Category: Action Games
Developer – Sony Computer Entertainment America
Publisher - Factor 5
Number of Players: 1
Playstation Network Compatible
Online: Ethernet Broadband Required
Required Hard Disk Space: 3MB
Game Rating: T (teen)
HDTV: 720p, 1080p, 1080i
Generating much anticipation and hype over the past year, Lair finally arrives for the Playstation 3 (PS3). Developed by Factor 5 and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America, Lair was built up to be a 'triple A' title for the PS3. Having seen many screenshots and videos over the past several months, I was personally looking forward to the game. At the same time, I was very sceptical about the much publicized SIXAXIS control scheme and whether or not Lair would be able to pull it off. Does Lair ultimately live up to the hype? Unfortunately it does not, however there are many great aspects about the game which makes this one definitely worth a try. Nevertheless, in the end, Lair has lots of sizzle but little steak.
Easily the best selling feature of the game is the graphics. I played the majority of the game in 720p on my HDTV and the visuals are simply stunning at times. I can't help but think Lair makes a great home theatre demo game. The following visuals really stood out for me:
- The explosions and fire effects look incredibly realistic;
- The water effects are stellar;
- The lighting is sharp;
- Detailed environments are carved out to perfection; and
- The character models and dragons look fantastic.
The battles in Lair are very chaotic and the subsequent explosions are nicely rendered. Watching large boats explode on the water is very satisfying and the detail of the actual explosion from far or up close is impressive. The boats literally explode and shatter into pieces while the water below it just ripples. It ultimately created a very cool effect. This leads me to talk about the overall water effects and how they are also very sharp. The movie cut-scenes of the water falls are stellar and nothing is lost during the transition to the in-game visuals. Even the details of the water which runs along side the landscape and wraps around the bridges looks realistic and authentic. Lighting effects are equally impressive. The lighting which reflects off your characters armour for instance is something that took me off guard. I just did not expect that kind of detail. Adding more pizzazz to the lighting is how you even become momentarily blinded when you look up into the sun. This very much reminds me of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter for the Xbox 360 which also has very strong and realistic lighting effects. The vast environments and landscapes are very detailed and look phenomenal in High Definition. You really get the sense you are in a “Lord of the Rings” type world and you start to get a sense of the power of the PS3 when playing Lair. Finally, the games character models are bang-on. The characters facial features and detail which went into the dragons is simply top notch.
Thus far, I have done nothing but rave about the visuals. Unfortunately, there are some setbacks, however they do not outweigh the positives in the game. In Lair you do experience some frame rate issues and slow downs. This most commonly occurs during chaotic battle scenes when there are more enemies than you can shake a stick at. Fortunately, the occurrences are not overly problematic and the game is still very much playable when the slow-downs occur. My only other concern with regards to the visuals was the seemingly lack of variety from one dragon to another. For the most part they all looked the same until I noticed some subtle differences up close. This was problematic during battle where I often had no idea which dragons were my team-mates and who were my enemy. Again, not a major issue but certainly enough of one preventing Lair from getting a perfect score in the visuals department.
As far as the sound is concerned, Lair’s sound is an excellent complement to the fantastic graphics.
The THX-certified sound runs in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and the game also features 7.1 surround sound for those lucky enough to enjoy it. Lair’s soundtrack is very well done and only adds to the whole Lair experience. As far as the soundtrack is concerned, there are approximately fifty musical tracks spread out over Lair’s 14 levels. While you won’t hear any noticeable recording artists, the orchestral arrangements are very well done and sound great in 5.1 surround sound. Unfortunately, given the limitations of my home theatre, I was not able to take advantage of Lair’s 7.1 surround sound.
Lair’s sound effects are equally as strong as the games soundtrack. The sounds of the explosions and battle noises are all well done. The sound of a dragon getting pierced with a sword is very effective and startled me a little the first time I heard it. Furthermore, the dragon’s fire breathing roars are impressive. Also the sound of the dragon swooping and flying through the air is also very sharp. The voice acting is also a strong point of the game. The actors are clear and they deliver the dialogue is such a manner that is understandable and convincing. The frequent cut-scene video moves the story along and nothing is lost from cut-scene to in-game sound. Overall, I really had no serious concerns with the audio and Lair stands as one of the better sounding games on the PS3.
While Lair’s Graphics and Sound score high marks with this writer; the same can not be said for the gameplay. Before I get into my main gripes, I will give you a bit of background with regards to the storyline. Lair takes place in a world that is being threatened by emerging volcanoes, causing the land to be destroyed and the air to be polluted. This has created conflict and people have divided themselves into two kingdoms: the Mokai and the Asylian. The Mokai live on depleted lands with little to no resources while the Asylians live in one of the last remaining bountiful green areas. As you can guess, the Mokai are naturally angry and want to take over the Asylians land. Here is where you come in. You play the role of a dragon-riding knight named Rohn. Rohn is an elite member of the Asylian sky guard. Throughout the game, Rohn is given the tasks of defending a certain area, destroying certain objects, eliminating enemies or creatures, and other mission-based objectives. After each stage, you earn either gold, silver, or bronze medals, depending on performance during the level. Earning medals assists in unlocking combos and behind-the-scenes videos.
Now it is time to get into my concerns and they are significant ones. Lair relies heavily on PS3's SIXAXIS motion controls. In fact, Lair forces you to use the SIXAXIS controls and this is truly the main downfall of the game in my opinion. There is no secondary default dual stick controls to be found in Lair. Essentially using the SIXAXIS control scheme you fly the dragon by tilting the controller left, right, up and down. Jerk the controller upwards and your dragon will make a 180 degree turn. Anyhow you get the idea. It’s all about moving your controller around. As I was playing the game, I could not help but think to myself; what were the developers thinking? Why they could not add an additional dual stick control scheme is beyond me. I gather this is because Sony wanted an exclusive SIXAXIS game. Who knows? After hours of gameplay and countless number of attempts in the training missions, it seemed like I really never had complete control over my dragon. It felt awkward moving my wrists all over the place. Also, I often found my dragon unresponsive to certain moves with the control. Granted, with more practice you do get better with the controls, however it is a very frustrating experience especially in those battles where you just can’t get you dragon to do what you want him to do or can’t get him to react quick enough. Repeatedly throughout the game, I kept thinking I wish they had a secondary control option.
While you steer your dragon with the SIXAXIS controls, the other buttons do come into play. For instance, the square button is used to shoot fireballs at your targets. Holding down the square button causes the dragon to shoot a stream of fire forward. Tapping the X button makes your dragon accelerate. Once you get past the awkwardness of the SIXAXIS controls, the gameplay really does not get any better. Enemy dragons, for instance, are difficult to spot and I never really knew if I was shooting at my fellow countrymen or the enemy. I often found myself flying around and aimlessly shooting until an enemy dragon approached. Some of sort of icon display over the enemies would have been very helpful.
Another concern I had with the gameplay was the locking system. The locking system is very popular in shooter games and in many games it works quite well. Unfortunately this is not the case in Lair. In order to lock-on to something in Lair, you must get close enough to it to see a white tinge form around it. You then press the lock-on button and the white tinge changes to red, which signifies a successful lock-on. Sounds simple enough in theory, unfortunately you never really have control of what you lock-on to as the game chooses what you lock-on to. This becomes problematic and continues to give you that feeling you are never in complete control of your game.
The missions and objectives, for the most part are straight forward. Keep in mind, there is not much in the way of variety. Essentially you are tasked with destroying enemies or protecting something which the enemies are destroying. Additionally, there are a few boss fights. At the end of the day, the missions can get boring and the frustrating controls continually hamper the gameplay experience.
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