Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Last Guardian: PS4 Review

The Last Guardian: PS4 Review

Platform: PS4

It's the holy grail of console gaming, and after some 10 years in development, it's finally here.

Begun in 2007 and with a development time that's been littered with expectation, Ico and the Shadow of the Colossus' developer Fumito Ueda's latest can only be described as an experience, albeit a flawed one.

Told in flashback and with voiceover, it's the story of a kidnapped boy who was taken under mysterious circumstances and left inside a castle, with his body tattooed with strange markings.
Next to him and chained for no reason lies a feathery furry beast, known as Trico. With spears in its side and shoulders, this wounded creature lies sullen and muted.

And this is where the Last Guardian begins as you decide what to do next.

There's little about The Last Guardian that won't be familiar to anyone who's ever owned a pet.

From removing the spears in the wounded beast in a show of humanity to tossing barrels for Trico to chew upon, this is about bonding with the creature from the get-go. The first moves force you into interactions with Trico, and he responds in kind, be it in anger or interest as you show your love toward an injured animal.

But as the game deepens, the bond grows as well. After the boy discovers a magical shield and projects it on to the wall, Trico's tail explodes with electricity shooting forth. There's an uncertain and unpredictable feel to the beast, and it makes the game feel magical as the two of you set out to escape from the confines of within.

However, while the bond between the pair is brilliantly realised, the gameplay is occasionally slighty frustrating.

There's no escaping the fact this game at time feels like a last gen console outing, in terms of how it looks, plays and with unstable frame-rates. And don't even get me started on the camera, which obscures some of the action, removes some of the marvel and generally frustrates more than it even remotely should.
There are moments when this game feels like a lazy port over and where it feels like the developers forgot they were even looking at a next gen console. The camera issue as mentioned is one of the buggiest ever encountered and it really does remove some of the feel of the game.

And then there are moments, when The Last Guardian makes you forget its flaws and hits you in wonderment.

There are cutaways that are impressive, suggesting scale and size that make the experience magical. There is a soundtrack that soars quietly and majestically in the background, binding the elements together in a cohesive tie that hits you more than you realise.

There are sequences when you simply find yourself looking at Trico, marvelling as the wind blows through the feathers of this dog / eagle / cat hybrid. There are moments when Trico behaves like your beloved pet, tentatively entering a space for the first time, with one paw first; and others where it goes bounding in full of infectious energy. This is where the power of The Last Guardian lies - its sparse storytelling gives way to an experience that's less about puzzle solving and more about the journey itself.

Much like Journey, Fumito Ueda's The Last Guardian is about feeling something.

And while it's nowhere near perfect, and its flaws almost threaten to topple it from its height, there's no denying that The Last Guardian is something sensationally special and magical.

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