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Enslaved gameplay preview

Hands-on: We test out Ninja Theory's promising adventure...

In our last eyes-on with Ninja Theory's Enslaved, we called it "as colourful as Mario, as detailed as Gears and as beautifully animated as Uncharted".

It was, admittedly, a bold statement. But after finally sitting down for an hour to finally play the Ninja Theory epic, we can happily stand by our claim.

Enslaved is set 150 years in the future, when a minuscule human population struggles to survive - and as robots left from wars long past occupy a now unrecognisable world.

The next game from the Heavenly Sword developer features art, music and cut-scenes - voiced and acted by Andy 'Gollum' Serkis - up there with some of the very best in gaming.


The facial animation work on the game's leading pair, the brutish Monkey and inventive Trip, is very impressive (almost to the point that we're able to lip-read) and the action sequences reflect the no-doubt excellent work from Hollywood writer Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later).

Okay, so it might not be quite as perfect as Nathan Drake's second adventures in all aspects - but considering it's being developed across multiple consoles, the comparison is more than justified. It's looking simply sublime.

So besides the prettiness, what's it like to actually play? Visceral, in a word. The camerawork is well done, swooping majestically and thumping violently inwards for added clout during combat.

The cinematic touch is no doubt partly thanks to the dedicated work from Garland, who not only wrote the script for the game but stayed on afterwards, inviting the dev team to his home and picking out minute details such as characters' stances, banter and the gameplay scenarios themselves.

Ninja Theory's adventure - at the beginning, at least - is essentially a game centred on AI teamwork, much like Half-Life 2's stellar experiments with partner Alyx Vance.

We play a sequence set in the ruins of New York City, chasing our partner Trip through the crumbling buildings as we utilise each others' abilities to bypass angry robots.

We were playing on the world's most desirable Samsung TV, granted - but Enslaved really is a very, very pretty game. The use of colour in particular is standout; Ninja Theory says its art director painted over screenshots to achieve the ideal look.

After the brown havens of Fallout and Metro 2033 we don't think we've seen a more beautiful post-apocalyptic adventure, well, ever (not that that's a particularly difficult feat).

One scene early on subtly introduces us to teamwork gameplay with partner Trip. Encountering two machine gun-toting cyborgs, Monkey's humble staff isn't much use in defence. Instead, our pair of heroes dash behind cover and our red-headed companion waves her arms in distraction as we leg it across a nearby bridge.


Once safely on the other side, we return the favour with our own distract ability - flailing our arms madly as if at a Paul Oakenfold gig, then instructing Trip to leg it in our direction using an in-game radial menu.

It's a cinematic and intuitive little sequence that promises bigger things to come - but of course few games truly managed to nail AI partnership throughout a narrative, which is a worry.

Thankfully, in our time with the game Trip was a help rather than a hindrance - certainly comparable to Half-Life's Alyx in not-a-pain-in-the-arse league. The plucky lass keeps herself out of trouble, stuns enemies when attacked and generally leaves you alone to explore the world without nuisance. You can also zoom your view to her location at any time - even through scenery - which is useful.

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