Enslaved: Odyssey to the West E3 2010 Preview

Quick Take: Combining action, puzzle solving, and escort missions, Ninja Theory's Enslaved: Odyssey to the West offers variety, a cool setting, and a dose of Gollum. nope

Another strong title in Namco's E3 2010 lineup, Enslaved is a unique game with a unique setting. Loosely based on a Chinese novel from the Ming Dynasty, the game kicks off 150 years in the future in wartorn version of New York. The world has been taken over by evil robots (not nice ones like C-3PO or Johnny 5). Humans are used as slaves. Two humans -- Monkey and Trip -- have managed to escape the clutches of the machines. They have little in common, but must work together to survive.

Gamers control Monkey, the stronger and more action-oriented character. He's big and brawny...and happens to be wearing a high-tech headband that was placed on him by Trip. Unsure if he could be trusted but knowing he was necessary, Trip uses the headband to make sure Monkey behaves and cooperates. She's from a tribe that tinkers with technology and uses it to keep safe from the robots. This is a stark contrast from Monkey, a loner who uses his wits and physical gifts to survive on his own. While Trip believes that humanity can flourish together, Monkey believes that bad things happen when too many humans are in one place.

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Monkey is responsible for all of the customary gaming action -- beating up enemies, climbing to difficult areas, etc. He's also responsible for Trip's survival, making the game one long escort mission. There are some areas where they have to work in tandem. Monkey will distract enemies so that Trip can reach safety. Trip will distract enemies so that Monkey can reach guarded areas. Trip can also use her tech expertise to power-up Monkey's headband and incapacitate foes with an electromagnetic pulse. The example I saw had Trip program a robotic dragonfly that can be used as a scout for enemies and mines. The information is beamed to Monkey's headband, making him aware of the hazards.

On a side note, halfway through my demo I was told that Monkey is being portrayed by Andy Serkis. From that point on I heard Monkey ending every sentence with, "Gollum...Gollum." I also heard him asking the scarlet haired Trip, "So...do the cuffs match the collar?"

In addition to traditional action-adventure gameplay, Enslaved's tandem elements make it distinct and interesting. The story of two characters that don't like each other, but need each other for survival is also fun (though it will predictably lead to friendship). The developer, Heavenly Sword veteran Ninja Theory, has something fun on its hands. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Enslaved and if the full game ends up being as interesting as the demo.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is due on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in October 2010.

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