This is a good looking game. There's no doubt about that. Whatever I have to say about often frustrating gameplay, it is a testament to star studded development team that the storyline and visual splendour was enough to keep me engaged for the good 10-12 hours of gameplay this has to offer.
Let's start with what's right: Firstly, it's beautiful. It really is. Most Armageddon-esque settings painted with dingy, depressing subdued palettes and desolate wastelands - whilst those are present in Enslaved, the primary impression is that of colour. Whether escaping from slaver ships, scrounging for salvage in a giant rusty metal yard or swinging through the rubble of a lush, verdant post-apocalyptic New York - there is always an array of sharp, almost comic book vivid colour.
Secondly, the story is engaging; partly because of the element of mystery as you are dropped into the game with little or no backstory and are foreced to piece it all together as events unfold, but mostly because of the quality of the facial animation used in the frequen cut scenes to tell that story. Using motion capture techniques similar to those used to make the infamous L.A.Noire faces - the characters are real, complex and deeply engaging. Watching the dynamics between them change and shift is truly absorbing. That subtley of animaion, the slight raise of an eyebrow, the most miniscule of frowns, the half-shrug - is really really breathtaking. That level of subtley makes these characters feel truly human - and had me totally sucked in and actually caring about their story.
The geek in me could happily sit and gaze and sigh in wonder at the pretty trees, faces and sunsets all day long, but that wasn't really enough to totally blind me to the fact that the game isn't exactly perfect.
It's a standard linear platformer - as restrictive and rigid as the Prince of Persia series. It looks very impressive as you hurl yourselve from handhold to handhold but essentially all you are doing is pressing A and shoving the L stick in vaguely the right direction. Add in the "PULL THIS LEVER", "GO HERE" icons and the highlighted, shining climbable hand holds and this element starts to get pretty mindless. On top of that is a very frustrating nanny-state level of restriction - the game WILL NOT let you make a mistake! It starts off as a useful feature that stops you acidently running off a platform, but after your 72nd time teetering ontop of a 3ft box as the game refuses to let you jump down unless you are in the exact right spot, facing the exact right way...it starts to get a bit frustrating. Fortunately, just when you think you might just start to tear your hair out there are some fun elements that switch up the pace of the game nicely - running away from giant metal death rhino, shooting glowing bombs, lever based puzzles, a little "surfing" - all of which are very fun and definitely a welcome break from the tedium
The combat is again a case of looks impressive; but essentially you might as well be button mashing. Upgraded combat is more fun - providing a range of dodging, counters, special attacks which encourage you to switch up gameplay against the toughter opponents - my only complaint being these upgrades are rather numerous and you'll only really be teched up by the end chapters anyway.
So...would I recommend this game? Yes. Yes if you appreciate a good looking game and are not expected an Assassin's Creed level of freedom! It is beautiful, and it is fun. The graphics and storyline are a solid 5* in themselves, but the niggles I have with the gameplay bring it down to a 4/5 overall. Well worth it for the price!!