The idea behind Too Human starts off interestingly enough. Imagine the gods of Norse mythology actually being an advanced race of cyborgs, and that all of that mythology we know of today is based on their exploits to fend off an invasion of genocidal machines. Sounds good, right? Well, after the intro sequence of Too Human ends, the pain begins and most of the fun stops.
You play as Baldur, son of the patriarchal Norse god, Odin. The game is set out in a third-person hack-and-slash format mixed with ranged weaponry. You start off selecting one class from five, and these range from the melee-centric to the ranged-centric, with a healer class in the mix as well. This class is the only class in the game that can heal itself. There is none of that Halo or Gears-style ‘stay put to recharge’ business to be found here. If you are not a healer, you will have to depend on mobs dropping healing orbs.
Visually, Too Human moves back and forth between standard and bland. In most cases, the character’s skin textures are very pleasing, even being able to make out their pores and rosacea. On the other hand, we are treated to awful-looking fur and hair, and some very bland textures and models in many parts of the world. Thankfully, most of the ranged weapon effects look nice, as do the explosions. The average visuals might have something to do with the fact that the game has been around so long that they kept having to change and update the engine (not to mention their legal issues with Epic Games).
Speaking of the world, the maps in Too Human are fairly large. While this is great in making the game feel more ‘epic’, the levels get fairly monotonous quickly as the same formula repeats itself time and again. You walk a ways and then you are jumped by 20 or so robots. If you kill them, you walk some more and are jumped again. Repeat this pattern until eventually you reach a boss battle. Unfortunately, most of those tend to be uninspired, getting down to a rinse-and-repeat method of killing each one. Outside of the combat, even walking around in the massive (but generally empty-feeling) Aesir city takes forever just to get anywhere. Making things worse is that sometimes while on a mission, a goal area will not trigger from your presence, making you walk some distance away from the place and then back. This work around is not always successful, and then you have to reload your game.
One of Too Human’s good points is that there are tons of weapons, items, and armors to acquire during the course of the game. Loot is generally dropped off of mobs, but at the Aesir city you can buy and sell from vendors. You can collect runes to augment your weapons and armor and even obtain blueprints with which to construct advanced items throughout the course of the game. Customizing your character out with just the right set of equipment is fun.
The melee control system is probably the most interesting part of Too Human. While moving your character with the left stick, you tap and rotate the right stick to swing your melee weapon about. You can combo off of enemies in a fluidic manner so you look like a sword-wielding pinball. When the system works, it is a fun experience. Unfortunately, the AI camera often goes wonky, setting up from some strange angle or distance which makes judging your attacks rather difficult. Not to mention the fact that as you move about (with the camera always adjusting itself), your orientation of stick direction can easily reverse on you. You will be moving, the camera will flip around on you, then all of a sudden you are moving in the opposite direction your left stick is pointing. This requires you to release the stick momentarily, and re-engage in the same direction to reset the orientation.
Game balance is totally out the window in Too Human. At times, you will feel completely invincible, and then for no reason (not even a boss battle) the game will throw 20 elite robots at you. Even as one of the combat-focused classes, you end up dying quite a bit when this happens and your AI squad-mates aren’t worth much more than human shields. The robots will also get abilities that can stun you. This is fine, except for the fact that the stuns last way longer than necessary, forcing you to yell at the screen quite a bit as you sit there waiting to die. The best part is when they stun you and you wait all that time just to be stunned again right when you break free. FUN!
Notice that again I mentioned the topic of ‘death’ in Too Human. You might think I don’t like challenging games by my complaints. This is not the case, I adore a logical challenge in my gaming. However, dying in Too Human is something you too will rue with venom after you experience it a few times! We can rue together, it will be a blast: The first time you see someone die (one of your human squad-mates), a nice cut-scene appears of a very cool-looking Valkyrie beaming down from the heavens, snatching up the fallen warrior, and riding the beam back up to Valhalla. Well, I thought that was pretty sweet until I died the first time. After the many seconds it takes to fall down dead in a dramatic fashion, the camera pans up slowly and you see the beam of light form which will carry the Valkyrie down to your corpse. Of course, the Valkyrie picks you up and and carries you off. The problem is that this sequence just takes forever. I mean, an annoyingly long amount of time. EVERY time you die this happens. There is no way to skip the scene. After the agonizing is over, you will be magically brought back to life either so far away from where you died it takes you close to a minute to run back, or, right in the middle of the mob of robots that killed you to begin with. Problem with the latter circumstance is that this mob of elites has no notion of our human ‘mercy’ and quickly cuts you down again! And again! Each time, the nice Valkyrie lady has to come and revive you, and each time I wish she would just let my corpse rot so I can enjoy Valhalla.
The voice acting is generally alright, but the real problem lies in the script. The dialog is corny, pompous, and cliched. Chances are that you will probably be reaching for the mute button about an hour or so into it. The plot also falls apart somewhat during the middle portion of the game. Thankfully it comes back to the entertaining side towards the end, but the last couple hours cannot redeem the previous seven spent playing it.
The talented guys at Silicon Knights are not a bunch of nuggets. They and their QA people (if there were any) should have noticed these glaring issues. Instead, we are treated to what is one of the most annoying games you will have played in the last five years. Its not only annoying because of its flaws, but because as a veteran gamer I can see what this game SHOULD have been. Silicon Knights completely dropped the ball on this one. Too Human is one of those titles which should be a balls to bone cash cow. You can see that there used to be some genius underneath the wonky elements but they just don’t shine through. I believe Too Human will go down in gaming history as one of the worst disappointments since Daikatana.