Too Human Preview
It’s difficult to look at Too Human and not be reminded of its history; originally planned as a PS1 title—and later a GameCube project—its development began 10 years ago by Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem developer Silicon Knights. More recently, the long-delayed game received scathing feedback after some poor demo showings at industry press events. And now, on the cusp of its August release, SK’s president Denis Dyack has posed an unusual challenge to posters of the popular gaming forum NeoGAF; he’s basically said if his game is universally panned upon release, he’ll tag himself on the boards as “Owned by GAF”. If the game’s a success, however, naysayers will have to adopt an “Owned by Too Human” tag. With all this pressure, it was a challenge not diving into the game’s first few hours—on a non-final copy—without high expectations. But after experiencing a brief phase of “All this fuss, for this?” followed by our expectations getting back to a reasonable level, we rather enjoyed our brief taste of Too Human.
Where most games nowadays pull you in immediately with their next-gen visual splendor, Too Human doesn’t really grab you at all…at first. The graphics, while not bad, are simply on par with most current games and a few notches behind polygon powerhouses like Call of Duty 4. The gameplay isn’t instantly appealing, either; however, an hour into this first entry of a planned trilogy, we were hooked good. And by the time we finished our three-hour or so demo, we were clamoring for the finished product. This slow-building appreciation came primarily from the nontraditional gameplay and controls; using the right stick, you simply point towards the direction you want to melee attack, and protagonist Baldur races in that direction, unleashing a crushing blow upon reaching his enemy. But what’s even cooler—and what took us some time to master—was a pinballing effect that saw Baldur bouncing from one baddie to the next, kicking ass aplenty along the way. By inputting an attack before the previous one’s been completed, you can string together some amazing combos, and the act of chaining multiple attacks is both addictive and satisfying, especially when you see the loot left in your destructive wake.
This brings us to Too Human’s other most compelling feature; the game is a loot-collecting paradise for players who enjoy the RPG staple activity. The game’s developers have boasted its near-endless weapon and armor customization options, and after shopping through any given pile of corpses, the claim is easy to believe. Too Human utilizes both melee and ranged weapons, so a dizzying variety of guns—two-handed and one—as well as clubs, swords, staffs and hammers are on offer. Combine this with collectible charms and runes, adding a variety of passive and active modifiers to your already-ample arsenal, and you’re in for some serious character personalization. The loot system also addresses the classic annoyance of freeing yourself of useless objects; by auto-salvaging, the game automatically keeps your best goodies, and drops lesser items when inventory space gets tight.
After customizing our well-rounded Champion (Berserker, Bio-Engineer, Commando, and Defender classes can also be chosen at the start of the game), my character became adequately skilled with both melee and ranged weapons. We already mentioned the addictive nature of chaining combos by sliding from one enemy to the next, but we soon realized this fast-paced play was only the beginning, as we soon learned to throw juggles into are melee move set, and mix things up with some firepower. Similar to Devil May Cry’s rapid-fire style, Too Human supports a satisfying blend of guns-and-swords combat that had us effortlessly transitioning from bullet-blazing to up-close ass-kicking. The targeting camera felt like it could use some polish, as switching aim from one enemy to another was not always a seamless affair, but hopefully we’ll see this addressed before the final game hits. We’d also like to see Baldur's death animation get a hefty edit; as it stands, when he dies, you’re subjected to a lengthy, unskippable scene of an angel delivering you to the heavens—kind of a pain when you’re buying it a lot during a boss battle.
This bizarre death sequence plays into Too Human’s ambitious narrative of Norse mythology crossed with sci-fi storytelling. Aside from witnessing Baldur's lengthy demise and resurrection over and over again, I quite enjoyed where the story’s going, and how it incorporates itself into the gameplay. The first few hours already deliver an edge-of-your-seat twist, and I can’t wait to see what the next few hours hold in store. Additionally, the enemies are given their traditional Norse names—Trolls, Goblins, Elves—but look like something out of the Terminator franchise. In fact, the creepy creature designs are by far the coolest visuals in the game, so far; the various beasts and baddies, with their menacing metallic exteriors and glowing eyes, are quite a sight, especially when a pack of wall-crawling foes emerge from every corner of a room. There's one particularly slick boss battle we encountered where a giant metallic Troll gave chase, occasionally grabbing us and pulling us towards its buzzing, meat-grinder-like face and chest.
My time spent with Too Human didn’t allow me to dig deep beneath all its features. On top of everything else, there are skill trees to be explored, ridiculous amounts of armor to upgrade, a magical Matrix-like parallel world, and pet spiders that jump from players' backs on command and unleash a devastating chain-gun attack. Oh, and did I mention the final version will support full-campaign online co-op? Needless to say, I enjoyed this brief journey through Too Human’s epic world, and look forward to diving back in when the final game ships. The title’s checkered past may keep it from achieving its full potential—we can already see the skeptics baring their fangs—but, from what we’ve seen so far, it holds plenty of promise, and already has me clearing my August calendar. It may not be the mainstream Halo-like hit Microsoft is hoping for, but it certainly looks like it’ll more than satisfy the experience-grinding, loot-collecting masses, searching for their next hack-and-slash fix.