Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone




Primal is an excellent adventure title from SCEA for the PS2 that takes you through a series of gothic worlds. You can play the role of either Jen Tate, a mortal woman who's been flung into a demon realm, or her companion, a small creature named Scree who acts as her guide and mentor. While she seems vulnerable initially, Jen can transform herself into four different demon forms that give her powerful moves. The game offers an excellent balance between action and strategy with numerous puzzles and side-quests to solve. Aesthetically, Primal is quite impressive with near photo-realistic graphics and excellent voice-overs creating an ominous tone. Join us as we examine this dark adventure and discover the darkness that lies within.

Primal takes place in a parallel world called Oblivion where demons and monsters rule a realm of chaos and disorder. In this world, there are four realms where the forces of good and evil wage an eternal struggle against each other. However, the dark lord has begun to take over, wreaking havoc on the balance that keeps the worlds together. As the game begins, we meet Jen Tate, a modern girl who's been born half-demon, half-human. She's in the hospital after being attacked by a group of thugs outside a nightclub. Jen is in bad shape but Scree releases her spirit form and takes her to his world, where her previously concealed Ferai powers are needed to restore order. Here, she can switch between these modes at will. She has to face the many denizens of this world, restore the order and balance that has been cast awry, while also rescuing her boyfriend who has been sent to this other realm for mysterious reasons. Along the way, you and Scree will meet many characters. Some of them are on the good side of the balance and help her with the adventure. However, the majority of the characters are demonic in nature and will stop at nothing to prevent her from restoring order. These enemies are frightening and powerful but she isn't completely defenseless. She's a powerful woman and can attack enemies using a variety of attacks including slashing, slicing and cutting maneuvers. While she's quite an effective fighter in human form, she's much more powerful when she's in her demon form, with gives her much more devastating attacks and moves. Throughout the game, she takes on one of four forms, which coincide with the four different demon realms. There are four demonic realms including some vibrant underwater sequences. Changing to her Ferai form is easy and this unlocks a short animation you can watch her body transform into the Ferai, Wraith, Djinn and Undine states. These transformations are accompanied by cool animations that are quite dramatic. However, when she loses her Ferai energy, she will revert to human form. Luckily, there's a lot of this scattered throughout the worlds.

As noted earlier, Primal isn't a solo adventure in the traditional sense. Jen isn't alone in her quest and is joined by her demonic companion Scree, a gargoyle who has several abilities and such as turning himself to stone that he can use to help her progress through the worlds. Scree can also climb up stone walls and reach areas that Jen can't. Usually, he can then open a door and allow Jen to walk through it. Another of Scree's important tasks is to collect the all-important Ferai energy she needs for her transformations. This energy is locked inside the Ferai stones, which Scree picks up and then meld with his body. Scree can also suck Ferai power away from fallen foes. Once Scree has collected enough energy, he can transfer it to Jen. However, at certain points, he can transform himself into another form using the statues in each level. To add to the strategy, you can switch between these characters as the events in the game progress. Jen and Scree have different abilities that compliment each other and you'll have to work together in order to succeed. Jen is obviously more effective in combat situations, but Scree can become quite powerful as well when he transforms into his other forms. Switching between these characters creates an interesting play mechanic that makes Primal stand out from other adventure titles on the market.

Primal's controls are quite intuitive and allow you to switch between forms and characters quite easily. Both characters move around the massive environments easily and players can manually adjust the camera to change their viewpoint. Primal's battle system is relatively straightforward, though a little bit more complicated than it needs to be. You attack by first pressing the L or R shift keys, then hitting your attack button. This requires you to perform two steps where one was needed. This makes fighting a tad less intuitive, but isn't a bad system overall. To help you along in the hear of battle, Primal features an effective auto-targeting system that allows you to lock onto enemies. The Lock-on allows you to focus your attacks directly to the closest enemy and hit them effectively. Hitting your enemy once is good, but hitting them with a succession of attacks is better. The combo system here is smartly designed because these attacks flow naturally and seamlessly together. Not only do these combos let you finish off your opponents faster, they also unleash additional powers. In order to perform a combo, all you need to do is hold down both shift buttons simultaneously and these special moves are enabled. Once an enemy has been sent reeling by your attacks and lies vulnerable, Jen can perform finishing moves on opponents. This is important because they can prevent them from coming back to life unexpectedly. Primal's combat system is easy to understand because the game gradually introduces these abilites to the player. The system is surprisingly flexible with many moves at your disposal that gives the battles some texture and strategic depth. Even though Primal's controls seem clunky at first, with practice become more intuitive and make for some viscerally exciting gameplay that flows smoothly.

