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Unfair to Lair - Complaints of Control are Offbase

First I need to say I’m an avid Xbox 360 gamer. My PS3 is used mainly for movies because the games have been disappointing. That said, I’ve been more than a bit curious to try out Lair, the new PS3 game from I picked up a copy of Lair for my PS3 yesterday. Granted, it was a used copy from Gamestop so that I could return it in a few days if it was as bad as all the reviews made it out to be. Hell if nothing else, it’s something to do while waiting for Halo 3 (after which, even food may become an afterthought). My sites were pretty low . I’m happy to say that the game exceeded those rather unlofty expectations. Man am I glad I picked it up.

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Anyone who follows video games knows the standard review of Lair - gorgeous graphics, fantastic audio, cinematic to the extreme but with a control scheme that borders on unplayable. The decision to use the motion-control ability of the SixAxis controller was almost universally derided as a mistake. Just listen to some of the reviews:

From CNN:

No. Because maneuvering your dragon through the air and targeting enemies has a steep learning curve — and even once you get used to it after the fourth or fifth short mission, it still doesn’t feel natural.

Here’s a sample of what players must remember: After you mount your dragon and take flight, you tilt the controller left or right to bank your dragon in the desired direction, while ascending and descending is performed by tilting the controller up or down.

Or from Gamespot (who gave it a 4.5 out of 10)

  • Abysmal controls and targeting are a constant struggle and crush every aspect of game-play, from flight to combat
  • The cinematic camera causes you to lose your bearings by zooming around every which way
  • Timed mission objectives require too much precision
  • Action is shallow and unrewarding.

Even IGN (4.9 out of 10) was harsh:

See, the time had come for my Asylains to draw up a peace treaty with a group of neighboring bad guys called the Mokai, but when the peace process soured, a huge battle erupted and I — Rohn, one of the best dragon-riding sky guards around — needed to make sure our troops came out on top.

No doubt, that sounds interesting and fun; however, Lair’s terrible controls and god-awful lock-on system make this a mission worthy of swallowing the business end of a shotgun to avoid.

As you can expect I was ready for this thing to be nearly unplayable. Well guess what, the game plays just fine for me. The dragon swoops, climbs, banks and dashes just like I would expect. Yes every once in a while I had to try a command over again because it didn’t register, but it was few and far between. To me the controls worked and add depth to the game.

Some people might argue that I’m wrong, but I’ve played enough Wii games to know that motion controls are NOT exact. I’ve had swings go amiss in Tiger Woods. I’ve had my sword flake out in Zelda and damned if flying wasn’t a bitch in Rayman sometimes. Gyroscopic controls aren’t going to be as accurate as analog sticks. Get over it. What they sometimes lack in precision they make up for in fun. Lair’s control scheme makes the game fun for me.

Now is it a great game? No. I’ve been frustrated in the game for sure. I think the mission objectives are often obtuse. The enemy dragons are not always even to spot, even on a 50-inch screen. The in-mission dialog gets a bit stale after a while. I’m not sure that I’d want to play it over and over. But come on, rating the game a 4.9 is silly. Is Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer a better game? Or Transformers: The Movie? Please spare me. For all it’s faults it is still a cool, unique game. If you have been scared away by the reviews, take a chance like I did. You might be pleasantly surprised.

If you have been scared off of Lair do to the reviews, give it a try. You might like. It’s not great. It’s not something that will change the way you think about video games, but it’s worth playing. At least until Halo 3…


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