Lair PlayStation 3
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Factor 5
Release Date: Out Now
You would have thought that Lair had the potential to be one of the big successes of this early phase in the PlayStation 3's lifespan. After all the game has been developed by Factor 5 and they certainly know a thing or two about creating great games. It is all the more baffling then that Lair turns out to be a bit of a damp squib. In fact it's probably the biggest disappointment of the year for PlayStation 3 gamers and the problem lies squarely with the control system.
In Lair you'll play as Rohn, a warrior who rides a dragon for the Asylian forces. The Asylians are under attack from the Mokai forces and after a brief tutorial you're thrown into the skies to defend your people. The game's storyline is actually quite good and it's a shame that there are other aspects of the game that might prevent you from seeing how it turns out.
Let's make no bones about it, the controls wreck what chance Lair has of being a good game. The developers were obviously trying to make the most of the Sixaxis controller and its motion-sensing capabilities, and were obviously so wrapped up in the motion controls that they didn't take time to include the option to disable the motion-sensing controls and simply use the analogue sticks instead. Flying initially seems quite comfortable and the controls quite responsive. It's when tight control and quick reactions are called for that you realise the controls are simply not good enough. At the beginning of the game you have a small tutorial and one of the manoeuvres you have to do is a 180 degree flip. You're supposed to do this by turning your Sixaxis controller upwards. The problem is that the game rarely registers this. This is a big problem because this is a key manoeuvre in a dogfight (or should that be dragon fight) and it's too unreliable to depend on. You can't turn quickly enough and this is really frustrating. There are other controls too, such as the method of targeting, which just don't work well. Had the option for a conventional control scheme been included, this would have been a minor issue but there are no options to do this and essentially the game is broken as a result of a critically flawed control system.
Lair was supposed to be one of those games that really made the most of the PlayStation 3. Excellent graphics, superb surround sound (7.1 no less) and of course motion controls. Obviously, surround sound is of no concern to us and the controls are disappointing meaning there is only the graphics left to impress us. Actually, Lair does look pretty impressive. The cutscenes are impressive. The character models and the dragons themselves are also impressive. The various landscapes that you'll fly over all look good and there is an impressive amount of detail on display at times. The frame rate is a little unstable however and the dips are quite noticeable although hardly problematic. The camera can be troublesome however. Compared to the poor controls it doesn't feel like it's that big a problem but it's certainly irritating at times.
Lair does offer subtitles, although they are disabled by default. The subtitles don't have any character names or portraits next to them and at times it's not possible to know who is saying what. The subtitles are a kind of gold colour and they aren't displayed in any dialogue box or on any kind of overlay. This makes reading the subtitles tricky at times as they are difficult to make out against the colour of the background. This isn't so bad in the games cutscenes but during the main game it's tricky to read the text at a glance, whilst you're trying to concentrate on other things. Your objectives are shown in text and you can recall them at any time by pressing the Start button.
Given Factor 5's reputation for creating enjoyable games, it's a fair bet that many would have been looking forward to Lair. Few will be pleased with how the game has turned out however. Visually the game is impressive but the control system is flawed and prevents the game from being enjoyable. The quality of the game's subtitles could have been much better and whilst it's better to have some subtitles rather than none, more care should have been taken with them. If you are interested in experiencing Lair, I would definitely suggest that you rent it before coughing up the full asking price.