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April 25, 2003
Primal - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
11/4/2003SonySCEE Cambridge1MA15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
399KBPro Logic IIYesNoNoneNo

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Jen and Scree.
You always know when Sony is about to release a title developed at one of its internal studios, and especially at Sony Europe. The amount of hype exceeds that of almost any other company, and the company spares no expense with the press kits and promotions in the media. But why shouldn't they? Within the first few seconds of loading Primal you soon realise how much work and love has gone into this title. The opening cut scene is simply terrific as it shows Jen (the hero of the game) is almost killed by a mysterious demonic creature and her boyfriend, and leader of a band, slain. But how well does the game hold up as an entire package? Read on to find out.

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Check out the glow.
Jen Tate, a modern human girl is pulled into the turbulent, fantastical realm that lies between the mortal world and the afterlife. In this realm, an eternal struggle between the primal forces of order and chaos rages, but the demons of the dark side are gaining in strength and beginning to upset the natural equilibrium.

Jen must delve deep into this strange new world to discover the secrets of her own supernatural origin and pull the forces of order back from the brink of disaster. Jen is aided in her quest by Scree, a clear-headed, knowledgeable stone gargoyle. However, Scree has a few secrets of his own...

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Now that's nice lighting
During the game you can switch between the two main characters. The first is Jen, the heroine of the game who acquires demon forms and abilities. The other playable character is Jen's watcher the gargoyle Scree. Having the two characters isn't simply cosmetic as each has unique abilities. Scree can possess statues and climb up walls while Jen has mystical powers which can be used against the enemies. Actual control of the characters is impressive as they reactly instantly to commands. The L1 and L2 buttons are used for attacks although the fighting in the game really comes accross a little too much on the simplified button mashing side.

Primal is comprised of four huge demon filled realms each of which is magnificantly detailed. Thanks to Studio Cambridge's dynamic streaming technology the levels are actually loaded on the fly as required meaning that textures don't have to be stored in memory for periods of time and as a result are very high in quality. At any time you can press the triangle button to get hints from Scree as to the next objectives or how to complete tasks. This is a terrific way to get help during the game, as it's quite similar to asking a friend for help in real life.

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One of the many battles.
A game with so much ambition rarely comes across flawless, and indeed this game has it's faults. The biggest disappointment is the puzzles which aren't so much brain teasers as they are wandering around collecting items and bringing them back to certain locations. As mentioned above the combat system is a little to simplified. This is a mature rated game with plenty of voilence and action and why the developers saw to dumb down the combat system is bewildering.

Graphically it is clear that the developers have pushed the Playstation 2 to another level. Thanks mostly to extensive use with the Playstation 2's Performance Analyser (the development tool that lets programmers know where to squeeze more power out of the system) the graphics in Primal are simply stunning. The animation is fluid and the locations, although a little dull at times, look amazing. The icing on the cake however is the excellent lighting and effects used throughout the game, something which helps push this game into the upper echelons of graphical achievement on the system. One of the areas where Sony Europe are pushing the additions is the wide screen support which is more then welcome. The only problem with the graphics is the occasional camera angle, which should have been fixed/improved prior to release.

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Jen in her early form.
As with the graphics the sound is yet another area where Studio Cambridge has obviously put in a lot of effort. With the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and rock band 16 Volt working together the music blends gothic sounds with hard rock and it's a mix that sounds simply stunning. Voices play an integral part in making any game sound terrific and while the development studio hasn't hired A-list Hollywood actors the voice of Jen is being provided by Hudson Leick (who plays Callisto in Xena) and Andreas Katsulas (who plays G'Kar from Babylon 5) provides the voice of Scree. Both do a terrific job in getting the essence of the characters across. To top it all off the sound is outputted in Dolby Pro Logic II for those with suitable gear it sounds amazing.

Overall, Primal is one of those games that deserved slightly longer development time to add in a few more puzzles and re-invent the combat system which becomes too tiresome. On a positive note the visual and aural aspects of the title are certainly better then most games, and they both serve to save the title from mediocrity. If you like you adventure games then this title should be on your list. It's good, just not all that it could have been.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSThe best looking third person adventure game on the market to date.
SOUNDGreat music from Prague Philharmonic and 16Volt, speech is solid.
GAMEPLAYThe combat becomes tiresome, the puzzles quite poor, but it's fun.
VALUENot too bad as an adventure game with extras to unlock as you go.
OVERALLPrimal was always an ambitious title from Sony Europe, not only due to size and scope but also the pressure placed on the team to generate some of the best graphics and sound yet seen in a Playstation 2. Thankfully they pull off the graphics and sound but the gameplay could have done with refining. Still, a solid third person adventure title.

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