Exclusive to Xbox 360, the action RPG Too Human has faced more than its fair share of trials and tribulations over the course of its development - instead of covering it again here, check out our previous article to catch up on the details.Click to view more screenshots
Playing the part of a Norse God, Baldur, players are able to select the class of their character (in true RPG style) from a selection of specializations: the tank, the melee damage guy, the ranged damage guy, and the healer. Once this basic selection is done, the player is thrust into the campaign with an introduction to the game world and a few key characters by way of a cinematic. It's here that one of the most glaring problems with the game will, unfortunately, be presented to the gamer - the cinematics.
Presented in-engine, the cinematics are horrible. They are poorly scripted, poorly animated (for the most part) and just downright painful to watch. Much ado was made about the cinematic capabilities of Too Human, with Denis Dyack (the head cheese at Sillicon Knights, the studio behind Too Human) talking about how this was the next step in story telling and would really blow people away. One can only assume that the good stuff got left on the cutting room floor because what shipped in the title really is quite poor - garishly so compared to the likes of Heavenly Sword, but even old PS2 games like Tomb Raider would have beaten this presentation hands down. It's unfortunate but it's hardly a show stopper - you don't even see them at all in multiplayer, which is where most hardcore players will spend most of their time.
Gameplay is, from a high level, very familiar to action RPG players: obliterate the bad guys to earn experience and occasional loot drops. Level up to increase your power and to enable you to use the shiny loot that the bad guys drop. Digging in a bit deeper, the combat mechanics are broken down into two main camps: ranged and melee. As melee is clearly the focus of the title (and, if you will, the glamour role of any RPG multiplayer party), we'll take a look at that first.
Melee combat is all about the right stick. You control your player movement with the left stick, of course, but in Too Human almost all of your melee attacks will come from inputs on the right stick. Push the stick towards a monster and you'll swing your weapon at it, if you're in melee range. If you're not in melee range but are within striking distance, Baldur will charge towards the monster before swinging his weapon. This latter mechanic is especially important as it allows players to dart around in amongst the throngs of enemies (you're typically fighting them en-masse) where essential timing (dodging incoming rockets or powerful blows, for example) is extremely important.
For general combo gameplay, the player should hold the stick in a direction at all times, moving the stick around to attack adjacent enemies rather than snapping it between enemies, via the central position. This allows for both smooth general play and for special moves to be assigned to the stick (such as snap right to throw an enemy into the air) without needing any button input. It takes a bit of getting used to but it works very well, allowing players to have long, continuous and intense fight sequences without feeling the burn in their button mashing finger.
Ranged combat is similar but different, at the same time. Depending on their weapons loadout, the player will press either or both triggers to fire their weapons. In the case of pistols, each trigger fires a different pistol, and it's possible to be shooting two different targets at the same time. In the case of a two handed gun, like a rifle, the player shoots the gun with the right trigger and the left trigger uses the alternate fire - typically a grenade. Ammunition is an energy bar, which will refill when the gun is not being fired. Should the player use up all of his ammunition there's a reload sequence which takes a few seconds but restores full ammo in one step.
It's this ammunition mechanic which, unfortunately, makes the ranged class much harder to solo with. Melee guys can just go and go and go, but the ranged guys have to stop every few seconds to reload, during which time the incoming hordes of enemies rapidly close the gap as they attempt to kill the player. Additionally, it's much harder for the player to run to find space and simultaneously turn to target a closing bad guy - attempting to fire whilst not facing the enemy will cause the player to annoyingly fire towards the camera / somewhere else a bad guy isn't, meaning that the player has to stop running, turn to face incoming bad guys, start firing (which locks on) and then
start running backwards. It might make sense in the real world but it's pretty annoying in the game world.
All classes can also press B at any time to roll in the direction they're facing. This dodge roll mechanic is a great way to get out of trouble and, indeed, most boss or leader (like mini bosses) fights will involve pressing B at the right time to avoid devastating attacks, even if it doesn't make sense (such as the shockwave from the big hammer-armed dudes, which should hit even a rolling Baldur).
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The player is supported (in single player) by a host of human "wolves" (and a bear), the non-player characters that run around with you shooting at things. They're wise-cracking, story-telling and pretty much useless - they don't seem to do any damage whatsoever and are all but ignored by the enemies (if you die, when you run back you'll see them standing around motionless with the enemies, springing into life only when you get close to them - odd). They add a lot to the atmosphere, however, and it's better that they're there in this odd form than not there at all. At least you don't have to worry about protecting them - when they do die they just reappear later on anyway.
