Very good review, thanks.
I was going to get this, now im having my doubts.
Developer: Silicone Knights
Genre: Action RPG
System: Xbox 360 (exclusive)
After a near record development cycle (only beaten by Duke Nukem Forever's 10 year absence) Too Human is finally released to the public. In Too Human, you play as the cybernetic god Baldur as you unlock secrets of your past and attempt to save the human race from annihilation at the hands of machines. Personally, I've been following this game since its Gamecube days, and after losing interest for a long time, had my interest regained after seeing it at a past E3. After jumping consoles 3 times, from Playstation to gamecube then to Xbox 360, the game was finally finished thanks to the financial aid of publisher Microsoft. This game quickly became my most anticipated game EVER, even beating out Tales of Vesperia and my favorite of all time, Bioshock. Then the gameplay videos came out. I was impressed, maybe not as much as I hoped, but I thought "eh, still looks fun. Its got a large production value, the developer has a good pedigree, and usually first-part published games don't suck."
I'm not sure if I'm simply cursed with extremely bad judgment or not, but what a mess this game turned out to be. not only did it end up being far below expectations, but its problems are for all the worst reasons, considering its huge production time and the money spent on it. The main problems facing this game are mostly common problems among shovelware games, such as frame rate issues, bad A.I. and a plethora of other issues.
For the most part, the game holds a decent framerate. But get into a room with many enemies, or start fighting a boss and it gets messy. The slowdowns are never extremely significant, but they are still there, and mess with the experience. But the worst frame related problem is the camera. Twice as bad Ninja Gaiden II's camera problems, easily. The game gives you a few modes in which to place the camera but they all tend to do the exact same thing. The use of the left stick to look around while fighting is taken out, since its needed for the melee combat. However there is one neat thing about the camera, and thats in the form of the Dyack-flaunted cinematic angles. While not near as spectacular as the director claimed them to be, they work very well in cutscenes and give them an interesting movie feel. Outside of cutscenes, on the other hand, the "cinematic cam" just feels unnecessary and forced. Most of the things that the camera nudges you toward just look like the same thing you've seen hundreds of times.
When the camera does point you toward something interesting, it usually doesn't looks very good. Despite having some very interesting environmental features in Aesir, the backgrounds in Too Human are often too repetitive to be interesting. That said, the environments altogether are only average, and when they practically never change throughout each of the four chapters, they get very boring, very fast. There is very little interaction with these backgrounds, and what is there is very elementary(smack it, it explodes. Thats it.) While backgrounds for the real world, which you'll traversing in, fighting in, and doing just about everything fun in, the backgrounds in cyberspace aren't half bad. They too get a little repetitive, but they look much better then the real world. Which is a real shame considering you do very little in cyber space.
Character models are one thing this game has going for it. The enemies are detailed and impressive, though there is a classic case of coloring the enemies a different color and trying to throw them out as a different enemy. To be totally honest, there aren't many enemies in the game anyway, so the models, while varied, are in short supply. The Aesir, or Norse Gods of the game(the good guys) aren't as detailed as the enemies, but the art direction that SK has used to represent the Norse gods is quite impressive. Loki and the Nords especially. The animations for enemies and heroes alike though, is very stiff and clunky. They look extremely robotic, which may or may not be what they were going for in the games since you play as part machine, part man cybernetic god...well whatever. If it is, I'm not very impressed. The jumping attack animations are just painful. To attack an enemy in the air, you have to first knock them up, but instead of doing a jumping attack, you character jumps into the air, then basically RUNS over to the enemy's position while in the air(all of which time the enemy does not move an inch and is simply suspended in air) and proceeds to bash them senseless. The enemies animation are even worse. For the most part, the enemies will simply stand around you and you'll magically take damage. But the times they actually animate the attacks, the goblins basically just slap at you. Overly simple. In fact, most all enemies will simply walk up to you and bi***-slap you in the face, with no real combos or special attacks or anything. There is the occasional suicide bomber enemy who doesn't even have a dying animation, simply "dissipates" after exploding, but obviously even that is bland and tasteless. As far as bosses go, the chapter 3 boss and Hod have some better animations then others, but they too are absolutely clunky and messy. Beyond all this is a lower-then-brass lining to the attack animations of Baldur. When your a beserker flying around the room picking up 10s of enemies at a time like fruit flies, it gets da** fun to watch.
