Enslaved PC review – a lack of options kills the game

Namco Bandai Games re-released their console action adventure game from developers Ninja Theory for the PC audience, but with the game coming some years later, how well does the game stack up in today’s competitive market. Take a look at our Enslaved PC review for the full lowdown.

Enslaved PC review text version:

Today we’re taking a look at Ninja Theory’s action adventure game Enslaved which has just been released on Steam having already appeared on consoles in 2010.  We found the original game on Xbox 360 to be quite good, offering some solid storytelling and varied gameplay elements despite lacking in overall content. Well, the PC iteration comes complete with some added extras that were initially included as DLC to the console version, namely, the Pigsy’s Perfect 10 story and a couple of bonus outfits. Aside from the obvious visual upgrade in terms of running the game in 1080p on PC, there’s actually little to no discernible differences between the two.

To rewind a little, the core game introduces players to characters, Monkey and Trip as they escape slavers and are thrown together after their captor’s ship crashes in the wastes of a post apocalyptic world. However, as the game name suggests there’s a darker element to the story that makes itself known right off the bat. Rather than the duo collectively deciding on their fate, the character Trip takes matters into her own hands and captures Monkey via use of a controlling headband. Trip is actually one of the nastiest gaming sidekicks you’ll ever meet, and although she is dressed up as some defenceless victim of circumstance, her actions contradict everything she supposedly strives for in enslaving Monkey. The story then revolves around Trip’s personal journey to find her family with Monkey being used as a tool for accomplishing her goals – a  muscle bound slave if there ever was one. The tale is based on the famous Novel  ‘Journey to West’ and does a good job of creating moments of humor, action and even some tugging of the heart strings via some excellent performances from Andy Serkis and Lindsey Shaw.

Story aside, the gameplay offers a neat mix of combat, platforming and puzzles which work well in context of the characters getting from A to B. However, the execution on PC leaves little to be desired and right out of the gate there are immediate problems. Gameplay wise, there are issues with invisible walls, very linear pathways, and often the character getting stuck on edges. When the game works, there’s some good fluidity of movement, but the odd moments where it fails, is quite jarring. What is perhaps unforgiving is the fact that these issues weren’t fixed from the original version. There are also problems with the camera, where on occasion a fixed perspective is used, which again makes for confusing moments as perspectives shift in a blink of an eye. These really do impact the flow of the gameplay, making a mess of things rather than being the smooth transitions they should be. For gamers playing with a mouse and keyboard, there are problems here also and it just feels like the game is designed to be played with a controller. If you’ve not got one , then be prepared for some horrible mouse implementation which will have you wrestling constantly with the camera.

Controls aside, players, will find the game pretty easy to navigate, although some puzzles require a bit more thought than others, the combination of puzzle and action does work, but at times the pacing feels a little off as one moment you’re smashing up the mech enemies with glee, and the next trying to work out which object to jump to for progression.

Combat is perhaps one of the better elements of the game, but sadly there’s a real lack of moves to make it feel rewarding enough. With his staff, Monkey can stun, shoot and whack enemies into pieces, but after so many encounters it does get repetitive due to a lack of variety in enemy types and the available combos. Boss characters are thrown into the mix to spice things up, but once the desired method of dispatch is found, they become less threatening especially as they make several reappearances. To sum up Enslaved’s gameplay would be to suggest it’s an apprentice of many, and master of none. That said, it is accessible and pretty much anyone will be able to jump in and be quite formidable. Monkey can upgrade his basic abilities and add some new elements by collecting orbs and spending the gained points, but this simply makes the game easier. That said, there are moments where the game does up the challenge a bit, but there are issues with cheap deaths being attributed to poor game design rather than complexity of gameplay.

Enslaved right out the box is a broken mess in terms of its visuals, and with no options in the menu to fiddle with the graphics – which should be standard for a PC game – the resulting look of the game is bordering on terrible. Ninja Theory have employed a number of really cool effects which are exposed even more in this PC version, however, the use of motion blur by default and which cannot be changed in-game, leaves the graphics looking smeared and losing a lot of their crispness every time the player moves or pans the camera.  For gamers not wishing to enter into the games files to change the options, this leaves a very messy looking game on the table. Evidence of the game merely being a console port is clear in terms of the low resolution textures used throughout, although in some ways, the art style makes up for it. Having removed the motion blur, and fiddled with some other options, the game shines through and looks pretty stunning on occasion as Monkey and Trip travel through what looks like a dilapidated New York. These fine moments are a joy to behold, but sadly the game throws players into some dull and lifeless areas as well, and by the last few chapters begins to drag on a little and lose its finesse.

Audio is perhaps the most accomplished part of the game with quality performances all round, coupled with some great cinematic moments during the cutscenes where Trip and Monkey add some much needed personality. The music is also excellent and compliments the narrative perfectly with its orchestral score which rises to meet the action orientated occasion when needed.

Enslaved offers a fair adventure which can be completed in around eight hours on default setting. Skipping the movie scenes will shorten the time considerably, but they are worth watching the first time you play. Sadly, there is little to no replay value, other than collecting all the orbs per level and finding secret visions which can be done by replaying levels at any time. The game does offer alternative outfits, but for some reason you can only use one at a time – so if you want to use Ninja Monkey and Sexy Trip outfits, you can’t.

To add more hours to the game, Pigsy’s Perfect 10 offers an extension and a different style of gameplay as players assume the role of the overweight and somewhat entertaining character.  It’s a worthy distraction, but not something that beckons to be played more than once.

Ninja Theory have had some time to tweak and fix Enslaved on PC, but sadly and evidently have not, leaving the vanilla game a bit of a shambles which is a shame. If you have a controller and mess with the game files, then there is a decent game here that’s worth playing, especially for the asking price (if these issues were fixed, then add a few points on to the final score). As it stands,  Enslaved doesn’t possess the kind of polish or user interface expected from today’s games and therefore scores less than its console cousin. The cool gameplay moments and neat storytelling on offer are simply overshadowed by the negatives, and if you are stuck with the headache inducing motion blur , it’s likely you’ll switch the game off way before the story gathers any pace.

Score 4.5/10 – Review by Robert Cram







Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

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