Review: Too Human (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Too Human (360)
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Silicon Knights
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: 08/19/08

When it comes to quality video game developers, Silicon Knights is generally among those I would consider trustworthy of creating a good game. I loved Legacy of Kain, MGS: The Twin Snakes was a solid port, and Eternal Darkness is by far my favorite Gamecube game. Hell, I think Eternal Darkness is still better than most of the games that are currently being released. So when I heard that they were creating an epic Xbox exclusive trilogy, I couldn’t help but get excited for the game. The more I heard about it the more hyped I became, hearing that they were using Norse mythology? Awesome! I love Norse Mythology! Then news came out that the game was going to feature lots of loot. That’s great! I’m a loot junkie! Then the demo came out and I loved that as well.

So what the hell went wrong?

The Story. If you had to summarize the story i would do so by saying it is a mix of Norse Myths + The Terminator + Cyberpunk all mixed together. While I’ve heard some criticisms regarding the plot, I honestly feel if you are interested in Norse Mythology at all, you’ll think it is great the way they’ve incorporated it into the world of Too Human. It’s sort of hard to mention anything specific without getting into the realm of spoilers, but they’ve done a great job in converting the old Norse mythologies into the cyberpunk world. Hod is still blind but now he has cybernetic augmentation in order to see. Tyr has a metallic hand replacing the one that was previously bitten off. Though they do not mention that encounter, Tyr later has a run in with a giant wolf and mentions that this isn’t the first time he has had to deal with one. There was one major discrepancy with how the Norse myth of Baldur went compared to how it is presented in Too Human, and they explained that detail nicely at the end of the game.

That said, if you do not know anything of Norse myths, then this game does a horrible job getting the average gamer into the story. The game just jumps right into the plot without providing any background details at all. Instead you’ll have to use the script overview provided in the user manual. If you want to have an epic story you need to tell all the parts of it in the game itself instead of leaving some of it only in the manual. Even with all the little details they’ve thrown in from the mythological side of things, there was not enough done to make the story make sense for the majority of those playing the game.

Another negative is that the voice acting is really robotic. Whether this is an intentional thing or not, given that all of the major characters in the video game are half or more cybernetic, doesn’t matter. The fact remains that it hurts many of the games cut scenes and leaves them without any emotional impact. Even in circumstances that are supposed to be a giant plot twist just fall flat because of this.

The music isn’t any better. Most of the time the background music is done in the orchestrated way that you would see in something like Lord of the Rings or a similar fantasy tale. While it isn’t remarkable, it does a good job with the tone of the game. Sometimes though, the game will suddenly break into some odd generic techno rock during action sequences in different levels, This just doesn’t mesh as well with the previously described music and quite frankly, it sucks.

Maybe the sound and story aren’t really reasons why you are playing this game though. I mean you can mute the sound and skip the cutscenes, so how is the action?

To put it briefly, I doubt anyone play tested this piece of crap. This game has about as much balance as a guy who has had seven shots of whiskey in a row.

The game is controlled via the analog sticks. The left stick is for movement and the right stick is for combat. If you think that makes it hard to choose the appropriate camera angle…well, you’d be right. There are several different camera angles to choose from, and after setting the game to the isometric perspective I didn’t have very many problems. The only real problem with that angle is that it’s sort of hard to see the action that is going on since it is zoomed out pretty far. Holding the right stick towards the enemy will have you attack in that directions, while tapping it will juggle an enemy in the air. Combinations of the left and right stick together will do finishing moves and other assorted combos.

This is a unique idea for this style of game, and there are moments when everything is clicking together that lets you see why SK thought this was a good idea. Unfortunately there are many, many ways this combat system fails in the game. Here are those reasons:

– The game isn’t sure if it wants to be a action RPG or an straight action game like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden. A perfect example of this is the fact that like those two action games, Too Human enemies will randomly drop health orbs. In your typical action RPG, you will have to use health potions. Since most aspects of the game play exactly like an action RPG, I was trying to figure out where I could buy some health vials for a while. Of course, there aren’t any. Health is regulated to random enemy drops, except this is broken as enemies and breakable objects in the level will likely drop loot or money instead of dropping health. Sometime that enemies will drop health when your life is full, and then they will not drop any health orbs at all when you need them most.

– It seems like SK they knew this type of system was broken, and as such they’ve removed any penalty for dying. Get used to dying by the way. You will die a lot unless you choose to play as the Bioengineer. The biggest penalty in this game is the fact that it takes awhile for the death animation to play through when all you really want to do is get back into the action. Bioshock used the same type of system, except in Too Human this system is abused to compensate for the broken game balance. Because Too Human uses this system in such a manner, it doesn’t encourage the player to learn how to get better at the new combat mechanics displayed in the game. What’s the point of being good at the combat portion of the game when death is just an inconvenience? Even if you are great at the combat, for most classes death is an inevitability. Being good at the combat merely lengthens the time you can play until you get carried away by a Valkyrie.