But the thing that go on my nerves the most is the facial animations. Many of the cutscenes in the game have a large amount of emotion being displayed by the characters. The problem is that the characters facial expressions NEVER match the words they are speaking or how they are saying it. They simply have the same face and calm collected actions throughout the entire scene, even in the most emotional of times. I can honestly say this was the part of the game that bugged me more then any other part-- the execution is the characters facial animations are absolutely TERRIBLE. As a person who likes the character development and animations above all else, this was like a huge punch to the face.
Now that the graphical components of the review are well under wraps, lets talk about the biggest factor of any RPG, this game included, is the story. And of course, this game doesn't really deliver as well as it could have. Don't get me wrong, the ideas behind is are absolutely fantastic and original. These ideas have they're roots in Norse Mythology--the names, the characters, and even the enemies. And the personifications that they have created for these mythical gods are well designed in persona and features. The problem is, however, that those who have no clue about Norse Mythology(like me) aren't going to get much of the underlying intelligence of the game. Even that wouldn't be much of a problem if the characters were explored a little. Unfortunately, as it goes, with the exception of Baldur, there is no other character who's story is really ever explored, and most of them never even told in the slightest degree. But the worst part of this is knowing that the characters have so much more to them then is shown. Obviously I can't provide any examples as I'm dumb as a rock when it comes to Norse myths(except Thor. He's cool.)but just knowing that the richness of the Viking myths out there aren't even shown in some sort of encyclopedia or something really can get annoying, since you don't understand HALF the story because you don't get the characters!
The story as a whole is rather well made, but poorly paced. The best plot turns and twists are near and at the end of the game. There is also a very interesting turn of events at the end of the second chapter, but it is absolutely terrible paced and threaded out. Take Hod, a boss for example. After a series of rather average sequences in the plot, you meet him(who is easily one of the most interesting characters in the game) but you never learn absolutely ANYTHING about him except for one single but very influential fact in the story. This is an example of the story itself; it definitely has many interesting ideas, but they are never explored. The Aesir seem to only have a singular meaning in the game, which is fine for something that isn't as important. But the Aesir prove to be at the heart of the story, and they are one of the best features of the story. They never really become anything spectacular though; you never get the full feeling of the important task they have. Too Human is actually a whole mess of things that never come across as well as they should. Check the sound sections to see what I mean.
To pick up directly where I left off(but speaking about sound quality now...) the characters voice acting is a mixed bag. On one hand, Baldur, Hod, and Hiemdall have great and fantastic voice acting, but on the other Freya, Thor and one of the Nords are simply average. Still the rest of the gods and characters aren't as good as Baldur or Hod, but they are above average. But concerning characters like Thor and Tyr, who are supposed to be personifications of might and power, have weak VOs to match they're strength. Great dialogue helps make up for some less then steller voice acting, and greatly improves the already good voice acting of some. So it really is, like I said, a mixed bag here.
So on the one hand there is good VOs and a few bad VOs, but sound effects are pretty solid. Solid in that they are mostly bad. Returning to the fact that power never really comes off of the characters in the game(I thought they were Gods. Gods are supposed to be powerful, right?) the SFX is terrible. I remember one instance in particular; Thor and Baldur are about to be trapped inside an exploding building. So Thor throws his hammer up to the ceiling to break it. Rather then explodes with a bang like a giant roof getting hit by a 400 pound hammer would, it simply sounds a low "bang" as the roof crumbles and hardly even breaks into pieces. That is just an example, and there is much more where that came from. Another complaint I had with the sound is that the effects are significantly louder then spoken parts in the game, which makes it extremely frustrating to try and comprehend what the characters are saying during loud cutscenes.
The music is something that Too Human absolutely has going for it. Well made and very dramatic music really brings out the fact that you are playing as a cybernetic God rather then just an average warrior. Despite the sound effects being only Sub-par most of the time, the music somehow blends the sounds of the combat with its heart pumping tone, making the sound effects far more bearable. All types of orchestral epic music is present in the game, and its usually played at the right moments. Heres something that very easy on the ears, in a, furious combat sort of way.
