Back in July, I posted a review of the Too Human demo that released onto the XBox Live Marketplace. The game failed to impress me, and I had no real intention of playing the final version. As luck would have it, I forgot to remove the game from my GameFly queue, so it ended up arriving at my house anyway. So, after playing the final version, is it any better than I predicted, based on the demo?
Actually, yes! This is the part where I get to bow my head in shame and admit that Too Human is quite a bit of fun. I think it’s one of those games that you don’t completely enjoy until you “get” it. I didn’t get it while playing the demo. The controls were clunky, the menu system was flawed, and the cutscenes were annoyingly long. Nothing significant has changed from the demo to the final release, but after I popped the disc in and played for a little while, I realized that I was getting the hang of it, the controls were getting less clunky, and the game was surprisingly fun and addictive.
Too Human is a cyberpunkish take on Norse mythology that casts you as the god Baldur in a pantheon divinely powered by cybernetic implants that harness the digital power of Odin. It’s a decidedly weird universe, and it doesn’t always completely make sense, but when it does, it’s a really cool concept. The majority of the game throws you into big battles against hordes of enemies in a button-mashy hack and slash style. Occasionally, though, you’ll enter cyberspace via digital “wells” that put you in touch with three witches in the machine that guide and help you through your missions.
Like Diablo and all the other hack and slash predecessors, fighting is the biggest component of the game. Also like those other games, the real meat of the game is in collecting loot dropped from those battles and building, customizing, and upgrading your character and gear. You can pick up money from felled enemies to help fund building uber-gear based on blueprints that also are dropped in battle. You’ll also be able to nab health packs as well as pre-made (and decidedly less uber) weapons and armor. All of it is customizable via a menu system that is still less intuitive than it could be. The inventory system and stat screens thankfully aren’t as bad as Mass Effect’s, but they do take a few more button presses to get into and out of than they should.
Combat itself is comprised largely of pulling the triggers to fire guns at your enemies (the game will auto aim for you) and pushing the right thumbstick towards nearby enemies for melee attacks. The controls get a little more complex than that, but not much. Some ballistics weapons will give you alternate fire modes that might fire grenades or bombs with the left trigger, and you can get fancy with your melees by swirling the right thumbstick or pushing both thumbsticks in the same direction. In the end, it’s all pretty basic and simple, albeit kind of weird since none of the A, B, X, or Y buttons actually attack anything.
I realized I was having fun when I noticed that two hours have sped by without my wanting to stop slaying the waves after waves of robots. The fighting is a bit repetitive, but you honestly won’t notice it once you lock into the mindset of must-level-up, must-score-loot. The story eventually grabbed me as well, and I started looking forward to the cutscenes I’d been complaining about. You’ll see all the familiar faces from Nordic lore, from Thor to Loki to Heimdall, all updated to a tech-Viking futuristic look. I still think the cutscenes and game segments between fights are a little overly long, though. After a few minutes of watching the video or running around from conversation to conversation, I’m always more than ready to get back into the fray.
The one aspect of the game that continues to strike me as bizarre game design is the way death is handled. You will take damage and die as in other games like this, but until you reach level 20 or so, there’s really no consequence of dying. And it took me probably seven or eight hours to reach that point, so that’s a lot of freebie time. When you die, your character collapses, and you see an animation of a digital Valkyrie descending, gathering you into her arms, and bearing you up to Valhalla… at which point you respawn a few feet away from where you died, everything else completely intact. This means you can run full tilt into a boss battle, swing away to knock off a few hit points, die, and then jump right back in. Lather, rinse, repeat until the boss dies. It’s kind of a cheap way to proceed through the game, and it just makes dying annoying because you have to sit through the same Valkyrie animation every time it happens. Once you hit level 20-21, death will damage your gear and potentially break it. I’ve died plenty of times since then and haven’t noticed a severe impact on my weapons and armor (possibly due to the fact that the game continually throws brand new gear at you), so even that doesn’t provide much of a consequence for dying.
In the end, Too Human is a game that isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot more fun than I initially gave it credit for. If you played the demo and hated it, you might want to give it another shot by renting the full version. I think G4’s Kevin Pereira sums it up quite well: