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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Too Human Review

posted by on August 19 at 15:43 PM


Too Human
(Xbox 360)

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.

RSS icon Comments



Posted by Bellevue Ave | August 19, 2008 3:46 PM

Dude GEARS OF WAR 2 is amazing. Bellevue, come to my boooooth.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 19, 2008 3:47 PM

Thanks for the review. I'd originally decided to pick this up, but this combined with my experience from the demo changed my mind.

Posted by Steve P. | August 19, 2008 3:56 PM

i'm not sure exactly what's going on in that screen cap but it looks *filthy*.

Posted by brandon | August 19, 2008 4:55 PM

Bellevue, I'm actually with you on this one. I can't wait for Spore - Wil Wright is a genius.

Posted by Donolectic | August 19, 2008 5:06 PM

if i didn't work in an office where we'll all come in and geek out over spore together, i'd be certain to take that day off. either way, i can't wait.

Posted by donte | August 19, 2008 5:10 PM

Donolectic, do you have BtS?

I'm a total "god game" freak. Civ, SimCity, etc etc. so it only fits that spore is awesome.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | August 19, 2008 9:55 PM


I read The Stranger daily. I play video games daily. I visit various video game news sites and I am steeped in geekdom.

For some reason I have never really read any of your reviews. I skimmed this one as well. Not to say that there is anything wrong with your writing, but if you can't hook a Stranger regular and a video game geek, whats going on?

Personally, if you could throw in some profanity and some nudity I would be a little more likely to read your reviews in their entirety.

Also, wtf is up with you not getting advance copies for review?

Posted by Ryan | August 20, 2008 9:31 AM

@8: Maybe it's cuz I'm doing longer, print-style reviews on a choppy, quick-n-short blog. I agree that it'd make more sense for the reviews to be placed on the main site, instead of breaking up the flow of Slog. That's out of my hands, so I try to at least post reviews ASAP on here.

Or maybe, as you point out, I don't cuss enough or post half-nekkid screen grabs from Soul Calibur 4. Though I think I can turn an interesting phrase without dropping f-bombs just for shit's fucking sake.

But think about the games/tech sites you read on a daily basis. How many of those do you read for games reviews, rather than previews, videos, or quick bits of news? I find myself rarely reading full games reviews when I surf at work or in the daytime. I was thinking about this while trolling Giant Bomb, that new Gerstmann site, two days ago.

Their reviews are a beating. Clumsily written, no humor, yet at the same time they often lack crucial info and analysis. IGN's barely better--no humor at all, though their critics at least develop a sense of voice and leave no stone unturned. And 1UP/EGM... I can't buy into their reviews these days. Always too curt w/ their criticisms, like they get a boner for attracting flame replies.

For what it's worth, I try to chop out analysis and digging in reviews because I'm in the middle of Slog, not isolated in my own nerd corner. But I also think reading about gaming nitpicks can get old. If you thought this review was too long, I was going to keep going with a fit about TH's controls; you use a second analog stick to aim attacks, but it's so imprecise compared to a similar scheme in, say, Geometry Wars. And since you almost always move your virtual dude in the same direction that you attack, the stick is wasted.

But that's so many words dedicated to a simple point: the controls kinda blow. Do we really need to turn on our geek voices--like that A/V club character in Family Guy--and do the full spiel every time? More importantly, would bashing that element to death get to the point of what's truly wrong with this game? No and no. I'm still working on this part, de-geekifying reviews and getting to the point, yet at the same time delivering enough concrete info.

Come to think of it, I can't believe I've responded to such vague criticism. Even Mr. Poe has the patience to find specific things he hates about my writing. Just read the damn things.

@rest of you: Spore... yeah. I'm still nervous about liking it. Seems too much more Sims than SimCity to me.

Posted by Sam M. | August 20, 2008 11:05 AM

It was a pretty vague criticism, wasn't it?

Anyhow, thanks for the insight.

And I am fucking looking forward to some Soul Calibur upskirts goddamit.

Posted by Ryan | August 20, 2008 11:33 AM

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