’s a tattered American flag hanging from the ceiling. Red is staring at me as I get up.

24 - Hero says his head hurts and Red admits she put a slave headband on me, ouch! Hero attacks her, Red yells “stop!” and the band goes off giving me tons of pain (or at least lots of controller rumbling).

25 - Red says that if she dies, whoever is wearing her collar dies too. (like Battle Royale 2... so awful. So, so awful.) Red just wants to get back home so she’s going to command me to bring her there. This relationship really hasn’t gotten off on the right foot.

27 - My vitals pop-up but the game actually uses the excuse that she has hacked the headband to make it display this information. She also tells me we have a constant audio link between us too.

28 - I find some health and the screens stops throbbing, we look at some Missing posters which are posted everywhere. Hmmm...

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Trip Ship

30 - Hero opens a drawbridge for Red, but the noise draws in some mechs. I fight them off and actually suck in some of their soul power, just like in Onimusha.

31 - It feels odd to have a straight up health bar.

33 - The city is apparently totally deserted. We get an overlook of what’s left of Grand Central Station, everyone is gone, and our duo has no idea what happened.

34 - There are orange glowy balls all over that give me soul points, no idea what they’re used for though.

35 - A machine gun mech appears and I need to hide and cover behind terrain and boxes to reach him without getting turned into Swiss cheese. After his demise, a steady stream of mechs comes my way and I get to try out all my moves. Combat is pretty smooth, but the camera could react a bit better.

38 - After the battle, Hero tells Red she needs to listen to his orders too, as he is obviously experienced in fighting and she is wide-eyed about the whole situation. Though she did blow up that plane without much hesitation.

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Monkey Dash

39 - I really like the interaction between the pair, this isn’t the perfect situation for them, but it is what it is and they’re going to put up with it to survive.

41 - Some mechs surprise us and Red knocks them out with a localized EMP pulse. Very useful!

43 - Fun interaction with Red as I distract some mechs by yelling at them so she can run by their machine gun fire. Then she creates a distraction herself with some kind of holographic decoy.

46 - I have to admit, this teamwork is pretty dang fun.

48 - Can I also admit that the frantic movement by our hero and the close-up camera is making me slightly sick?

49 - Okay, so I just died for no reason. Well, obviously there’s a reason but the game never even warned me I was about to run over something nasty.

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Monkey Mech Battle

50 - Oh, so the game was kicking off an interactive cutscene that still let me run forward during... too bad our hero was warning Red about the mines on the ground at the same time he was setting them off wiith his big toe. Red asks me to catch a dragonfly... something to do with getting past these mines? No idea.

53 - I’ve been chasing around a dragonfly for a few minutes, it’s not aimless attempts like trying to catch the rabbits in Super Mario Galaxy, but I’m actually following some linear path to do it. More exciting and less frustrating this way, I hope.

54 - Our hero catches it while giving us a nice running commentary on the way. He definitely has anger issues.

55 - The dragonflies of this world have evolved some simple sensors that Red has hacked into. She’s a computer genius in a jungle world.

57 - The dragonfly’s sensors send my headband information on where the mines are. I like the explanations they’re giving on how advanced my heads-up display is. Red hops on piggy-back style and we make our way through the mined flora.

60 - After the initial narrow area we come across a large open area with tons of mines. This is going to be a hike. And that’s the end of the first hour of Enslaved.

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Trip new York City

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 2

What I loved: This is the kind of game that we thrive on at the First Hour: fast to the action, balls-to-the-wall opening that hooks you immediately. No unnecessary cutscenes showing our hero get loaded on ship with bureaucratic types explaining all his wrongs, just a few (big) explosions, a mysterious woman, and an even more mysterious world. Nothing else is necessary.

Our hero has a great feel to him, it’s almost as distinctive as the lumbering roadie run featured in Gears of War, but with a much more gangly and loopy feel to it. You see this crazy jungle guy and this is how you expect him to move, the fact that it surprises me that he does seems to say a lot about this industry.

The controls in general are just simple, there’s no complicated parkour button setup, just point at where you want to go and he’ll try to get there. I also enjoyed the relative ease it was to issue commands to my counterpart, making this a simple exchange also makes the outcome that much more enjoyable. Having our hero yell to distract the mechs is pretty hilarious when it’s just a button away.

What I didn’t like: The camera isn’t as helpful as it could be, but it hasn’t been too much of an issue yet.

Would I Keep Playing? Yes, Enslaved feels like a fast-paced Ico where your partner isn’t totally inept. As long as the game is able to balance combat, exploration, and explaining how the city of New York became a jungle, I’ll be hooked. This was a great first hour, can’t wait to play on.

Comments

Me Too

It's interesting to read your impressions with no foreknowledge of the game. Being a fan of Heavenly Sword, Ninja Theory and agile redheads in video games, this was on my radar from the start. I made it a bit further than you did in your first hour, plus having played the demo and then just kind of set it down. Not because I didn't like, I actually did, but just because I have a hard time playing anything more than a couple of hours these days. I absolutely intend to finish this one.

I really enjoyed the interaction between Monkey and Trip, both in game and during the cutscenes. I really missed the voicings of Anna Torv from Heavenly Sword though. She really brought out the brash and husky voice that makes a character like this really leap off the screen.

What I didn't like was that the illusion of freeform movement evaporated pretty quickly. I'm a big fan of modern Tombraider games and this is another reason I really anticipated this one. However, this game pretty much won't let you jump anywhere unless there is something to grab.
Thats fine from a "we won't let you die by complete accident" stand point, but it ends up shining a light on the paths you're "supposed" to take. I realize that every game has designed paths, but the good ones like TombRaider or Uncharted for example (perhaps Assassins Creed is the best at this), do a good job of making you feel like you're actually using the environment, rather than jumping between set points left by the designers.

There were several points where I felt like I SHOULD be able to jump and that there SHOULD be a ledge there, but there was not and I couldn't even try. That was very jarring.

Otherwise, I really liked the look of the world, and the controls worked pretty well. Look forward to reading your full review of the game should you finish it.

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