Valiant Hearts: The Great War – PlayStation 4 Review

Valiant Hearts: The Great War - PlayStation 4 Review

The emotion of war has had a hard time expressing itself through video games. For years we’ve been fed mindless, ultraviolet set-pieces where shock and awe mask the true meaning behind such violence. When a game presents itself that does the opposite you can’t help but take notice, stand, and salute.

Then a game like Valiant Hearts: The Great War presents itself, immerses you in what war is all about, the struggle, how it changes people. That said I started Valiant Hearts as open-minded as possible, not judging the lack of guns, explosions, and machismo I’m so used to.

That might deter some from picking up the title, but perseverance will open your eyes to a colorful world within a bleak narrative. Throughout the 2D scroller you’ll dish out very little damage against your enemies, instead given the opportunity to knock them out, sneak past enemies, or complete a series of puzzles to reach the next section; trust me, you wont feel like a murderer when you come put the other side. You also wont hear a word from any of the characters, only the occasional grunt.

The story begins at the start of World War 1 where a settled family is torn apart as countries call to arms; reluctantly fighting on both sides of the battle may I add. Many tales are told as you switch between characters, different struggles told on different fronts. The characters themselves cross paths on many occasions, having to work together to reach new sections.

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When you do come across puzzles they don’t feel stretched from the story. Be it the coal carriers that are used to feed the war machine, or the huge bunker guns punishing the lands that surround. You might be figuring out a puzzle, but the game still reminds you of the struggles of war all seamlessly intertwined. The same can be said for the many trinkets you can find throughout your journey, mementos of the war, stark reminders of everyday life on the frontline.

Valiant Hearts can turn educational at times, showing real archive photos from the war, describing the people, battles, and prominent locations that were strategic to both sides. These prompts differ too greatly from the jaw-dropping interactive art, the only time you’ll feel disconnected from the story. Letters shown throughout the game represent those from real soldiers sent to family back home, making the whole experience feel more raw. However, Ubisoft do well not to drive you too deep, where the perils of war sour the overall taste of Valiant Hearts.

That can be seen in the upbeat nature of characters seen throughout, along with their color scheme, just the right amount not to sway you too far either way. The addition of Walt – the brave and playful dog – adds innocence, only following other characters with no specific personal agenda in mind, a lot like the soldiers that fought in the war itself. At times you’ll break free from the frontline and help those in local towns, fetching them food, tending to their wounds, brave acts that rarely get a mention. It comes as a reprieve from the fight.

On the more technical side the game runs smoothly, offering very little loading times throughout. Checkpoints are established well, never keeping you far from the next stage; almost as if Ubisoft want you to not forget the story you experienced so far and pushing you along at a steady pace. The game’s music is also fitting, another throwback to that era and pieced in at the right times to fit the mood. At lot gets thrown at you, but it’s all to give you the fuller experience, even if it’s as small as the trumpets that play while you dodge falling mortars.

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Verdict

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is more than a game, it’s a statement, a call out to other developers to create games that tell the struggles of war and not the bullets and explosions in between. Its ability to showcase the heroism of its characters without lifting a gun is a testament to the story’s value and the power of interactive art to display it. Sometimes the game drifts and becomes more of a history class, but always manages to find its way back, leaving you feeling emotional drained as the curtain closes.

Review Score 4.5/5

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Have a few years of freelance journalism under my belt. Enjoy writing and bringing news to gamers around the world.