There’s been a lot of odd hype and counter-hype about the upcoming XBox 360 hack and slash game Too Human. Over on the Neogaf forums, the developer even got into some heated conversations with posters about his own game, pre-release. The Too Human demo has dropped onto the XBox Live Marketplace now, and I’ve had a chance to play through it. So how good is it really?
I’ll start by saying that I completely dig the setting and characters. It’s a sci-fi world mixed with Norse mythology, which makes for a very unique and creative world with a Mass Effect-esque trooper named Baldur and soldiers fighting for the glory of Odin. The story really seems to be interesting, as you learn that you’re gunning for none other than Grendel in this tech-heavy world where magic still abides.
Once you get past the setting and story, there’s the gameplay, which is where any game will stand or fall. Too Human’s gameplay is very much a hack and slash fest that at times feels a lot like Diablo. You’ll wade through hordes of bad guys (most of them very similar to one another, if the demo is any indication), slaughtering them with ranged and melee attacks. They drop loot in the form of things like health, gear, and blueprints for building cooler gear. On the surface, this all sounds neat. When you actually start playing, it kind of falls apart.
The most immediately noticeable weirdness is with the controls. I (and pretty much anybody in this game’s target audience) am used to using the left thumbstick to move and the right one to move the camera. Not so, here. The right thumbstick actually controls your melee attacks. So if you have a baddie on your right, you flick the stick right to take a swing at him. It isn’t an auto attack, so you’ll have to keep flicking it over and over to continue the swinging. This feels very awkward, and, while it’s something you probably could get used to, I’m pretty sure the developers could have come up with a better way of handling this action.
The camera is controlled by the left bumper, of all things. Click it once, and the camera centers behind you. Hold it down, and you stop moving altogether and can look around with the right thumbstick. This is extremely awkward design and makes for a lot of bad camera angle moments. I had several deaths during my play that were caused by bad guys getting me from behind because the camera didn’t intuit to swing around to show them to me, and I wasn’t able to turn the camera in that direction in the heat of the battle.
Playing single player, you’ll have a squad of soldiers backing you up, but in my experience they amount to little more than cannon fodder. Their AI was quite bad, and nearly all of the fighting was left up to me while my computer controlled buddies were off roasting Thor S’mores or whatever they were doing. Unless you play co-op (which isn’t available in this demo), don’t expect to get much in the way of assistance.
The graphics are pretty enough, but the cutscenes jump around a bit too much for my taste in this genre. There are cutscenes every few minutes, some of them breaking the flow of battle to jump back and show you character-heavy moments prior to your leaving on your current mission. The scenes are informative and help build the characters and story in interesting ways, but it really feels like the information could have been imparted in different ways or at different times so as not to kill the momentum just after you’ve taken down a slew of bad guys.
Once you do kill bad guys, they tend to drop a lot of loot, which is a great thing for this kind of game. It’ll be fun collecting all the good stuff as you progress through the game. The interface for accessing and working with your new weapons and armor and upgrading your skills isn’t the greatest, but it serves its purpose.
All in all, if the final release of Too Human is the same as this demo (which I suspect it will be, given that the game is due out very soon), it’s not a game I’ll be picking up. It’s not a horrible game by any means. In fact, there are some fun moments throughout, and I thoroughly enjoy the setting. It isn’t a great game, though, and it isn’t one that I would enjoy playing for very long. The clunky controls, the difficult camera, and the overall repetitiveness leave me cold. Too Human originally was shown at E3 in 1999. If it had been released then as a 4-disc game for the PS1 (as was originally the plan), it would have been astounding. It’s 2008, though, and I expected better.
Please keep in mind that my opinion was formed via the publicly released demo for Too Human. It’s possible that the final game released next month could vary wildly from this demo, rendering many of my complaints null and void. I think it’s highly unlikely that that’s what will happen, but it’s worth the word of caution anyway.