Games Too Human Review
posted by August 19 at 15:43 PMon
Two of gaming’s oldest archetypes collide in Too Human: the stupidity of the Van Damme genre and the timesuck of amassing RPG crap like experience points and treasure. Not my dream blueprint for a game, but I did reserve a little hope, as TH’s designers were responsible for 2002’s Eternal Darkness, the first really good 3D scare game by a Western studio. (That game would throw up fake Blue Screens of Death. The hell is scarier than that?)
Sadly, the creative folks at Silicon Knights didn’t know when to pull the plug on TH, finally released today after a decade of development. This game would’ve been a dandy on its original destination, the Playstation 1, and that’s a good way to put it, because the game feels dated—as if a lost PS1 game by some forward-thinking developer was unearthed 10 years later.
Credit’s due here. For starters, in the world of clichéd gaming themes, there’s something, er, unique about this one: Norse mythology colliding with plasma rifles and rocket-launching robots. (Steam-narök, maybe?) Might sound cheesy, but the art team here sure ran with the idea. If the game feels old, it sure doesn’t look it—while rough around the edges, TH’s set designs and architecture rank up there with the immaculate God of War.
That mythology core takes its toll on the plot. TH is too full of stereotypes and one-liners to be taken as seriously as Silicon Knights so desperately wants us to (and geez, are there a lot of cut-scenes and town-crawls). At the same time, there are too many shades of gray to determine who’s worth liking in this tedious story. Worst of both worlds.
The core battling has its moments. In earlier stages, your gun-n-slash hero can whip through a chain of 30 baddies at once, and maneuvering these kill-combos has a certain Viking grace. You’ll slash one dude, throw another one in the air, hold that mid-air guy up with a cloud of gunfire, then “slide” with your sword in a bee-line to the next foe, only to slam your fists to the ground and fell a mass of six critters simultaneously.
Like in Diablo, this mindless baddy-genocide is fun with a friend. Loot sharing and co-op moves are well done here; certainly better than last year’s Army of Two. But that mode is online-only, and without a friend to talk to and kill with, the game’s shortcomings are more oppressive. Missions run in a straight line; all killing, no puzzles. Since all enemies look pretty much the same, monotony sets in quickly. The game tries to hook players with Diablo-style treasure (all the swords you could want, nerds!), but Diablo beefed up its virtual treasure hunts with winding, crazy dungeons and a ridiculous variety of creepy crawlies. Not so much here.
I could describe other issues in detail: awkward controls, wonky cameras, clumsy item management, wonky fricking cameras. Those are all annoying, if not deal breakers. But more than any of that, Silicon Knights has no clue what the word “difficulty” means. In TH, you will die. Often. Over and over. Holy crap, are you going to die. Not that it matters, though—your character comes back to life after every death in the same spot with barely any penalty for it.
I’m fine with the free revival concept, but not the execution. It’s only there because TH gives players no other solid way to stay alive. New weapons and armor don’t help; the enemies scale up automatically, so you rarely feel like a total badass. And healing and dodging are nerfed. Once the difficulty very suddenly ramps up, you will spend more time dying and waiting for revivals than playing the damned thing.
Again, muffle the criticisms if you’ve got a pal to tear through this with. Co-op doesn’t so much save the game as flatten out the complaints (for one, you’ll die a lot less). But that’s not a ringing endorsement. Fanboys who love virtual treasure have too many hurdles between them and their gold, while if you were hoping for a great story, quality acting, or a new echelon of action gaming, better luck next time.