Death is an interesting kettle of RPG fish. When the player dies, a Valkyrie descends from the sky to take the player to Valhalla. This sequence looks great, the Valkyrie is really cool looking and the way it appears, swats away any enemies grandstanding over your corpse and then ascends into heaven with your corpse really is cool. The first time. Once you've seen it a few times, you'll be looking for a button to skip this 30 second sequence. There isn't one. The fact that you're already annoyed due to the fact that you died only compounds the frustration that this unskippable sequence already presents.
Once the death animation is over, the player is respawned at a suitable position (which varies depending on where in the level you are, it's never too far away though) and must simply return to where they died to resume the action. Enemies (including bosses) will maintain their damage states so if you completely suck at clearing an enemy or boss, have no fear you can simply "graveyard rush" him to defeat him by attrition, Bioshock-style.
Bosses are fairly straight forward, with the tactics taken to defeat them never particularly complex. They're typically multi-stage affairs, requiring a change of tactics at least once, but you're very rarely stuck trying to figure out the tactic necessary to take them down. They do have an awful lot of HP, however, and more often than not are easier to solo with the ranged class - in contrast to the barrage of normal enemies, which are very heavily biased towards the melee class. In general, though, each class shines in their area without being completely inept in other areas, which works well as you'll need to do both melee and ranged damage at some point no matter what class you choose.
Try as we might, we were unable to find any matches in multiplayer mode and no one ever joined in to games that we created. In theory, this mode should be super awesome but until the game hits retail, it looks like we're going to be unable to test it. If a bunch of players do suddenly appear online between now and release, we'll update this article with news and impressions of that mode. Given the type of game and the talk of Denis Dyack, we expect this mode to be pretty solid as it's very clear that this is where all but the most casual players are expected to spend their time.
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Graphically it's a mixed bag. There's stuff in there which is 10/10 gorgeous and there's stuff which is 4/10 garish. It trends more towards the top end of the scale (hence the final score) but the attention to detail / need to ship the title has left us with a graphical hodge-podge, particularly in the cutscenes. The game graphics are generally very good with some truly awesome sequences that really show off the Sillicon Knights engine.
The camera is almost entirely automatic. You can't directly control it in combat for obvious reasons (you're using the right stick, which is normally used for cameras in games like this, for your attacking moves) and it often points in the wrong direction, resulting in the player running towards the unseen or being attacked by creatures that you cannot pinpoint. You can press LB to center the camera and hold it in to look around using the right stick when out of combat but... it can be pretty rough. It's often perfectly fine and can be used to good effect to highlight cool environment features, etc, but even in these sequences it can be pretty annoying. Once you've spent some solid time with it, however, you start to forget about how unpolished the cameras are and they'll stop being such an issue.
The loot system is excellent. It's got the right level of drops to keep things interesting, a great rarity system which will see you doing boss runs and the like to complete your armor sets long after you've completed the core game and forums will be alive with tales of extremely rare loot and how best to find it. There's an in-game, in-level ability to destroy items for salvage (the money you use to craft the really rare stuff you only find patterns for), so no need to return to town to vendor unwanted items. As we weren't able to get into a multiplayer game, we were unable to see if there's any in-game trading system or see how well that worked.
So, when all is said and done, is it a good game? You bet it is. Sure, it's not everything to everyone and it's not without it's weird glitches (the camera, the generally woeful cutscenes, etc) or even the occasional bug (getting stuck in place which required a restart, for example) but what's there is great fun. The combat is fast, frantic and fun, requiring you to think and move quickly, and each of the classes are very different to play. Sure there's not much variety in the type of bad guys you come up against but the enemies which are present are generally very nice to look at and very satisfying to obliterate with your weapon of choice. It's easily the best action RPG on the 360 and arguably the best on any of the modern consoles. If you're looking for something to tide you over until Diablo III gets here, you could do a lot worse.
We're "for" Too Human - we'll likely still be playing this when the next one comes out, which will hopefully be less than ten years from now!
Rating: M Difficulty: Medium Learning Curve: 1 Hour
||"Killer action RPG explodes onto Xbox 360."