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Developer:
Factor 5
Publisher: SCEA
Platform: PS3
Release Date: September 4, 2007

by Josh Ferguson




When it comes to PlayStation 3 exclusives, few have received as much hype as Factor 5’s Lair. The game is supposed to be one of the first to take full advantage of the motion controls that are made capable with the PS3’s Sixaxis controller. So is Lair one of those exclusives that will sell systems and one that every PlayStation 3 owner needs? You will have to read on to find out.


The storyline in Lair follows a young Asylian named Rohn, a warrior in an elite group known as the Skyguard. Members of the Skyguard defend Asylia at all costs, with the aid of their mighty dragons. However, when a call for peace between Asylia and the neighboring group, known as the Mokai, leads to bloodshed, Rohn is left questioning his beliefs and where his allegiance truly lies.


The storyline in Lair may not be exactly unique, but overall it is a good one. If you look at any RPG or even some action games, you may find some of the clichés in this game, but nevertheless, the game features an interesting hero and a few other decent characters along the way that help make this story interesting. Oh, and plus there's the added effect of the music making it feel a little more epic, but we’ll get into all that later.


As I said earlier, one thing that is heavily emphasized throughout Lair is the gameplay and controls. The game is seen as one of the first PS3 titles to truly use the motion capabilities of the Sixaxis controller. Much of the gameplay in Lair will take place while in flight, where you will have to tilt the controller to the right to turn right, left to turn left, down to descend, and up to ascend. Aside from your basic movements, your dragon is also able to perform a dash, which is an easy way to cover larger distances more quickly. In order to perform this dash maneuver, the player must take the Sixaxis controller and quickly push it forward. Another maneuver is the 180* turn, which is pretty self explanatory, and can be done by quickly pulling the controller up and towards you. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, this is where the problems in Lair quickly arise.


Sadly, one of the biggest issues anyone will have with Lair is the control system. The idea of being able to use the motion controls during the flight sequences seems interesting and all, but the problems far outweigh the benefits. Some of the biggest issues seem to arise with the controller not recognizing some of your different motions, or in other instances, thinking that you are actually trying to perform one of the other movements. Other problems with the motion controls is that it can be downright difficult to truly be precise in certain situations, especially while trying to fly through buildings, under bridges, or avoiding certain obstacles. Plus, seeing as how you are unable to shut off the motion controls and merely use the analog sticks, if you want to enjoy Lair, you are going to have to get used to the controls. This may take some time for many gamers, but if you have played games such as Flow or used the motion sensing for Motostorm, then these controls may come more naturally and be easier to fully comprehend.


If there is one thing for sure, Lair is quite heavy when it comes to fighting. Naturally, your dragon is able to shoot out streams of fire from its mouth, as well as fireballs, which can be devastating to your enemies. Aside from that, your dragon is able to fly down and use its talons to pick up grounded soldiers, but this can be a little more difficult than helpful. While Lair gives you the option of locking on to an enemy by pressing either the L1 or R1 buttons, the problem is that you really can’t control which enemy you want to lock on to. Who cares, right? You can always just turn off the lock-on system and then try it again, right? Well, the problem here is that you may have already flown by the intended target, so of course you will have to turn all the way back around and try again. And who knows, this time you may not lock on to the right target, too. Anyway, if you are eventually able to latch on to your target, your dragon will fly down and grab the object with its talons, which will then allow you to toss the object at an enemy or wherever else you please. This also leads to some issues, but we’ll get into those later. Of course, one of the main enemies that you will be encountering in Lair is a bunch of enemy dragons. Chances are your main weapon against them will be your fireball, but you may also perform a physical attack by locking on to a dragon and then pressing the circle button. When performed, the physical attacks actually look a little bit disappointing, because it really doesn’t even look like your dragon is actually attacking the other one. Either way, these physical attacks won’t necessarily kill the enemy, leading to more fighting between the two and something called “Pursuit Mode.”


During Pursuit Mode, the two dragons will appear flying side by side on the screen. Your objective is to then line your dragon up with the enemy dragon and jerk the controller in their direction, ramming the enemy in the side and eventually killing it. Realistically, Pursuit Mode isn’t exactly the most action-packed moment of the game and is a bit disappointing and boring. Plus, there is the added problem of the game not always being responsive to your motions with the controller, which of course is a bit annoying. Anyway, sometimes the enemy will even survive your attack and this will lead to “Fight Mode,” which is actually a little fight between the two. During this mode you are able to claw, bite, and flame the enemy dragon. These fights aren’t exactly the most entertaining either, and I often seemed to run into a bit of lag when I would encounter some of these fights. When you get into these battles, it is supposed to start right up, but at times the two dragons would just… fly there, and sometimes even the other would just die. Honestly, I never really knew why, because I hadn’t actually attacked it, but obviously there were a few little bugs here and there. If you’re curious, locking on to certain enemies and pressing the triangle button can also initiate fight mode. The third type of air combat is known as “Takedowns,” which is basically a one-hit kill, as long as you follow the correct button hits. As long as your dragon has its Rage Meter full and you are attacking the appropriate type of dragon, you can then lock on and press the triangle button to perform the takedown. Performing these types of attacks usually relies on you moving the controller in a certain manner and using the left analog stick. There are a wide variety of takedowns available, some of which are actually pretty cool looking, but I don’t believe you can actually determine which type of takedown you will perform. Somewhat of a pity, really, but nevertheless, they do look pretty cool.


