E3 2010: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Hands-on
I didn't know much about Enslaved before today, but everything I saw of this action partner game impressed me.
Enslaved is set 150 years after most of the humans were destroyed by robots, and the main characters run through a ruined New York City. But before you judge, this post-apocalyptic city isn't brown and grey. It's green and lush as foliage has overgrown the skyscrapers and overpasses of one of the most iconic cities in the world.
The creative team behind Enslaved is impressive. It's developed by Ninja Theory in Cambridge (Heavenly Sword) and the main character, Monkey, is voiced by Andy Serkis, who you might recognize as everyone's favorite One Ring junkie, Gollum. Serkis is also directing the full motion capture, and contributing to the game's script that is primarily written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, The Beach). If those credits don't excite you, then I don't know what will.
I was drawn in by the story of Enslaved, which is loosely based on the ancient Chinese story, Journey to the West. Trip, an attractive female, and Monkey are both slaves who had been captured by the robots. Through the technical expertise of Trip, the two are able to escape the slave ship as it crashed in New York, with Monkey doing much of the heavy combat lifting. Monkey goes to sleep, and when he awakes, he has a sort of metal collar on his head. Trip tells him that he must help her get back home, or the headband that she installed will kill him. If he moves away from her or tries to escape, the headband will give him intense pain until he dies.
Monkey is understandably pissed by his enslavement, and the relationship is strained from the onset. You play primarily as Monkey, whose name aptly describes his agility, but Trip is also marginally under your control. You can tell her to run, or to create a distraction as you try to sneak past sentries. Throughout the jungle-fied city streets of New York, old mechs are called to life by your presence and still following orders to eradicate all humans. Trip doesn't beat up these robots like Monkey does, but she can appropriate their tech (see the headband Monkey's now wearing) to serve the pair's purpose of travelling west.
Like most games I play, I was drawn in by the little details. Trip is in awe of the ancient skyscrapers around and says things like, "There must have been hundreds of humans living here." There were a few more than that, honey. Also, there is old graffiti on the walls that says things like, "If you're alive, go to Grand Central," which suggests that there was some kind of organized human resistance. I also got a kick out seeing a building address that read, "XX90 Avenue of the Americas." I used to work right near Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan, which is at 1250 Avenue of the Americas; I got a kick out of realizing that Monkey and Trip were walking on the same street corners where I used to grab a burrito for lunch.
Other than that, playing the game felt like your standard action adventure game. Quick attack with X, hard attack with the Y. Press A to jump. Nothing groundbreaking beyond the mech abilities that Trip unlocks through hacking robot technology. But I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere and storytelling that I witnessed from the short time I played with the game.
I'm looking forward to picking up Enslaved when it hits stores this October for the Xbox 360 and the PS3.
Keep track of all our E3 2010 coverage here.