Valiant Hearts: The Great War review: flawed but fabulous
Everyone loves a war game. But does everyone love a game about war? Ubisoft Montpellier puts this theory to the test with Valiant Hearts: The Great War.
Unlike every other war game that’s almost always in first-person, strives to showcase hyper-realistic graphics, and throws in every possible excuse for world domination, Valiant Hearts takes a more humane approach.
It tells the tale of four people and a dog who become friends amidst the chaos that was World War I. You won’t find yourself shooting enemy soldiers in the face with a shotgun. Rather you’ll solve puzzles, engage in some stealth segments, and find yourself petting the dog.
No sooner are you soaking in the game’s comic confines than you realize that it’s replete with ridiculously easy puzzles. You’ll slink past guards, find and pull levers, and sabotage barricades with dynamite. What you learn in the first hour or so is enough to power you through the rest of the game. On the off-chance you do find it taxing your brain cells, the game’s in-built hint system is always there to guide you.
Along the way you’ll indulge in some sections that appear to have been shoe-horned in, such as evading German bombs while on a van or trying to take down an airship. While these grand set piece-like moments wouldn’t be out of place in other video games like Call of Duty,or Medal of Honor, which have big, booming, action-packed segments in the middle of linear corridor shooting they’re known for, they definitely feel forced here.
You see, Valiant Hearts is at its best when you’re skulking around enemy camps at the dead of night, waiting for the right moment to move lest you find yourself riddled with holes from artillery fire. The game is enjoyable when it plays to its scale and strengths rather than emulating what others have done.
It helps that Valiant Hearts is draped in Ubisoft’s Ubiart Framework, the same engine powering the oh-so-gorgeous Child of Light, and the fantastic Rayman Legends. It looks like an animated film complete with cel-shaded graphics and characters that say a word or two rather than voice complete sentences, and it’s amazingly presented.
Oh and there’s a story too. You’ll control Emile, an elderly French man conscripted into the army. You’ll also play as his son-in-law, Karl, a German who finds himself on the opposing side of this conflict. If that wasn’t intriguing enough you’ll don the role of Freddie, an American who enlists with a personal vendetta at stake and Anna, a Belgian medic living in Paris.
From time to time you’ll control a doberman to distract your foes or simply procure hard to reach objects. Over the years of these characters will cross paths, making for interesting if slightly heavy-handed storytelling.
It almost makes up for how you quickly start going through the motions of obvious puzzles peppered with the odd COD-esque moment or two just to get to the next part of the plot. Without spoiling much, Ubisoft has managed to pull of a poignant tale that will have you playing till the very end.
And play till the end you shall, since Valiant Hearts is a short game that clocks in at around five to six hours and doesn’t overstay its welcome. However this is fair since it’s a mere $14.99 purchase.
Everyone loves a war game. But does everyone love a game about war? The answer is a resounding “almost”. If you can look past the odd issues in pacing and super easy puzzles, Valiant Hearts is worth your time for the story alone.