– Boss battles really suck. The first level boss isn’t so bad. After that, boss battles are just a big pain in the ass. There is one battle against a giant wolf that will cause you to die over and over again, especially if you play as a Berserker. The Berserker’s role is to get up close and personal with melee. This boss however, is such a size that it makes melee combat impractical and impossible. Of course this boss also has a deadly ranged attack, which makes ranged attacks as a Berserker a poor alternative since that class has weaker ranged attacks.

– Elemental status damage. Where the game starts to really become annoying is when you reach a high enough level to encounter enemies who use polarity attacks. These elements status attacks have various results like slowing you down, causing different damage over time effects, or effects like freezing your character. There are also enemies that just explode on impact. Since health orbs aren’t exactly frequent, getting hit with a damage over time effect really, really sucks. It lasts long just long enough that if you are any class but the Bioengineer that you are going to die. What’s worse is that while you are managing different groups of enemies on screen, you might just miss where one of these enemies are. If you melee kill them you generally get hit with their status effect anyways which is very poorly designed. There’s a ranged weapon attack that you can use besides using your guns to keep these enemies at bay, except the analog fighting system is touchy and sometime you’ll instead slide right over to the enemy that you were trying to stay away from. Nothing like trying to push an exploding enemy back and instead sliding right up to them, and then dying.

– Enemies scale to your level. This shouldn’t be a bad thing, right? The only problem with this is the combat system can’t keep up with the scaling of enemies. At the highest levels your character will be faced with several polarity enemies at once, both of the ranged and up close variety. This means there will be several areas where you will just die because you’ll get hit with a fire effect and a slow down effect, or poisoned and then frozen. Since enemies scale, you never really get the chance to feel like a cybernetic god as all the enemies get more powerful with you. The best thing about this is that there are sections in different levels that will change depending on what level you are. There aren’t very many of these areas, but this is a great idea that will hopefully be used in a better game.

– The classes are quite unique as are the weapons. Unfortunately since the Bioengineer is the only one with a healing ability, this doesn’t matter very much. The abilities of the Bioengineer seem better suited to providing support in an online co-op game, except the online co-op sort of sucks. I played it online with fellow editor Mark B. on this site. Since I was a higher level than he was, the game for some reason scaled enemies to a few levels above either of us. This meant that he was unable to do much, and it wasn’t the best experience. Even worse, there are some mind numbing bugs in the multiplayer, including the second stage boss being completely invisible to Mark, though the boss was still able to kill him.

– There’s loot in the game! Except every couple minutes of play you find better loot than what you are wearing, or your armor breaks down from dying repeatedly at the hands of an unbalanced boss, so it’s hard to care that much about the armor. You can collect a set and match the colors up, but it’s kind of like pimping out a car in Grand Theft Auto. Sure, you could, but it’s just going to get wrecked or replaced in a minute anyways so why bother?

– Poor time management. The game just doesn’t manage the time you spend playing it very well. There are areas where you will access “Ëœcyberspace’ that work within the story in the game. Only there’s nothing to do in these area except for walk. You get abilities to use, but they require very little interaction. I wish they had a puzzle type game in these areas to break up the constant combat. At least it would be better than just walking. The same problem happens between levels at Asgard. Asgard is huge, but there is little reason for it except to make you walk even more. The whole thing could’ve been done via a menu interface and it would’ve been smoother and faster. The story segments also face the same problem of being overly long. Then there are the combat sections. These areas feel repetitive because some of them feel like they never end. The second level takes more than an hour to clear. I spent 13 hours in four levels! Since there’s nothing else to break up the action, after a while it feels monotonous. They could’ve spread the level sections, story, and cyperspace sections out a lot better.

I could keep going on, and on, and on about everything that is wrong with this game. What sucks the most about the game is that at different times you can tell that there is some potential with the combat system. Maybe if another couple of months or a full year had been given to balance out the parts of the game that just feel broken it would have been a different story.

There really is a good game hidden in here. The combat is more intense than the usual action RPG, and the style of the game is great. The engine can handle a lot of enemies and effects all going on at the same time without any slowdown, and the graphics are pretty good. The only issues graphically are the unnatural look characters have while talking, and the amount of texture pop-in. The texture issue isn’t nearly as bad as it was in Mass Effect, but it is obvious in some parts.

I also ran into another bug early in the game when I decided to repeat part of the first level. When I returned to Asgard, the story wouldn’t progress. I had to back out of the game entirely and reload my save to continue.

While I list all of these faults, I’m actually looking forward to the sequel. If they’re able to balance out either the health orb drop rate so that character death isn’t something that you expect to happen every few minutes, balance the boss battles, fix the online, fix the scaling issues, adjust damage over time effect, and make it so that cyberspace is more than just walking around then you’d have one really good action RPG on your hands.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Final Scores:
Story: Above Average
Graphics: Good
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Awful
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Bad

Short Attention Span Summary:

Too Human is a buggy mess of a game that is a poor excuse for a Diablo clone. There’s some potential lurking under all the problems that maybe the next two games in the planned trilogy can capitalize on. Except if the first game is so bad, why would anyone pick up the sequels? Stay far away from this game.



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