Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PlayStation 3) - A broken epic - Stuff

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PlayStation 3) – A broken epic

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor released a while back for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and all was right in the land. We had a fantastic game that provided action, story and some brilliant combat. But the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game were delayed. And we were a bit worried about that.

As it turns out, we were right to be worried. So let’s lay it out right now, the visuals you see accompanying this review are not from the last-gen consoles. Shadow of Mordor screenshots for the PS3 are few and far between, and there’s a reason for that.

SoM HeaderNot Canon

You play as a ranger, Talion, who has had his life snuffed out by the Black Hand of Sauron. Normally the death of a ranger, even a named one, is a pretty permanent thing in Middle Earth unless there’s some kind of cowardice-induced curse keeping departed souls around but Talion hits the jackpot, so to speak. He is resurrected, constantly, by a wraith that possesses him, giving him a spectral set of abilities in addition to all of the combat that you’d expect a ranger to be familiar with.

Talion is out for revenge, of a sort, against the Black Hand and all of the Uruks who follow at his heels. There’s a dead family to avenge and a connection between Talion and his wraith-half that develops as players make their way around the dead lands that make up the world many, many orcs inhabit.

SoM 1Derivative Play

Gameplay is going to be instantly familiar to anyone who has played the more popular games of the last few years. There are bits of Assassin’s Creed in the wall-clambering abilities our hero(s) exhibits as well as the bushes players can hide in for stealthy kills. Combat borrows a lot from the timed button-presses popularised by the Batman: Arkham series of games, but with some assassin-like swordplay. The insta-kill abilities are all Dark Knight-ish, however but since publisher Warner Bros. owns that particular franchise, it’s probably okay.

But the PS3 version of this title, despite featuring some excellent combat, abilities and methods of approach, is marred by several huge problems that are not present in the next-gen console versions.

Needs More Power

SoM 2Simply put, there’s not enough power behind older consoles to get Shadow of Mordor running the way that it should. There are issues with engine-rendered cutscenes (orc lips won’t move, or move out of time), on-screen glitches that mostly appear during stealth kills, some terrible texture pop-in (even though installing the game to drive is a requirement), and then there’s the overall visual drop that had to be implemented in order to accommodate the much vaunted Nemesis system. There have been many games that look far better than Shadow of Mordor but we can understand the visual mess.

The game also experiences random lockups, which usually occurred during this review when attempting to inspect relics found around the game-world. And then there’s the menu… What you need to know is that Shadow of Mordor relies on the menu system a lot, for upgrades, tracking your Orcish targets and messing with the map. But the PlayStation 3 version’s menu takes forever to load the menu and to exit said menu, which cuts into the time you could spend slaying Orcs.

A Terrible Loss

SoM 3And all of these negatives are a massive shame, as Shadow of Mordor has some brilliant moments. Occasionally there are sections where everything just works, resulting in a smooth ballet of blood, severed heads and punctured chests, with Talion dancing gracefully in the midst of the flying red stuff. Some of the stealth sections will just function, with Orcs being unaware of the death-dealer stalking in their midst until it plants an arrow in their skulls.

But the stuttering, spluttering and ugly gameplay demands a whole lot of patience and a willingness to slog through a lot of unpleasantness in order to reach these brief moments of splendour. Long story short, PS3 and Xbox 360 are not the way to go here. But at least Nemesis and combat still work as advertised, they’re just a bit… stunted.

Verdict

Shadow of Mordor for the PS3 is a hugely flawed experience but it’ll still reward patience with some epic moments. They’re rare but they’re there. We can see what went wrong but that’s no excuse. The last-gen console versions shouldn’t have been released to the market. Grab the PS4 or Xbox One version to get your vengeance in the way it was originally intended, there’s only heartache here at what could have been.

Stuff South Africa's editor. He's not too sure about this whole 'referring to himself in the third person' thing but hey, all the cool kids are doing it. Brett likes words. Like, more than a friend.

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