The original Planet of the Apes film came out 50 years ago and spawned a series of popular sequels. After Tim Burton made a passable remake, Fox rebooted the series in 2011 to well-deserved critical acclaim, culminating in a trilogy that, in my opinion, is a must-see.
Why is this important? Because Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier plays like a 4th film in the series, albeit a separate story in the same universe. Don't let the fact that it's "only" a game fool you, though: the production quality of this title rivals that of many Hollywood productions, and surpasses those of many other titles out there, including many AAA titles.
First of all, I need to make it clear that this is a story-driven game. All play is controlled by dialogue and a couple moments of actions (press
). If you aren't into such games (Telltale games and the like), you may want to shy away from this. The rest of the review is written in comparison to that genre.
You are in control of two main characters: Bryn, a member of an ape tribe, and Jess, the leader of a nearby human settlement. The apes are starving, and venture out for food. When they encounter humans, they inadvertently cause friction between the two groups. Resources are scarce, and conflict is inevitable.
It is difficult to describe the game without comparing it to Hollywood films. The title essentially consists of one long cutscene, with dialogue and action choices determining the path that the groups follow. The graphics are top notch, rivaling those of studios with much higher budgets. Motion capture for the game was provided, among others, by Andy Serkis, who also played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series and Caesar in the film series.
In addition, this game allows for couch co-op. This is quite a welcome edition, because it means that people sitting together to watch the movie (story) can work together. Unfortunately, only the host gets achievements.
The story is powerful, and the decisions you make have far reaching consequences through the rest of the story. The story is a full 3 1/2 hours, longer than many films, and with 3 separate story outcomes, replay value is reasonably high. The entire 1000 GS will take approximately 10-12 hours.
One drawback worth mentioning, however, is that once you begin replaying for achievements, many of the same scenes repeat themselves with no way of skipping through. This makes mop-up somewhat tedious, taking away from what is otherwise a rather flawless story experience. If you are just playing for the story, this will obviously not apply to you.
In all, I believe the game is worth the $20 launch price. Far inferior games have charged more, and with the production values present here, the developers could honestly have charged more. What they have created is a fully realized entry in the Planet of the Apes series, while granting the player the opportunity to shape the story. It raises the bar on story-based games to a new level, and challenges other developers to do the same. We need more developers to follow suit.
Ethics statement: a review code for this game was provided to me by Microsoft after securing $19.99 plus tax.