As of yet, I have spoken nothing of the gameplay, which of course is the center point of the game. probably the best quality of the gameplay is how innovative it is. Instead of using the normal XYAB buttons to attack, you use the right stick to string together combos and melee attacks. air combat works the same way and with guns you use the stick to change targets. Now although it is very unique, this doesn't mean it works perfectly. In fact, I'm fairly certain that I would have easily preferred buttons mashing to joystick mashing. The reasons for this are that while the stick works fine, the number of things you can do with it are extremely limited. There are no definitive combos you can execute with the stick, and evasion is very difficult to pull off with it. You can't stop a combo as fact with the stick as you can with buttons; that is, right before an enemy hits you. Even though most enemies have very bad or no animations to their attacks, the ones that you can see coming you just have to take. As a berserker you'll be up close and personal for almost all your combat time. Problem is, enemies you meet later on in the game don't flinch, and they take many hits to take down. In addition, they often crowd all around you, continually hitting you. If you get annoyed by dying in a video game, you better be prepared for this. You will die many, many, MANY times in the same battle, so you better get used to it, especially if you are a berserker.
In fact, if you just about anything other then a bioengineer, you'll be dying on a regular basis. The dying animation is quite long, so you may want to read a book or create a cure for cancer while your waiting. After each unnecessarily long death sequence, you will reappear just as though nothing happens. This is very similar to Bioshock's Vita-Chambers but these don't make as much sense. You'll especially be dying many, many times during boss battles, since more often then not bosses have more powerful melee attacks then you, more powerful ranged attacks then you, and no flinching. Bosses may well be the biggest disappointment with this game. The main boss is terrible, and the chapter 1,2, and 3 bosses are jokes as well. You'll be dying most of the time, not because they are powerful opponents, but because they have far more health then you, and take huge amounts of free-bie shots at you because of the linear battle system. Its a mess, really.
The shooting isn't a whole lot better.The guns themselves are awesome and give a very Devil May Cry feel to that part of the game. But it ends up being the targeting system that will make you rethink being a Shooter class at the beginning of the game. It doesn't make gun wielding a terrible choice though, and many can easily overlook it if they are dedicated to their ballistic friends. But nonetheless, most people will be fed up with the game targeting dead enemies quickly. Yes, it does target dead enemies sometimes, and it almost ALWAYS targets dead boss pieces. The good thing is after your done with one enemy you can use the right stick to lock onto another. Sometimes though, it either doesn't lock or locks onto a dead enemy. Bosses as well. Most bosses or larger enemies have many points on they're body which you must attack, and after its blown off, you can still target it. This becomes more annoying because you have to constantly press the right stick in the direction of the new body part your trying to shoot. I may be blowing this part out of proportion, as it still works, but albeit annoyingly.
Speaking of A.I., they aren't much different then the bosses. They are quite stupid, nearly all of them rushing you on contact, and every single one rushing you at some point during your encounter. (Many will stop and fire at you for a second, THEN rush you.) But they come in enough hordes to strike enough hits on you to make each encounter a bit difficult. Also, some enemies cannot be killed before others, so that forces you to change your strategy sometimes, keeping things interesting for a while. The problem is that there is not enough variety in the A.I., throughout the entire game, the same enemy types are recycled many times. Not so much the models(although they are) so much as that they all use practically the same strategy. So variety isn't something Too Human has much of. But hey, if you like the massive encounters and moronic tactics of the A.I., you'll find a lot of fun with each encounter. I kinda did. If not, well...have fun.
