Where to begin when discussing Too Human? We can discuss the game itself but there is perhaps more drama surrounding the game than within the game. Developed in scenic St. Catharines in Canada for the Xbox 360 over the past four years, the game may have some problems but remains a solid start to a trilogy which has some nice potential
The game is an action-adventure role playing game in which you crawl through a dungeon defeating wave after wave of baddies either alone or with a buddy online. The game was originally built to support four player teamwork and had since been reduced to two due to the sheer chaos created by four players and all the antagonists which go with them. The developers felt that it was too chaotic for players to find desirable but speculate that they may re-add four player support in a later patch.
It’s a fun game but much of the criticism has been about the controls and the camera control (or lack of it). Admittedly it will take many some time to acclimatize to the controls as they differ from the norm, lacking some nuance yet overall simplifying things, making the game more accessible. It is likely that many critics of these controls did not bother to play long enough to acclimatize to these unorthodox controls or never considered the effect they would have on the accessibility of the title. It is easy for someone to pick up and play without having to spend time figuring out loads of controls – much better for the casual player, perhaps sacrificing some of the control that the more die-hard enthusiasts may be used to from some other titles. There are advantages to making something different.
The game has an interesting story retelling some Nordic mythological stories, opening with a scene which is effectively a cover of Beowolf, adapted for robots. It’s a kind of retro-futurist mytho-punk world where gods, men, and robots engage in epic conflict. This provides for a supprisingly good blend. These elements don’t seem like an intuitive mix so credit to Silicon Knights for this game’s magnificent art direction. From the character and environment design to the storyboarding, Too human is a beautiful game. The best part about this is that the game is the first part of the series, with the story arc already planned during the creation of this game. Conceivably a lot of the art direction will follow through too.
All that being said, there are a bunch of problems with this game. They got all the broad strokes right and all the big things are wonderfully done, but a lot of thee problems seem to reside in the little things. Most of them seem to be things which could have been solved by six more months in development. The game is above average but not amazing. Given another half year of development time Too Human could have likely avoided it’s nasty critical reception and really drawn the attention it deserves.
The problems include such little things as a underdeveloped user interface, dodgy tutorials, and the occasional error with in-game event triggers, but none of these are really things making the game undesirable and there is certainly no problem worth crucifying this title over. They are all compensated for by the good story, accessible controls and simple, fun gameplay with rich replay value. The game even scales the challenge to the skill of the player, so it’s good for both the novice player and well seasoned veteran.
So now that you know about some of the pros and cons of the game lets have a further look at some the media responses.
Game reviews tend to use a scoring system. For the sake of the point lets scale all these scores to a percentage system. The reviws ranged generally from 20% to 90%, averaging out at around 60%, which sounds fine until you consider that the average for video game reviews is over 80%. That is to say that an average game typically gets just over 80% score from reviews. So is Too Human really as far below an average title in terms of quality as an average title is below a perfect one (if such a thing could exist)? Definitely not. There are a lot of horrible games out there and this is certainly not one of them. Many who enjoy hack and slash gameplay will absolutely love this title, particularly if advanced controls intimidate them. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the game is definitely above average.
So why the negative press? There are many factors at play here. One is definitely the controls, as previously mentioned. Another is the copycat effect. Many of these critics don’t bother to really appreciate a game, instead clinging to hype from their media fraternity. This can often work positively for a title, making a hyped up title get astonishingly high scores based on industry excitement alone. Yes there are even games which have scored perfect marks from critics. If that doesn’t devalue their scale, nothing will. Another factor is that many of these critics base their reviews on other reviews they read online. If they see other critics giving the game a hard time about one aspect, they hop on that bandwagon freely. Lastly many critics view these games through a myopic lens, and can often fail to notice that other demographics have other interests and abilities. Whats good or bad for someone who plays video games professionally isn’t always so much so for consumers. It’s time to raise the level of discourse around games and actually review them objectively and critically rather than riding opinion bandwagons and suffering from chronic hyperbole.