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PS3 Review: Lair

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In Lair you play Roan, a Dragon Rider in the world of Asylia. At one point Asylia was inhabited by one group of people that due to religious differences have split into civil war. The game throws you right into the conflict. The opposing side is attacking the city with massive catapults and you and your squad are sent in to defend. When you grab the Sixaxis and are flying towards the barrage of air borne fireballs and you see buildings crumble all around you, you get the feeling that this game should be the most amazing experience in the history of shoot’em up flight simulators ever.

The first time you maneuver your dragon right up to one of the ships at sea attacking you and send it to the briny blue you think “Wow. This is what next-gen has been talking about… awesome.” But then something happens. As you play further and further into the game you realize that the graphics are starting to get choppy. The storyline is weak and the twists are predictable. The game play starts to become repetitive and magically you start fighting other creatures mid air in near Street Fighter style.

As the story goes on, you never really connect with your character and the motion controls become annoying. It may just be me, but the whole ‘pull your controller backwards in the air really quickly to do a 180′ never really worked for me. Some levels in the game, like the first time you try to save a group of Air Manatees (and yes they are Manatees flying without any wings through the air) that are used as troop transports, feel pointless and don’t move the story along.

The boss battle on that level is also an example of “Wow that should have been better.” A giant sea snake pops out of the ocean and starts eating the flying Manatees. This was the first time in the game I needed to rely on one of Lair’s worst features – the targeting system. Whatever enemy is in your direct vision gets a small barely visible white glowing ball around it. When you then select something to be targeted instead of a white ball it becomes a red ball that again is barely noticeable. After shooting scales off this sea snake and avoiding venom being squirted at you for a few minutes the game jumps into a cut scene (I assume it was triggered by the amount of damage I had done to it) that made no sense. Another sea snake pops up while the one you just killed dies and mysteriously the new one just keels over as well. Maybe more had happened that I didn’t catch, but that would be due to the game seemingly running at 15 frames a second.

I only go into all that detail to show an example of something that happens a lot in this game. To spell it out… poor game planning and not enough testing. It feels rushed. Factor 5 has released some great games over the years. Namely the Rogue Squadron series. So the expectations for their first PS3 title were high. This game is right up their alley too – a third person perspective flight simulator with quick action and arcade like game play. Unfortunately it seems like Sony’s need to get titles out this year forced this game to be released about six months early. That’s just how it seems to me. I could be wrong and someone at Factor 5 is sitting there wondering what everyone’s problem is. Lair is in desperate need of a polishing and I’m sure Factor 5 is feeling the sting of that truth right now. What could have been a really amazing game with moments of mind blowing graphics and cinematic quality action fall short and is down right unplayable at times.

Having said that, I do have a couple positives to say about this game. The cut scenes, which are rendered in game, look amazing. The characters feel nearly real. A little too real if you ask me. We’re going to have a flood of waiters in Los Angeles if technology keeps pushing the envelope on digital actors. The score for this game is also note worthy. Composed by John Debney (who also did Sin City and The Passion of the Christ) with the London and Royal symphony orchestras, he creates a very mood driven score that rivals any big Hollywood production. There is a post from him on Playstation.Blog where you can listen to “Diviner’s Theme.” Also, I did have fun playing through the first few levels before the games shortcomings started rearing their ugly heads. Sadly, I cannot recommend this game – unless you’re a dragon nerd, which I kind of am.

Lair is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Violence.


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