There are more subtle elements that effect the gameplay though, such as the Skill tree and the expansive Diablo feel. Yes, it does feel very Diablo. Most of the levels are randomly generated, and consist of the Ninja Gaiden II tactic of continuing to the next room for another wave of enemies as you do the others Every encounter will yield many swords, guns, and equipment. While it takes the most fun out of finding more powerful weapons, the constant flow of items does help to keep the time moderately more interesting. In addition you can pick up blueprints of items that you can craft. With the exception of SUPER RARE blueprints, most blueprints will just waste your money, because you'll just find another 10 better weapons before you'll really get much use out of the blueprint. But the massive amount of items and weapons there are in the game is astonishing. More then any other game I've ever played, and I have played my fair share of MMORPGs. Now the skill tree is also another fair success in this game. As you level up(and your enemies do to. Yup, level scaling.) you get more points to spend on your skill tree. You can put these points to use in one of three skill paths. Depending on which one you choose, you won't be able to choose the others. It really may end up being a hard choice to make, and for good reason. they all help you in different combat ways, like increasing speed, power, or some other quality of your classes fighting style. It works, and because the enemies level scale, you wouldn't have much of a reason to level up if not for this. Except maybe to use armor and such that you aren't leveled up for.
The randomly generated levels aren't really impressive either. The art design is fair, but the layouts of the levels are absolutely too simple. This consists of going into one room, bashing all the enemies, then going into the next room, and the next room, and the next doing the exact same thing. The only real thing that keeps it interesting is the loot dropping, but it gets very repetitive. The level design only allows you to do that as well. it doesn't let you take and branching paths or secret routes or anything. One of the most linear games I've played, which may be due to the randomly generated levels. Personally I think they could have done much better level design if each level was hand-made.
Going on to replayability. Too Human will last you a very, very long time if you like it. Despite my mixed feeling on the game, after beating it I still wanted to beat it again, but as a different class(which I soon got bored of...)but there is a lot of replay value here. Leveling up will take precedent over your time with the game, so you can log onto multiplayer and flaunt your abilities. But choosing a different class changes the gameplay feeling just enough to keep it fresh for a time. there are literally hundreds of different items to collect here, and thousands of ways to change your look. If you really care that much, you'll get into that quickly. Unfortunately, as far the main campaign goes it will be over before you know it. I got through it in about 8 hours, with 1 of those hours spent messing around Aesir. So its very short. I've been looking for side-quests, but can't seem to find any, but people say they are there, so I guess I just have to look harder. Anyway, after you finish the game you can go back through it with your already powerful character for a second time to gain levels and such.
Co-op is one of the better reasons to own this game. It really makes the action that much more intense when there are two Baldurs rushing around the room beating the crap out of enemies. But it doesn't come without problems. For one, there is a good deal of lag in this game's co-op. For a time after shooting enemies, my guns totally stopped responding, and I had to rely on my melee weapons. Also, sometimes the characters will just "jump" to different places, and enemies often die before being killed. Cutscenes are also totally ripped out of co-op. If you've played through the game already, you won't really care very much though, since the game throws enemies in those areas where a cutscene would be. So co-op is a pretty enjoable time you can have, if you can stand to not have cutscenes anyway.
Major Selling Points:
-Based in a Norse world
-Play as a cybernetic God
-Huge amount of loot drops in the game
-Co-op can be a blast
Major Breaking Points:
-Lag in co-op
-Combat system has many problems
-Level design is repetitive and linear
-Characters facials never match they're emotions
-Rather mediocre story
Its not terrible, its just very average. The last chapter of the game helps to make up for it though.
The character models look great, but everything else looks bent out of shape. The environments could use some work, animations are terrible, and the explosions and weapon effects are just painful.
VOs have a mixed bag that leans more toward well made then poorly made. Sound effects are boring, but the music is phenominal.
There are many inventive ideas here. but the execution of the ideas such as the right attack stick and the messy targeting system are poor. the level designs are boring as well.
It only has around an 8 hour campaign, but plaing through it many times with different classes and on co-op extends the time greatly.
Too Human can be enjoyable. But the sheer number of technical flaws this game has renders it extremely frustrating to play. If you like games such as Diablo you may want to give it a shot. But I highly suggest renting before you buy it.
Last edited by bandit; December 15th, 2008 at 01:02.
Very good review, thanks.
I was going to get this, now im having my doubts.
I was thinking of getting this, (i found the demo enjoyable) But there are loads of great games comming out soon, i'll just wait for them (fallout 3)
I wonder will they still make the planned trilogy? at least it was not as bad as haze!
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