Mastering the combat system is quite important, but succeeding in Primal means you'll also have to use your brains as well as your brawn. Players will also find numerous elaborate puzzles that they'll have to solve. Some of these are self-explanatory while others will take some brainpower to complete. Fortunately, the game allows you to consult Scree whenever you want by pressing the triangle button. His advice is quite useful and the clues he gives you should help you you're your way. This is where the two-character system Primal uses really shines. You'll frequently have to use both of these characters In order to unlock all of the game's secrets and puzzles. For example, at one point in the game, you are locked outside a temple with a locked door. In order to unlock the temple doors, you have to switch from Jen to Scree and have him collect all the Ferai stones. Then you have to make Scree change into another form to move a statue that opens the door. Other puzzles are more physical. You may need to switch to Jen to jump across a bridge, hit a switch and unlock gates that will allow Scree to pass through. These two puzzles are relatively simple tasks, but later on, you may have to switch characters multiple times in order to pass a certain area. The puzzles themselves aren't impossible to figure out, though some can be difficult, but the change of pace they provide helps Primal's gameplay achieve a satisfying balance between action and strategy.

While gameplay is the primary focus, Primal isn't a mindless hack and slash experience. In fact, the rich backstory is quite well written with surprisingly impressive character development. There are several themes, such as loss and love, that are weaved effectively into the storyline and give the player a strong rooting interest. While the game starts off slow with an excessive amount of exposition, the plot picks up speed gradually as Jen moves deeper into the quest. The first part of the game explores the background of the characters and shows Jen progressing from confused to confident as she becomes more comfortable with her powers. This story is pretty interesting and the developers have done an excellent job of integrating these plot points into the larger structure of the game. When you play some other titles, the plot feels tacked onto something that's almost completely irrelevant, but in Primal, everything feels natural. This is helped by the writing that shines because the dialogue sounds natural and convincing.

Primal is a dark and sensuous game that definitely has a gothic yet surprisingly realistic feel. The environments are incredibly detailed with excellent texture mapping and high polygon counts throughout. The engine moves very smoothly throughout and features brilliant light-sourcing for special attacks, which adds to the eerie feel. The look is enhanced by numerous weather and lighting effects including snow and fire that create a cohesive and believable world. The level designs themselves are quite large and the game rarely pauses to load. Primal implements an effective third-person perspective that allows you to see the action immediately surrounding Jen. While some areas can be a bit confusing at first, you can move the camera to look around and get a better sense of where you are. Obviously, the design of its menacing foes is quite important. These creature designs are quite impressive with a good diversity in their physical appearance. Boss characters are especially malicious and they moving around with demonic glee. As noted earlier Primal's voice acting is impressive thanks to the writing, which fleshes out the characters nicely. From an audio standpoint, the screams and screeches of the enemies are well done. The score is quite effective and alternates between near silence, to atmospheric sound waves. Primal's many battle sequences are accompanied by metallic riffs provided by 16 Volt. The music is quite effective in adding to Primal's tension and drama.

While this is a solid game, there are some nagging issues that prevent it from reaching its full potential. While the combat sequences are intense, the enemies themselves become somewhat predictable after awhile because they tend to use the same attack patterns repeatedly. The other major problem we had with Primal was the fact that it can sometimes be difficult to see where you are thanks to the camera system. While you can mitigate this to some degree, adjusting these camera movements on the fly isn't always the best solution, especially in the heat of battle. That said, there's more positive than negative in the game. This is a robustly designed title with evocative environments, challenging play and decent, though imperfect controls. Primal offers a good balance of puzzle solving and combat, and the game unfolds at a good pace that should keep your interest level high throughout. While it resembles Devil May Cry and Soul Reaver in some aspects, Primal's dual-character play system is unique and keeps the gameplay fresh and challenging throughout. The game's cinematic feel is evident with outstanding visuals that create a believable alternate universe to explore. Primal's high production values are evident with excellent voice acting and entertaining writing that brings the characters to life. Despite some minor blemishes, Primal is an outstanding release that is highly recommended because it delivers a challenging and engaging experience.

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