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'Lair' nothing more than a four-letter word

September 14, 2007

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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LairLair is not an epic. More accurately, it is a failure of epic proportions. What was supposed to be one of the first huge Playstation 3 exclusives to prove that this mammoth system was worth its weight in pixels, instead has become easily one of the worst games that the 'next generation' of games has to offer.

Lair casts you as Rohn, a warrior who belongs to a peaceful race known as the Asylians. Another race, known as the Mokai, live to the north of the Asylians, surrounded by both fire and ice. Both races live their own lives without interference, until one day, the Mokai attacked the Asylians without warning, and here our adventure (if you can call it that) begins.

The 'hook', if you will, of Lair is that you do your battling atop a giant dragon. Right off the bat, this game sounds like it has a lot going for it. The dragons look absolutely amazing and the visuals and cutscenes (when they aren't interruption actual gameplay sequences) do a lot to give you an attachment to your dragon; it's like man's best friend times a thousand.

Unfortunately, the dragon you ride on can only be controlled using the PS3's Sixaxis controller's tilt functionality. There is no option to change to analog stick control. Right here, we see how the game became the abomination it is.

For a game to use these controls, they have to work absolutely perfectly, and in Lair, they don't. Not by a longshot. If you're in a wide open section of the sky with very few enemies, you're good to go. Hence the first level or two being somewhat passable gameplay-wise.

But the minute you start in your first large-scale battle, you'll quickly become enraged with how badly the controls work ... or really how they DON'T work. Doing a 180 degree turn requires a flick upward of the controller. Sounds simple enough, but this worked MAYBE half the time. When flying alongside an enemy dragon, you can flick the controller left or right to do a sideswipe. Again, this worked only some of the time. The best parts of combat were when I was battling a dragon claw-to-claw, and could just mash the buttons and not have to worry about the silly tilt controls. Usually, button-mashing is a lazy way for a gamer to play, but compared to the other sections of the game, button-mashing is pure gaming nirvana.

The other supremely frustrating aspect of Lair is that you can't control what you lock on to. It's easy enough to lock on to something - just press the R1 button or L1 buttons - but there is simply no way of choosing what you lock on to. You have to basically look in the general direction of the enemy you want, and press the button and hope that the target lands on the proper enemy. You can toggle by rapidly hitting the L1 or R1 buttons but we found this just made us lock on to the same target over and over again.

LairThough a lot of the flight controls use the tilt functionality, there is still a lot of attacks and moves you need to pull off by using the face buttons, and this is yet another area where the game fails miserably. At one point in the game, the player is tasked with facing off against a new, large enemy that has armour on it that needs to be removed. Problem is, the picture of the controller that pops up to show you what button combination you have to use disappears almost as fast as it pops up. I new I had to do something different to the enemy, I just didn't know what.

Though the game has the look and musical score of a grandiose adventure, the voice acting doesn't match these things very well. The script sounds stunted and unnatural and just makes the game that much more clunky. Also keep in mind that there is a seemingly endless supply of cutscenes within in each level. Just when a certain battle sequence begins to get somewhat interesting, something happens and a cutscene pops up, fully taking you out of the moment. In fact, a lot of the cooler action sequences are done through cutscenes, and it makes one wonder: why couldn't these sequences be controlled by the player, as opposed to being shown by them. This is a video game - let us play, don't make us watch!

There really isn't much more to say about Lair. Deep down inside, there is a good game lurking here; the huge, 'Lord of the Rings'-like battle sequences show great potential and some of the close-range fights can be fun as you claw at other dragons and troops and shoot waves of fire at them.

But nothing can make up for the control issues that plague Lair. It's a shame that after almost a year on the market, developers still don't have a game that really justifies the existence of the Sixaxis' tilt controls. They tried with Lair, and failed in ways that words can't barely describe.

Lair
Format: Playstation 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Factor 5
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Official Site: http://www.us.playstation.com/Lair/

Rating: 3 / 10

 
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.