August 19, 2008

I’ve often heard people claim that many facets of entertainment, be they movies or music or video games or anything else, are masturbatory.‚ For example, ever since Denis Dyack proclaimed Too Human to be a trilogy and one of the stand out franchises of the video game industry, he’s been stroking his own ego.‚ 

Before anyone could get a hold of his game Dyack had managed to create a lot of press surrounding his very adamant bragging regarding how awesome his own game is. And, on top of that, it’s clear that he doesn’t care about what other people think about his game.‚ He acts as if, in some way, that the appropriate stance to take.‚  Well Denis, you’ll be the only one singing praises.

When Too Human first kicks on, it blasts you in the face with a flashy menu of various things to do.‚  Options include a campaign mode, an online mode and some other menu’s you could glide through if you really cared about spending time at the menu.‚ 

The real meat can be found when players first decide to pick up the campaign.‚ Making it through the drudgery they call story was hard.‚ Apparently your character Baldur, the son of the Norse God Odin, is tasked with stopping a machine race built to eradicate humanity.‚ Recalling the story was hard because after letting the game collect dust on my shelf I forgot what it was about.‚ 

I definitely hoped that Dyack didn’t intend for Too Human to excel in a story.‚ I hoped he’d make up for it with innovative game play and captivating boss battles and exciting adventures online. At some points in the development of a story derived from the bowels of a teller, I couldn’t do anything but laugh. Jumping from generic cut scene to generic cut scene was bad; I was ready to turn the game off.

Too Human, a game that’s supposed to stand out and be one of a kind, falls terribly flat when it comes to the graphics and aesthetics. They are so terrible that it was hard to work up the motivation to even try and upgrade my character.‚ I literally had to have a friend of mine come over and upgrade my character, for the mere sight of a white guy with no hair wearing all black in a world that is various shades of grey with some lava splattered places was just too much.‚ I wish the puke induced by the game could have been black or white.

At least Too Human, while being a terrible game, could be likened as a rip-off of an actual good game.‚  Back in the late 90’s Phantasy Star Online was breaking down barriers in terms of what it meant for taking a home console and putting it online.‚ On top of that, the game was fun and new and offered players a lot of variety.‚ Many hours can be logged into PSO and I’d still consider it anything but a waste of time.‚ 

Too Human successfully took the basic formula from that game and made it worse.‚ 

When my character walks into an area enemies pop and charge at me.

Exactly like in PSO.

Likewise, when they die, they drop items that you then sprint too to pick up as quickly as possible.‚ The better the weapon, the better the character.‚ 

Exactly like PSO.‚ 

But, where PSO excelled was in its ability to make an easy yet intriguing battle system and implement it into its own world successfully.‚ A button combo or two would allow you to mow your enemies down, which you could then pull up a menu and cast magic, lay a trap, or use an item.‚ It was good, and easy to learn and follow and very face paced and intense, much unlike Too Human.

When the enemies first tried to approach my dreadfully dull character surrounded by dull grey and black walls I remembered my character was one of the few classes that excelled in ranged attacks.‚ Of the five available options, only one peeked my interest.‚ 

The other four classes were:‚  Champion, average melee fighter, Defender, defensive melee, Beserker, offensive melee, Bio Engineer, healer, and Commando, ranged combat.

In the first room, when combat actually began, I pulled out my rifle and started blasting at enemies as they approached.‚ At first this seemed pretty fluid and ideal for a third-person action game, but once the auto-targeting system, which seems arbitrary if you want people to enjoy playing a ranged class, takes over you can’t do anything but complain. All I managed to do with my rifle was continually shoot one enemy until they were dead and then shoot them some more while they lie, flaccid on the ground.‚ 

The targeting system, on this superb next-gen console, prevented me from killing more than one enemy with a projectile.

Once I got over the fact that I couldn’t manage to get my character to fire at anything but a dead body I decided I’d slash some prices.‚ They couldn’t have messed that up, could they?

The highly acclaimed fighting style that I’ve heard about, where all melee combat is directed towards the analog stick and how you swing it, appears sluggish, and as another fellow reviewer noted, “it looks like Baldur has to pause and smile for a picture after every successful swing.”‚ 

What he means is that when your character attacks, no matter what combination of analog swings you use, he’ll pause for a split second.‚  Just enough time to capture a screen shot or something.‚ This slows the combat down and cuts into the fluidity a few quick swirls from an analog stick should offer.

After struggling with a campaign worth chucking rotten food at, I reluctantly tried the game online.‚  Besides running around with a friend online, doing the same thing one does offline, the game is no different.‚ 

Limiting an online game to a strictly two-player co-operative experience seems like a rushed conclusion to a problem.‚ I feel like the idea was there, of including at least four player co-op (The Dreamcast did it, Why do current generation games purposefully lack what previous games had?), but someone forced Dyack and his team to put the game out early.‚ 

Before it was done.‚ 

Although playing this game online took away some of the drudgery of playing it alone, it was still the same game.‚ 

Too Human is an utter let down. I never once uttered a, “that’s cool,” or even smiled.‚ I frowned a lot.‚  But, no smiles.‚ It lacked in story, in gameplay, and it certainly didn’t live up to any of my expectations.

About The Author

Roger Gude is a Blast Magazine correspondent

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