Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (XBOX 360) Review

A less-than-timely review of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West may somehow be appropriate given the unremarkable nature of the game. Enslaved is a solid action title that does a lot of things well, but it’s ultimately destined to get lost during a busy holiday season.

Getting into the details, Enslaved is set in a dystopian future in which evil robot overlords have subjugated – or enslaved – nearly the entire human race. You play as Monkey, a lone survivalist with some distinctly simian characteristics. The story kicks off when a homesick and technically savvy woman named Trip takes note of your athletic prowess and makes you her personal slave until you agree to take her back to her family.

As a plot devise, the premise is reasonably effective. If Trip dies, you die, so you can’t move too far away and you have to come to the rescue whenever the mechs get a bit too close. Fortunately, Trip is no defenseless princess. She carries an EMP and tends to stay well out of the way during firefights.

That’s both to the game’s benefit and it’s detriment. There are some interesting cooperative puzzles involving decoys, but the decision to downplay the co-dependent nature of the central relationship means that there’s not much to distinguish Enslaved from any other third person action title. The platforming is fun, the combat is tight and intuitive, and the game performs extremely well, but it takes more than mechanical prowess to impress modern audiences.

In that regard, the fact that Enslaved isn’t particularly difficult certainly doesn’t help. The linear platforming sections are almost impossible to screw up and there aren’t any timing challenges until the final third of the game. Combat can be a bit trickier, but you still shouldn’t have any serious trouble even on the highest difficulty setting.

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The story and the visuals, on the other hand, are a cut above average. The graphics aren’t revolutionary – nobody is going to forget about God of War III – but the opening act set amongst the ruins of an overgrown New York City is legitimately breathtaking and the scenery is always a pleasure to look at.

Trip and Monkey are similarly engaging and personable leads. They have some genuine chemistry and Ninja Theory wisely doesn’t play the male/female slave gimmick for cheap romance or easy laughs. It’s not high art, but it is at least believable, and that’s more than can be said of many other games.

Unfortunately, the aesthetic presentation is still a long way from perfect. The ending is a bit of a head scratcher and finer visual details like tattoos, scars, and textures usually take a few seconds to fully load. The hiccups never interrupt the flow of the game, but it’s obvious that the engine is chugging during some of the busier moments.

Enslaved also suffers from poor replay value. The disc offers nothing beyond the main story and while it is satisfying – around 8-to-10 hours – you should be able to polish it off within a week and there are other titles that give you more content for your dollar.

At the end of the day, that’s probably enough to keep Enslaved out of your shopping cart. You wouldn’t be embarrassed to have it on your shelf, but it doesn’t make enough of an impact to garner anything more than a cursory second glance.