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Old 12-21-2016, 10:10 AM   #1
Evil Avatar
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The Evil Avatar The Last Guardian Review!

Title: The Last Guardian
Platform: PS4
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Developer: genDESIGN
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Aaron Birch

The Last Guardian Review

Here boy. Here boy! HERE BOY!

Well, damn. I think it's safe to say that The Last Guardian, coming from the creators of the superb titles, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, and having been delayed for so long it switched console generations is just a little anticipated by gamers. With such a pedigree of development behind it, and those impressive trailers, it's surely an instant classic, right? Well, no. I'm sad to say, it's far from, although this will no doubt be a statement that'll divide people.



Firing up The Last Guardian I was excited to finally play the next game from members of Team Ico, and as soon as I started playing, I was hit with instant disappointment, which quickly, and almost constantly, gave way to frustration. Let me explain before you type that angry response.



I wanted to love The Last Guardian. I really did. I was ready and prepared for another emotionally-charged and artistic masterpiece. After all, the team had managed to deliver great games twice, surely this would be another? As the game loaded up, the familiar art design the team is known for was present, with familiar architecture, a cute, silent protagonist that oozes character, and the elephant in the room, Trico. This huge feathery dog-thing is undoubtedly the star of the show, and is what a great deal of the game revolves around. It's huge, and has been designed and animated to astounding levels. I have to say, it really is a technical achievement in how well the team has created and injected life into it. However, he's also one of the main reason the game fails.

Before that, though, I can't go any further without mentioning the game's camera and controls. Without fear of hyperbole, I can honestly say this is one of the worst in-game cameras I've had to put up with for a very long time. It harks back to the early days of the first 3D adventures and platformers in its love of getting caught in objects, giving you no clear view of what you need to see, making platforming a chore, and to top it all, it's as responsive as a sloth on valium, and has a floaty, loose movement. It's just awful, and if you use the options to speed it up, it makes things no better, and instead has the effect of making the camera even less controllable. It's not good.



Then, there are the controls, which are so fantastically clunky and awkward, with contextual buttons performing multiple duties, and the boy protagonist responding so sluggishly you can't help but constantly exhale in annoyance even when you're trying to do simple tasks. Quite how the team delivered the game with such loose, clunky and downright bad control mechanics, I just don't know.

Now, defenders will no doubt argue that similar camera and control schemes were used in the previous games, and they were great. Well, yes, but those games were also running on the PS2 (and latterly remastered for PS3) first released in 2001 and 2005 (Ico and Colossus respectively). This is a current gen PS4 and PS4 Pro game, and it's 2016. It's as if the dev team is using the same 11-15 year old code, and that's not good, and this is before we get to one of the game's biggest faux pas, and that's Trico.



I get it, Trico is a wild animal when you first encounter it, one that doesn't trust you. Part of the game's appeal (and despite my criticisms, it has a lot of appeal) is the journey the two of you embark on and the bond that develops. As you progress, Trico starts to trust you more and more, and interactions and commands expand, such as telling it (very loosely) which direction to go in, to jump, lift you up to a ledge, and so on. However, even when you've got a trusting bond, Trico will always do things if and when its damn well ready, and not before.

This behaviour may have well been by design, to reflect the behaviour of a real world animal. After all, animals don't speak our language, so getting them to do things isn't always easy. This works from a realism standpoint, but not from a gameplay point of view. Having to tell Trico to do something, or try to get it to move to a certain location, or jump onto a specific ledge can be so frustrating and time consuming, you'll just end up not having a good time playing.



Trico will sometimes know what to do without your help, but sometimes you'll need to figure things out and wrangle it into doing what you need. Several times I thought I was totally stuck, having tried several approaches to a puzzle or navigational challenge only to find that I was actually right the first time, an hour ago, but that for some reason Trico just didn't trigger the right action, despite me trying to get it to do so. Grrrrrr.

As Trico is so important to the game for puzzle solving and combat as he's the only one able to fight the nasties you'll encounter, this has a major negative effect on the game experience. Trico's hit and miss AI is perhaps the most problematic element of the game. When he works, and the two of you solve some of the game admittedly very well designed and implemented puzzles, it's blissful, but more often than not your gameplay session will be you shouting at the screen trying to get Trico to do what you want it to do, all whilst wrestling with a terrible camera and dodgy controls.



Now, it's not all bad. The actual story the game tells and a lot of the level design and challenges laid out are very good, with some truly great moments. I'd expect nothing less from the team. In fact, if you can persevere with the issues (which will be very tough for many), the game is actually pretty good. That said, The Last Guardian had all the cards, and shouldn’t be just pretty good, it should be great, and that's what fans will be expecting. It's not what we've got.



