Okay, hello again everyone, as promised “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn Part 33” will be focusing on two very different games by two very different developers, and those games would be Ninja Theory’s Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and Platinum Games’ Vanquish. These games released at around the same time back in 2010, so for a while there I was going back and forth trying to decide which game I should get (I didn’t want both). Enslaved appeared to have an epic story focusing on two very interesting characters with decent combat, while Vanquish looked like an intense, action-packed romp with a likely very straightforward story. Eventually, I decided on getting Enslaved, and it was a good game, if incredibly short. After a while (and a significant price drop), I ended up getting Vanquish as well, and that game was certainly intense…and also supremely short. But look at me, I’m getting ahead of myself here again. Let’s go over each game in more appropriate detail, shall we?
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (PS3)
This game was basically a reinterpretation of the ancient Chinese classic novel Journey to the West, only this game is set in a post-apocalyptic future where robots (known in-game as mechs) have basically taken over the world and decimated humanity to the point where there are only a few hundred people left. We don’t find out very many specifics on the war that led to the human race almost dying out, and that’s because the main focus of this game is the connection that forms between the two main characters. We take control of Monkey, a man who has been taken prisoner by mechs and is being transported along with a bunch of other captured people to a place known as Pyramid, where they are to be enslaved for the rest of their lives. Another prisoner, a young woman named Trip, manages to break free from her cell thanks to her incredible hacking skills, then she goes about sabotaging the mech ship they’re on and sends it crashing into what used to be New York City. Monkey awakens amidst the rubble and finds that he has been fitted with one of the high-tech headbands mechs put on slaves to keep them in line, and this headband was put on him by Trip. Turns out Trip needs to get home, but she can’t make the journey on her own, so she forcefully recruits Monkey as her protector and guide, and should he allow Trip to die or lose track of her, the headband will liquefy his brain.
As I said, the main focus of this game is its character driven story. The way the relationship between Trip and Monkey grows and changes throughout their adventure is very well done, and we begin to truly care for both characters, as well as the later secondary, comic relief character named Pigsy. The superb voice acting combined with the realistic facial expressions for each character really drives home the belief that they are real people with real emotions, so Ninja Theory did a great job with the narrative and graphics for this game. The gameplay, however, is nothing exceptional. It’s not bad either, don’t get me wrong, but the game is very linear, short, and has somewhat repetitive combat. Monkey can destroy mechs by bashing them to pieces or shooting them with his high-tech staff weapon, but the number of different combos available for Monkey was very limited, which would lead to him pulling off the same three or four moves over and over again. Navigating through the levels often involved Monkey climbing and jumping along walls and platforms like the Prince of Persia. The platforming worked well enough, but there was normally very little challenge to it since it was impossible for you to mistime or overshoot a jump to a grab point or handhold. In fact, Monkey couldn’t even fall off the edge of a platform even if you tried to make it happen. The only challenge that comes from the platforming is during the set-pieces where Monkey has to make it across crumbling platforms and such. I did enjoy the limited parts where Monkey could use his hoverboard gadget called the “Cloud” to quickly navigate large, open environments and access areas he can’t get to on foot.
The DLC Pigsy’s Perfect 10 puts you in control of the aforementioned character named Pigsy in his own adventure that takes place concurrently with the first half of the main game. Pigsy is basically bored out of his mind living alone in his “mech graveyard” landfill, so with his little floating robotic friend Truffles, Pigsy goes on an adventure to gather the mechanical parts he needs to build himself a robotic lady-friend, his “perfect 10”. Don’t let the unusual premise of this DLC fool you, because much like the main game the story for Pigsy’s Perfect 10 grows into something far more profound and emotional; to be honest, the ending for this DLC was somehow one of the saddest endings I’ve ever seen in a video game. Playing as Pigsy is also very different from playing as Monkey. Whereas Monkey is a strong character who can destroy a number of mechs through direct combat, Pigsy has to make sure to keep his distance from mechs since it takes a mere two hits to kill the chubby, wannabe ladies man. Pigsy spends the majority of his adventure sneaking past mechs or destroying them from a distance with his rifle or with special bomb gadgets. It’s not common for a DLC to be more challenging than the main game, but Ninja Theory managed to pull such a thing off with this DLC. Overall, I liked this game’s story and gameplay, despite its brevity and linearity. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West gets a score of 80%.
This was the first game I played developed by Platinum Games, and it was certainly a good start for me. I’ll get the weakest part of the game out of the way first, which would be the story. In the somewhat distant future, a large space station orbiting Earth is taken over by Russian military rebels who then use a microwave emitter in the station to decimate the city of Los Angeles. With New York set to be the next target for the terrorists, the U.S. government sends an army of Marines to the space station to put a stop to the terrorists’ plot. Main character Sam Gideon, a DARPA research agent, joins the Marines decked out in the totally awesome ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit), which is their ace in the hole. There is a sort of late game twist where we find out there’s more to the terrorist attack than meets the eye, but it’s far from unforeseen and doesn’t really add that much to an already straightforward plot. The characters are clichéd and the game’s story is really just there for the purpose of providing a logical reason for all the action. Thankfully, the action in question is fast paced and engaging to the extreme.
In its most basic sense, Vanquish is a third-person shooter. However, the action is built around always being on the move rather than hiding behind cover and waiting for proper openings before shooting back at your enemies. In other words, hiding behind cover and biding your time before you feel it’s safe to reveal yourself and shoot enemies, which is the usual method for survival in most third-person shooters, will only lead to an early grave in this game. There are a number of different robotic enemies for Sam to blast his way through: human-sized footsoldiers, hulking and heavily armed Romanovs, robotic tanks with front mounted saw blades, giant four-legged spider-bots, and more. All these enemies will be blasting at Sam with all sorts of bullets, missiles, lasers, and the like from all sorts of different angles, so the only way to survive is by staying on the move and using the ARS’ abilities to avoid enemy fire and shoot back at your enemies.
The ARS is equipped with jet boosters that allow Sam to glide/zoom along the ground at high speeds, and it also grants Sam with increased reaction time which manifests as “bullet-time”, allowing him to score a number of well placed shots on enemies. This is especially useful against larger enemies with weak spots. The ARS also lets Sam strike enemies with powerful melee attacks when up close, though this does completely drain the ARS’ energy. When the ARS completely runs out of energy, it begins to overheat, which in turn leaves the ARS without access to its special abilities for about 10 seconds while it cools down. Fortunately, Sam isn’t completely defenseless if he happens to run out of energy as he has access to assault rifles, machine guns, shotguns, missile launchers, and more futuristic weapons like laser rifles and blade launchers, as well as standard grenades and EMP grenades. This gives the game some level of strategy amongst the in your face action and shooting: You have to find the perfect balance between being aggressive against enemies and managing the ARS’ energy. So yeah, despite this game’s brevity (it can be beaten in about 4 or 5 hours) and its straightforward story, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. This is also yet another game that had a very open ending hinting at a sequel, but as is the case with many games in my gaming life, Vanquish never got a sequel and likely never will, which is a shame. Vanquish gets a score of 90%.
Not much more to add here, both these games are short but fun and have decent replay value, so they’re recommended. Join me next week for Part 34 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” where I will go over three sets of games that cover a wide range of genres, though all of them are pretty much just average to slightly above average. While you wait, check out the crapload of new reviews we have for you here on Gaming Respawn.
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