Pros: beautiful, well-rendered environments – user selectable save points – good graphics/character models – solid cinematic production values – good death/penalty system – online co-op (though oddly without story elements)
Cons: no camera control – nausea inducing – story didn’t grab me – too complex for little pay off – too much button mashing – ballistic aiming was poor – too much HUD – no story/direction screen
As a Canadian, with the Silicon Knights development studio just a few miles across Lake Ontario from me in St. Catherine’s Ontario, I felt obligated to give Too Human a try. Plus, after listening to dozens of interviews by Denis Dyack and with all the controversy swirling around this game, I was curious.
I made it just past the point where you have to choose to go the human or cyborg paths (about 3 hours in) where I abandoned the game. I’m generally not an RPG-playing, leveling-up, inventory-managing, kind of guy though I enjoyed both KOTOR and Mass Effect enough to finish them (I similarly abandoned Oblivion after a few hours, though I made it through a good 10 hours or so of Morrowind).
Camera Control Issue
Lack of camera-control is one of my bigger video game pet-peeves. Too Human is one such game. I listened to Dyack go on and on about the cinematic advantageous of allowing the game to control the camera – analogizing that movie viewers don’t control the camera. Sorry Denise, movie-goers are passive by definition. While your game was among the better games without camera I’ve played, every game like this is a loser for two big reasons:
- they always make me nauseous (Too Human was no exception); and
- I need/want to control my view to fight the battles the way I want to fight them – not the way a game designer intends.
I’ve only played a few games to the end that did not allow me to manage the camera: God of War 1, God of War 2 and Munch’s Odyssey. Most others I won’t even try. I’ve never managed any in the Resident Evil series for more than 10 to 15 minutes without needing to toss my cookies.
The inventory management system was ultimately the straw on the camels back that killed it for me (at least at that point). After choosing the cybernetic route, I wasn’t enthused enough about the game to care what blue-prints to purchase or what upgrades to add. I didn’t want to think that much. The manual does not explain how to use the ruins that need to be applied to something-or-other for more powers. I didn’t understand the descriptions or what they’d do if I even managed to figure out how to use them. The management screen was complicated. You use the right and left triggers to move from screen to screen and I never understood how to use any of the three screens on the right – and really didn’t care to learn.
The game is criticized for being little more than a button masher. The major melee control consists of pointing at an enemy and letting the game fight him. There was some degree of combo capability. I was just getting interested in the combo system (and spent about a half hour reading the manual and the combo screen to figure them out) before I abandoned the game as described above. I therefore can’t make any definitive conclusion on the fighting system other than to say the ballistic/gun aiming system was broken. I couldn’t aim at the enemy of my choice. Rather I just leveled up the guns as best as I could, held down the triggers and hoped for the best.
Consequences of Death
Despite criticism, I liked the death-system. As with Battlefield: Bad Company before it, I think it is a plus when death doesn’t set you back 15 minutes. I want nothing more than a minor penalty for dying. Unlike way too many other games, Too Human’s death system is just right.
A Word About the HUD
HUD’s should always be minimal. Yes, I understand that I could make the HUD disappear. That’s not the point. I like useful HUDs. Too Human’s didn’t need all its complexity. It just gets in the way.
Click on either of the pictures in this post to view the HUD. I don’t need to know how close I am to the next level, for example, I can see that on the skills or inventory screen. Why does anyone need to see the character class insignia? Do the words LVL, AMMO, EXP or EFFICIENCY really need to be there?
While the manual was clear enough as to what these all were for, when I looked at the in-game help system to decipher them, their little description screen was undecipherable. The background graphic got mixed up with all the arrows so that I found it very difficult to understand. I had to resort to the manual. Silicon Knights, its always a bad idea to force you users into the manual.
No Story / Direction Screen
Most RPG-type games have a screen where you can go back and read the latest script or on-screen instruction you might have missed and to see what your next objective is. There was none of that in Too Human. When a new onscreen instruction came up, it always flew by too fast for me to read it (especially when I’m occupied with something else) and there is no place to go back and read what you just missed. Again, that’s a basic modern-day gaming convention that was missing that diminished the experience for me.
I didn’t get far enough along in the game to fairly give it a score. While beautiful to look at, the game seemed only average in fun-factor. My sense is I would have given it 3 out of 5 Dale-heads had I completed the game. But if action-adventure/RPG games (this is really is own unique genre) are your thing, you will probably enjoy it. Silicon Knights says this is a first of a Norse mythology/cybernetic trilogy. Let’s hope they give control of the camera back to the user in subsequent releases, otherwise I won’t even bother.