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Primal – Second Opinion

Brad Gallaway's picture

Primal looks great, and there's no debating it. Anyone into graphics is going to need to change their underwear after seeing the lighting effects, shadows and marvelously realized environments. If I were scoring based solely on visual appeal this game would be taking home top marks. But much like Matt says, graphics certainly aren't everything. Primal is a perfect example of why all the eye candy in the world can't rescue a wretched design.

Something hinted at in the main review but not specifically addressed was that every action in the game (except walking) is totally contextualized. While situation-specific actions can lend a streamlined and natural feel to control schemes, the developers have taken it to a ludicrous extreme. Jen and Skree can literally do nothing unless they're in the proper place to do so. Want to practice up on your fighting combos? Sorry, but you can't draw your weapons unless you're in the middle of a tussle. Want to see how athletic Jen is? You won't be able to jump unless you're standing at the edge of a gap. By keeping control out of the player's hands, it's impossible to get a sense of immersion or ownership. Allowed no freedom over the characters you're allegedly in charge of, the only option is to trudge your odd couple to a push-button "hot zone" and wondering why anyone ever thought this was a good idea.

Along the same lines, the characters' puzzle solving abilities are so limited that there is absolutely no satisfaction when progress is made. For example, Skree can cling to stone and climb walls, but only on the walls you're supposed to climb—not the ones you want to. What good is this idea if you can't have fun with it? He can also make statues do his bidding, but first you need to collect chunks of "local" rock before he can work the mojo. (Insert scoffing here). As anyone with half a brain can guess, they're hidden inside crates and barrels. I might have found this to be a totally original and creative concept except for the fact that searching breakable objects is not only the oldest, most tired trick in videogames, it's just about the shabbiest busywork I can think of. Forget about the joys of discovery or experimentation, because Primal ain't havin' it.

I find Matt's comparison to Crystal Dynamics' Soul Reaver 2 to be dead-on. The two games are more similar than they are different with their nu-goth themes and "teen angst" dark imagery. They're also basically set up like long, linear hallways interrupted by cutscenes, and their warp-gate systems are nearly identical. However, at least the plot and characters in Soul Reaver 2 kept my curiosity piqued. I can't say as much for Primal. If you're going to force me to walk levels several times over in a feeble quest to smash dry-rotted barrels, at least make the payoff worth my while. I may have found Jen and Skree's jibes marginally more entertaining than Matt did, but the material doesn't deviate enough from the norm to make it engaging or addicting.

These are just a few (out of many) examples of why Primal keeps players disconnected and disinterested. With immersion prevented by tightly restricted freedom and a story that can't cut the mustard, the remaining menial puzzles can't compensate for the disc's overall weakness. Primal's lack of backbone is exposed after only an hour or two, and all the work to create such breathtaking visuals is for naught when there's nothing to do but be aggressively bored.

I had high hopes for Primal since I was a fan of SCEE's earlier MediEvil games, but I guess those were a fluke rather than a real representation of the studio's output. Primal goes in the complete opposite direction that modern games should be going by stripping away years of advancements in interactivity and replacing them with empty-calorie eye candy. Little more than the cutting-edge equivalent of an old-fashioned FMV game, Primal is so immensely tedious and backward that I can't even think of any humorous comments to close out the paragraph-I just want to be done with it. Rating: 3 out of 10

Category Tags
Platform(s): PS2  
Developer(s): Sony Cambridge  
Publisher: Sony  
Genre(s): Adventure/Explore  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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