Ray Willmott reviews Valiant Hearts: The Great War on Playstation 4…
World War games on consoles faded away around the early days of Medal of Honour and Call of Duty. The Playstation 2 era was saturated with titles that forced us to relive the horrific events of history’s darkest hours, but ever since then they’ve been far and few between. As a result, Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts instantly feels quite refreshing. Not only does it explore the events of World War 1 from a third-person perspective, it tells a story from multiple viewpoints. Players will embark on an incredible adventure with Freddie, a US Commando, Emile, an old French war veteran, Anna, a Belgium nurse, a young female student and a dog. That’s really not a setup to a punchline of any kind. Seriously.
The story is beautifully realised with tone-perfect narration, comic-book cut-scenes and real-time events that pop up as you play. Valiant Hearts is predominantly a puzzle/adventure game, but does require timed reactions from players during certain scenes. Puzzle-solving varies from simplistic to occasional fiendish. In one scene, you’ll need to rescue several strapping men caught up in various predicaments, then band them together to push a heavy object out of the way. Another puzzle requires you to align pipes correctly in order to overload a gas machine so you can move forward without being poisoned. Each character is capable of different things. The dog, for instance, can climb into small spaces, distract guards with his playful demeanour, and collect items and bring them back to the player. However, the dog mostly only responds and listens to Emile. Emile, meanwhile, can dig down through earth and moves well underground. Freddie can cut through barbed wire fences and break down blockages and barricades and Anna can heal wounded soldiers, whether she’s applying band-aid or putting bones back into place. As you might expect, each character is vital to in-game progression and players must make best use of their abilities in order to progress.
Despite the challenging subject matter, Valiant Hearts isn’t afraid to be charming. Intimate moments with Emile and the dog provide some light relief and some over-the-top comic-book action will raise a snigger. Still, the underlying message of the game is extremely powerful and carries more of a poignant message in its short five hour span than most games manage in thirty.
Even though the experience is over quickly and there’s not much incentive to bring you back for an immediate second playthrough, I couldn’t put down Valiant Hearts. The story and the way it is told gripped me from the off and its insistence on educating as you encounter aspects of the environment is inspiring and enlightening.
Unfortunately, I did suffer several issues with the game which forced me to reset my progress. In some scenes, the game doesn’t like it when you deviate ever so slightly from your path and it forces a continuous loop of animation which stops a scene from progressing. This happened during a few action-packed sequences and in all cases I was forced to go to a checkpoint much further back. It wasn’t a massive disturbance to my game time, but it was disappointing to be faced with any issues at all.
All in all, Valiant Hearts is a fabulous UbiArt title that redefines your expectations of a World War title and manages to weave a memorable, heart-stopping yarn. Worth a look on any platform whether you’re a new-gen fanatic or still savouring the delights of last-gen, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a monumental achievement that will stay with you for weeks, months and even years to come.
Rating – 8/10
Ray Willmott is a freelancer for various gaming websites and even runs his own. He also writes novels. Follow him on Twitter