Chances are most of your combat will actually take place in the sky, but the game also allows you to land your dragon and duke it out with ground troops. Personally, this was my favorite part of the combat, running through hordes of soldiers, torching them with my flames, and then devouring a few here and there. Yeah, easily my favorite part of the combat system in Lair. As for the controls, holding the square button will allow you to shoot a steam of fire, while just pressing the square button will shoot a fireball, which is the same on land or in air. You can also devour your enemies by pressing the triangle button or slap them around with your arms by pressing the circle button. While on land, this is the only time that you won’t be using the motion controls to move around, but instead will use the analog controls. However, the Sixaxis control does come into use, because if you jerk the controller down, your dragon will perform a tail attack, flinging large groups of enemies throughout the air.


Now I hate to do it, but it’s now time to get into more of the flaws with Lair. For the most part, the camera in the game isn’t too bad, and you can use the analog sticks while flying to move the camera around. Chances are you won’t really take advantage of this, but it's there if you want. However, the biggest issue with the camera comes when you are locked on to a moving target and flying through the air. Often, while flying through the air, if the target is moving and you move past it, the camera will quickly jump around, completely messing up your view and causing some issues. Plus, the camera also has some problems with getting stuck on certain objects, whether it is mountains, buildings, or other large areas. Oh, and let's not forget your dragon can often get stuck on these same objects, making it a bit difficult to maneuver off. This is especially nice when many of the levels are full of enemies, and you have enemy arrows and fireballs reigning down on you. Another annoyance is that frequently you will have to view short FMVs in many of the levels. While these look nice and all, the problem is that the game doesn’t stop, and your dragon will continue flying during this entire thing. So if you have just arrived at your destination, often you will have to fly all the way back there. Sure, that might not sound too bad, but after it happens for the fifteenth time, it begins to become a bit of an annoyance. Oh, and remember what I mentioned earlier about the camera controls while trying to lock on? Well, if you recall, the game has this problem of allowing you to control which character you actually lock on to. The big problem with the lock-on system as far as the camera is concerned is that when you are locked on and flying throughout the air, the camera becomes even more difficult, and seems to fly all over in every direction possible. This is even more of a problem when you pick up an object, because when you throw that object the camera follows it until it lands. The problem with this is that your dragon will also continue flying in whichever direction it was currently headed. So like I said earlier, this can be an annoyance because you may have to do a bit of backtracking, which because of some of these control issues can be a bit difficult and tedious. Also, when the camera follows the object being thrown, when it hits the ground or a mountain, the game suffers from frame rate issues and chopping.


As far as the graphics are concerned, Lair is an overall great-looking game. Aside from the frame rate issues and chopping I mentioned earlier, much of the game seems to flow very well. The landscapes are enormous, detailed, and excellent looking. The movements of the dragons look great, and the detail that has gone into making those movements look fluid and realistic (or at least how I would imagine a dragon would be) is great. Whether it be the movements, fire breath or balls, or the appearance, everything about the dragons looks downright impressive.


One other area that Lair truly excels in is the sound department. The soundtrack in the game is done by John Debney, who in the past had hits with films such as Sin City and The Passion of the Christ. Whether you are a fan of his previous work or unfamiliar with him, his performance in Lair will not disappoint. The soundtrack definitely helps the game have an epic feel to it, even if some of its other flaws take away from that feeling. Aside from this, the game features some great sound effects, whether it be your dragon munching on enemy soldiers, the dragon spitting fireballs, or just the sound of your dragon flying through the sky, it all sounds great. Oh, and let's not forget the voice work, which overall is done very well, too.


As for any sort of replay value, players can replay the levels throughout Lair and try to earn different medals, which in return can be uploaded online so you can show off your achievements. Players can also replay to try and unlock some of the attacks or other objects they may have missed. However, unless you can get along with the controls, I definitely don’t see you replaying the game. The game also isn’t necessarily that long, and could probably be completed in a weekend.


Here is where I would usually give the game a rating, and here is where I encounter a problem. After two pages or so of negativity, constantly bashing Lair for a problematic camera, somewhat boring combat, a difficult lock-on system and so on, I run into the problem that I actually enjoyed Lair. Maybe it’s because I love the fantasy games and this one is full of dragons, but yes, as odd as it sounds, I had some fun with Lair. At first glance I can definitely see most players turning away from Lair and never even giving the game a chance, but I definitely think you should give this game a rental, and if you enjoy it, pick it up. The gameplay does have its problems, but if you respect the controls and give it time, you will no doubt find something to enjoy with the game. As much as it pains me to do this, as a reviewer I have to rate the game on all of this different material. If this review were based solely on my personal enjoyment, it would receive a much higher score, but seeing as how it’s not, I have to give it a bit lower score.


Final Grade: 59%




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