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REVIEW: Enslaved Odyssey to the West

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a game developed by Ninja Theory, and published by Namco Bandai. It is available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It is a less than mediocre game and clearly intended for a ‘casual’ audience. The Xbox 360 game was played for the purposes of this review.

I’ll admit I’m hesitant to give a bad review to a post-apocalyptic kind of game, as I generally like this kind of stuff. What drew me to this game was the art work, the cover art, and the screenshots. It’s very different than most post-apocalyptic kind of scenarios, in that the world isn’t so desolate and barren. So think Wall-E, but instead of dust and nothing growing, there is plant life growing all over the place. The New York skyline is full of greenery, the buildings are
literally taken over by plants, slowly being broken down to the effects of Mother Nature. The idea of exploring New York like this is was really appealing to me.

Unfortunately, that is where the appeal ends. Heard of two people abandoned on an island that don’t really like each other at first, are forced to work together to avoid immediate death, and totally end up falling for each other? If you haven’t, that’s alright, because Enslaved has you covered. You play as your classic tough guy raised in the jungle. The “I have no family and I have no name” kind of hero. You and your companion are prisoners of some sort, and she controls you by means of a headband device which doesn’t allow you to leave her side without killing you. Which is why the game is called “Enslaved.” You, “Monkey,” are enslaved to Trip, your companion.
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RAGE Dead City Gameplay

Speaks for itself, really. Things of note: pew pew bullets. Also mutant-like monsters which sort of look like zombies. The UI looks slick. But mostly, gray. When the world ends, so will all the color, it seems.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West still pretty, still unheard of

Hey kids! Want to be indie like me? Now you don’t have to play weird, esoteric games with poor production values! You can play Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, whose real subtitle should be “Try as we might, no one will ever give a flying fuck about our game”.

Seriously. What more can Ninja Theory do? They’ve got a brilliant looking game. It trailers well. Lots of games journalism types love it, and sing its praises (okay, mostly Jim Sterling, but you know what? That’s good enough). And yet, 4 hours after posting, the dozen trailers on youtube have about 20 combined views. Maybe it’s just their luck, releasing their newest trailer on Bioshock Infinite day. Maybe their game is cursed. I don’t know. What I do know is, I’ll be buying this one. Because it looks fantastic.

RAGE (the game)

That’s right kiddies, the repertoire of games of which I write about has grown by one more!

RAGE is an FPS (of course it is) currently in development by id Software, the guys behind Doom and Quake–you’ve heard of those games, right?–will be published by Bethesda, and will use the Tech 5 engine. See the trailer for it here:

So, what’s this game about? A meteor has hit Earth, resulting in a post-apocalyptic setting (of course it does). You play someone who has just been unfrozen from cryogenic sleep, and your main goal is to simply survive in this new, hostile world. Don’t let this fool you, though. It’s not the wastelands that we are so well acquainted with, like Fallout and Borderlands. This game is lush. It’s vivid, it’s colorful. It’s hand crafted, and when I say hand crafted, I mean hand crafted. Every. Single. Thing. No two rocks are the same, you’re not going to be seeing repeats of texture 1, texture 2, texture three. The artists at id Software have individually painted every single thing you see in the game–which explains why the game looks so damn good, visually speaking. Then again, I’m going to assume that the game will be pretty solid otherwise, too, considering the people who are involved with the project. I think we can safely assume that the game will have excellent FPS controls and mechanics. I mean, they…invented the genre. So, gameplay and visuals, check. The story/plot…we won’t know be able to say much on, until the game is tucked into our disc trays.

Yes, there are mutants, there are factions, there’s even some form of “authority” which is questionable at best. Pretty cookie cutter stuff, for a game in this genre. But there’s so much more to it, in a way. It’s just…in the way the world has been crafted. If you took a look at any of the videos that were linked, you’ll notice how much character the people you encounter have. Their personality exudes from their facial expressions and fidelity. And it’s not just an FPS, either–it has many RPG elements, such as side quests, weaponry upgrades, as well as freedom to approach and solve situations as you see fit, looting, blueprinting and building weapons. The folks at id Software promise a multiplayer component, but they’re bullish on revealing what that will be–it’s very likely they haven’t figured it out yet, considering this game won’t release until sometime well into next year.

If there’s one thing I’m particularly unsure about, aside from the story, it’s their decision to give such a huge focus to its racing aspect. I’ve yet to see any game outside of the racing genre that actually gets those mechanics and controls right, and judging from the myriad of videos, RAGE will have a lot of racing/driving in it. After all, your dune buggie is your main means of transportation when out in the wasteland. Still, we’ve all endured the Mako, so it probably won’t be any worse than that!

Post Apocalypse: Nihilism and Heroism

If one were to list the prevailing trends in modern media, be they games or comics or television, post apocalyptic would be #1, #3, and possibly #4, with vampires coming in at #2. Post apocalyptic vampires would be #5. Even yours truly is in the process of writing a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel at this very moment. The end of the world is a hit, given the state of the economy and the state of the world at large.

And this success is largely seen as a bad thing. School children nowadays are comfortable with the end of the world*, and the author of the above blog (Jim Rossignol, who’s a fantastic writer and his post inspired mine) asks of modern authors, “Is that nihilism really what you want to leave behind? Your silhouette a stoop, rather than a hurrah?”

Here I am, to defend my favorite setting for any sort of fiction. Post apocalyptic themes are not the themes of nihilism and death, but rather provide an outlet for heroism, and the ability for modern day writers and designers to create heroic, benevolent figures like the heroes of yore rather than the depressed, cynical antihero who dominates most other forms of fiction.
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