It's such a shame, as the game clearly has a lot going for it. It's drenched in the superb artistic direction the team is capable of, even with the much discussed frame rate issues and overall sluggish performance on standard PS4s, and the actual idea is great. Sadly, ambition here was out of reach of ability, and the end result is a very mechanically flawed, and ultimately unsatisfying title that's just too much work and not enough fun. It's such a shame.

Score: 3 out of 5



The Good
  • impressive art direction
  • Trico is very believable
  • Some great puzzles and challenges
The Bad
  • Awful camera
  • Very clunky and sluggish control
The Ugly
  • Trico's AI causes too much waiting and frustration
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Old 12-21-2016, 10:42 AM   #2
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One of the complaints I've heard frequently with this game is that Team ICO almost did too good of a job when it came to Trico's AI; he behaves pretty much like an actual, living animal. He listens about as well as an actual animal, too...which is where some of the "problems" arise.

I haven't had the chance to play it yet (my girlfriend demanded a Christmas list from me and this game is one of the things I threw onto it), but it sounds like it needs to be approached with a slightly different frame of mind. Sure, it's a video game...but it's a game that requires to essentially interact with an animal. Trico isn't going to respond like a video game character would; he's going to respond like your cat or dog would when you give it a command. Unfortunately, they don't always do what you want them to do.

I wouldn't call his AI "hit or miss". From what I've been hearing, I'd say they did a pretty damn good job of recreating the behaviors of a living, breathing animal.
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Old 12-21-2016, 10:52 AM   #3
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Just so long as I don't have to clean up after it takes a dump, I'm willing to try. I have enough animals as it is.
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Old 12-21-2016, 11:04 AM   #4
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it'll lose another star when you get so mad at the physics engine's BS that you throw the controller.

I'm with Sterling, it has great moments, there's greatness in it, it's just so fucking frustrating most of the time you don't care.
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Old 12-21-2016, 01:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Evil Avatar View Post
Before that, though, I can't go any further without mentioning the game's camera and controls. Without fear of hyperbole, I can honestly say this is one of the worst in-game cameras I've had to put up with for a very long time. It harks back to the early days of the first 3D adventures and platformers in its love of getting caught in objects, giving you no clear view of what you need to see, making platforming a chore, and to top it all, it's as responsive as a sloth on valium, and has a floaty, loose movement. It's just awful, and if you use the options to speed it up, it makes things no better, and instead has the effect of making the camera even less controllable. It's not good.
I bought it, and have logged less than an hour on it. The controls were so sluggish that I felt like I was playing on quaaludes.

No thanks!
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Old 12-21-2016, 02:31 PM   #6
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I was digging it for the most part 2/3 of the way through. But the controls and AI wore me down to where it became a slog to get through the last 1/3 as soon as possible before I broke the disc. Ending was cool.

Level design is superb though.
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Old 12-21-2016, 04:39 PM   #7
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Review is spot on. I will also echo that I played it for maybe 3 hours and I felt exhausted after the session, mainly for fighting the camera and Trico's AI. I haven't been compelled to return since my first play session due to this. It just doesn't seem worth the hassle.

I must say, between this and NMS, Sony hasn't been delivering on the exclusives. I am really regretting picking up a PS4 right now.
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Old 12-21-2016, 06:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chimpbot View Post
One of the complaints I've heard frequently with this game is that Team ICO almost did too good of a job when it came to Trico's AI; he behaves pretty much like an actual, living animal. He listens about as well as an actual animal, too...which is where some of the "problems" arise.

I haven't had the chance to play it yet (my girlfriend demanded a Christmas list from me and this game is one of the things I threw onto it), but it sounds like it needs to be approached with a slightly different frame of mind. Sure, it's a video game...but it's a game that requires to essentially interact with an animal. Trico isn't going to respond like a video game character would; he's going to respond like your cat or dog would when you give it a command. Unfortunately, they don't always do what you want them to do.

I wouldn't call his AI "hit or miss". From what I've been hearing, I'd say they did a pretty damn good job of recreating the behaviors of a living, breathing animal.
I don't know, my dog must be some kind of badass then, because he seems to know English and does whatever I say with great enthusiasm.
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Old 12-21-2016, 10:33 PM   #9
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The real reason it sucks is... drumroll please..... several "complete this leisurely and thoughtful game AS FAST AS POSSIBLE SEVERAL TIMES" speedrun trophies. UGH
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