1st Impressions: I pre-ordered the game in advance and found myself very excited by the sound of the PS3 disc drive consuming the game for the first time. Spent time in advance of release watching previews and anticipating an amazing adventure. My first impressions was that this was the best looking game I had seen, graphically and from a game play perspective, really caught my imagination from the start.
Controls: I found the camera control when running difficult to use at the start (not sure why). The use paradigms shifts was fantastic, I really enjoyed the non-stop approach provided. I also (like another reviewer) was frustrated by some lagging response when using the save point, but it doesn't ruin the experience.
Gameplay: I was surprised with such a change in the dynamics of the battle system, looking at previews I understood that they wanted to create intensity, by leading the gamer from one battle directly into another. The use of shifts and the balanced difficulty of foes meant in the experience was more strategic than other FF's I have played in the past. For me this was an excellent move and I would have thought it would make the game more appealing to those Xbox gamers that have never seen a JRPG before, thus increasing the games market appeal.
I was impressed that when you entered a battle (no matter the location in the story) the backdrop of the fight was always relevant to the location the fight start; it was a nice touch.
Storyline: The story never really gripped me, never really understood the terms used and would have loved to have watched some of the cut scenes again to ensure I understood the point they were trying to make. My problem is that with FF it has four key points that make the game:
Game play and battle system Soundtrack Graphics Story (which determines the characters)
For me the story let the game down, and that's because I never felt like I was in control rather just along for the ride. For that reason it (felt like) never mattered if managed to stop the purge or kill the final boss, because the story had already made all the decisions for me... no control....
I understand that JRPG don't generally allow this kind of story interaction, but its something that I have gotten use to as a gamer.
Needless to say after completing the game I used Wikipedia to ensure I understood what the hell just happened, but by that time the magic was there.
Character development: Due to the lack-luster story, the characters never gripped me they were simply there; and having three really annoying characters Hope (just depressing), Vanille (annoying voice and was unfortunately the narrator) and Snow (stupid name, and called him self a hero even though he hadn't achieved anything?) didn't help.
I also felt really uncomfortable with the fact Serah looked fourteen, but was dress like a tart from Amsterdam.
There was no room for choice within the upgrade system, which in turn meant I had no control over how my team developed.
I feel that the weapon upgrade system could have been introduced better, for a long period of the game I was very concerned that if I start to upgrade I will be making a mistake and thus cause problems in the game going forward. If the game forced the player to upgrade a certain point using organic, Mechanical and catalyst then this system would have been much more enjoyable.
Graphics: Graphics were just superb, I can't see the PS3 producing a better example of what its capable of (I hope GT5 proves me wrong). Although the linear game play meant I felt like I was on a treadmill for the first 10 chapters just watching the graphics pass by. However during that time I never felt like I had seen the same place twice, which is a achievement in its self; I could never say the same for a game like Fallout 3.
Sound: The sound track was very subtle, and that is exactly what was needed for this game. I know this is sad but I have got home after football (soccer) at the weekend and just let the title music play in the background while I fall asleep, very nice experience (if only a little homosexual)
Trophy Set: Trophies were fine, although I would have liked each trophy to have lead from rewards as part of the game, rather than grinding for hours.
Your Favourite Moments: Two Favourite moments.
When the group first go to Gran Pulse, very nice cut scene. When you arrive at Obera from the Atmos, as you walk up the hill on the first corner and the sun hits you purely from the reflection in the snow. This gave me fantastic memories of snowboarding, which just put a huge smile on my face.
Worst Moments: Farming, it shouldn't be necessary, the developer needs to find a way to make this optional as part of the game and achieving trophies. I have no idea how this would work, but then again I'm not a game designer.
Worth £40.00: Well worth the money, @ 90 hours playtime it equates to 45 pence per hour. If I could get that kind of value for money out of everything, I would be happy with a job paying £1 per hour.
Conclusion: This is a game I have really enjoyed, however it does not gain a rating of 8/9 because I will not be playing it again once I have the platinum, rather I will be looking forward to the next FF instalment to be come available.
However I see this game as a test by SE to investigate alternative gaming styles available to them, and on that basis it has succeeded.