|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Factor 5||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SCEA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 30, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matt Cabral
July 12, 2007 - The PlayStation 3 needs a hit. But not just a hit, more like a blockbusting, system-seller-you know, the likes of which usually star Master Chief or Solid Snake. Sony's high-priced hardware has been the target of much backlash, most notably concerning its lack of truly next-gen exclusives. And seeing that Resistance: Fall of Man and MotorStorm are the only titles that've generated much must-buy buzz, it seems the criticism is mostly warranted. That, however, may be about to change thanks to Factor 5's upcoming talon-baring title, Lair.
We've heard all the buzz on this genre-bending game and its blending of flight and ground-based battles to deliver an epic tale of dragons and their riders. I'm not one to give into hype easily-I didn't line up for an iPhone, I won't make any assumptions about Killzone 2 till it's spinning in my PS3 and I think Pop Tarts are overrated. That said, my jaded-gamer heart pumps with fanboy enthusiasm every time I peek under Lair's scaly skin. It looks that good. And after going claw-to-claw with Factor 5's president and master dragon wrangler, Julian Eggebrecht, my anticipation has reached heights that could only be matched by the heavens-soaring winged beasts of this promising next-gen entry.
Lair's photorealistic visuals and breathtaking effects instantly command your attention. Witnessing sunlight and shadows play off the terrain, water, knights and beasts is a quick reminder that we've indeed entered the next generation of gaming. Couple this visual feast with a strong fire-and-brimstone vibe, and battle-ready, fire-breathing beasties that are unlike anything you've ever seen-seriously, these are monsters, not dragons-and you've got a title that feels more like a playable movie than a game. When asked about the inspiration for Lair's ferocious flyers, Mr. Eggebrecht confirmed my twisted take on their non-traditional appearance. "Our dragons were very much based on the theory of evolution taking a wrong turn. Taking the current concepts of dinosaurs and cloning them together with bats and other flight creatures. We didn't try to be dark, just realistic in a slightly twisted sense". Lair's mature presentation extends passed the dragons, draping its world in a darkness that's visible on everything from your knight's battle-scarred armor to the charred battlefields below. The word cinematic gets tossed around pretty liberally in describing games, but it's hard to find another adjective that accurately conveys the fully-realized mythological world that pops out of the PS3 when Lair's spinning in its disc drive.
Of course, gorgeous graphics don't make a game. Anyone who's played the new Pirates of the Caribbean title on next-gen hardware can attest to that-Jack Sparrow sure looks pretty, but his swordplay's about as much fun as scurvy. My biggest concern has always been Lair's implementation of the SIXAXIS motion controls. This promising PS3 feature continues to disappoint with tacked-on mini-games that usually have me returning to my Wii for its much more satisfying control-flailing action. Having already successfully placed us in the cockpit of many an X-Wing and Tie Fighter with their excellent Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games, Factor 5 knows flight. "With Lair we're trying to push the envelope of technology, graphics, sound, and reinvent gameplay for flight games? Star Wars: Rogue Squadron did the same in 1998, but our canvas is so much larger with the PS3, living creatures, and our own world. Several of the key components of Lair were completely designed around motion control. Flight is the obvious one, but I am also talking about the dragon combat in close contact, our gestures, and even the use of the motion control to swivel the camera in slow-mo sequences without having to grab a stick."
From what I've seen and heard from the man behind this next-gen behemoth, it's hard not to get excited about Lair. Still, until I'm flying high, controlling the SIXAXIS reins of my own battlefield scorching menace, I'll try and keep my inner-fanboy grounded. When asked if my skepticism is warranted and if the PS3 finally has its horsepower-harnessing killer-app, Mr. Eggebrecht confidently responds: "I think it is the first game to show all features of the PS3 extensively and in a well-rounded package. It is a first-party title so of course we took maximum advantage of the PS3 in every respect. Especially the Sixaxis controller-it's something extremely unique. I wouldn't discount any feature, though - just yesterday we started worrying that even Blu-ray might not be large enough for Lair's data. If you create a single-platform game, it's your duty to make the most out of it." Lair certainly holds potential to pack the next-gen punch PS3 owners have been waiting for, and I can't wait to unleash it from my SIXAXIS-clenching fingers when it lands on PS3s like a megaton mythological beast, this August.
CCC Freelance Writer