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Too Human (Xbox 360) artwork

Too Human (Xbox 360) review

"When I first read about Too Human, I was intrigued by the concept of a cyberpunk RPG about humans becoming more machine than man. But at the time I was 13 years old and it was going to be an 8 disc Playstation game. It took nearly a decade with many delays, but Too Human eventually was released as an Xbox 360 hack & slash dungeon crawler. Except now it’s about Norse mythology in the distant future. And it’s not very good. It’s astounding that a vision held on to for so long could c..."

When I first read about Too Human, I was intrigued by the concept of a cyberpunk RPG about humans becoming more machine than man. But at the time I was 13 years old and it was going to be an 8 disc Playstation game. It took nearly a decade with many delays, but Too Human eventually was released as an Xbox 360 hack & slash dungeon crawler. Except now it’s about Norse mythology in the distant future. And it’s not very good. It’s astounding that a vision held on to for so long could come to fruition as such a rushed and poorly designed product.

The game’s story borrows heavily from Norse mythology while adding a science-fiction twist. The Æsir are a pantheon of Norse Gods – cybernetically enhanced humans – who defend mankind from an army of bloodthirsty machines hell-bent on eradicating humanity. The Gods are also sworn to restore the world to its former state following a thousand year nuclear winter. Too Human follows Baldur, a young Æsir with the fewest enhancements among the Gods, as he ventures to destroy machines and stop the rogue Æsir Loki. The idea sounds stupid, but mixing mythology with a technologically advanced post-apocalyptic world works surprisingly well like a cheesy yet ambitious sci-fi popcorn film. Unfortunately it’s all muddled by sloppy execution. The plot moves too quickly throughout the occasional cutscenes, the faux-epic dialog sounds like it’s written by a bad Viking metal band, and the voice acting is barely above amateur. Thankfully the art direction is amazing combining a cold, desolate world with the beauty you’d expect from a work rooted in mythology. There’s also a fantastic orchestrated score with obvious European influences.

And so our story begins with Baldur venturing to the Hall of Heroes – a gigantic high-tech temple encrusted in frost. The first of the four dungeons is the same as the rest – a long, linear path copied and pasted several times and full of little more than waves upon waves of enemies. When you’ve made a linear dungeon crawler, you’d better make a good battle system. Too Human is infamous for a bizarre control system using the analog sticks as the primary input for attacks. You hold the right analog stick in a direction and Baldur will start hacking away. There’s thankfully more: enemies can be shot into the air and juggled for bonus damage, Baldur slides long distances to quickly zap to different foes, and a tap of both analog sticks simultaneously can execute either a powerful combo or a devastating projectile depending on your position. It feels awkward and unnecessarily atypical for 30-60 minutes, but it eventually becomes fun once you get the controls down. It’s a blast rushing at high speeds into armies of murderous robots and jumping into the air after juggled beasts while avoiding damage from units below. All the while the screen is bathed in a storm of lasers and gunfire. Keep up your assault and Baldur builds up a combo gauge allowing for the use of Ruiner attacks capable of eviscerating a wide radius of enemies.

Unfortunately it all doesn’t work. The developers bragged about the implementation of both melee and long range attacks, but guns are poorly implemented. The game uses an auto-aim system with no method for cycling through targets. This is especially annoying because certain enemies release status effects – such as poison, freezing, and slow – on nearby targets upon death, and thus are better destroyed from afar. In a game were there can be twenty enemies descending upon you, it’s frustrating trying to force the game to auto-target that one foe covered in blue frost that you know will instantly freeze everyone upon contact with your blade. Even worse, status effects last a frustratingly long time.

There’s another problem too: some of the set encounters are just broken. As far as I can tell, I’m one of few people who can claim they didn’t die often in Too Human. It’s probably why I didn’t find the much maligned death animation of an android valkyrie carrying Baldur to Valhalla aggravating in the slightest. But every so often you find yourself in a room with too many high-tier enemies, like the massive mechanical spiders that fire nuclear arrows or the giant troll robots wielding mountainous hammers. As a result, you’re double or triple teamed by enemies who make your health quickly plummet, and the only way to heal is usually by a random health orb drop from a fallen opponent. The second dungeon is often guilty of these unfair encounters. The bosses are always like this (only they have ridiculous amounts of HP too!). Instead of fixing the game balance, Silicon Knights made you invincible. Die and you’re instantly respawned with no progress lost. Your only penalties are an instant 0% on the combo gauge and your equipment receives damage and can eventually break. The latter may sound bad except it takes many deaths to break an item. Furthermore, equipment can be repaired in between dungeons, and you often switch weapons and armor several times in a dungeon thanks to loot drops.

The best thing about Too Human is optimizing your character. Enemies constantly drop tons of cool weapons and armor, and it’s a blast to try out different weapons. You can take a sword and make fast hits with high damage from concentrated slashes, while polearms offer wide sweeps against groups. Equipment can also be customized by inserting runes with a variety of effects. Once you level up, you can spend points in two skill trees: one each for your character class and alignment. For example the balanced Champion class can put points into stronger mid-air combos, strengthen his firearm damage, or imbued his blade with fire just to name a few options.

This customization was why Too Human was pitched as “infinitely replayable,” but you won’t want to even give it a second whirl. During its 10 hour run, it’s too tedious and repetitive. There’s nothing to do at the Æsir compound besides fix and buy equipment. 90% of the game is running in a straight line fighting a lot of the same enemies over and over again. The developers’ idea of adding variety was the inclusion of short, really stupid segments where you travel into cyberspace to push rocks and open doors (but watch out for Níðhöggr – he’s malware!). By the beginning of the last dungeon, I was ready to wrap it up. The game has five character classes, but you won’t want to replay as them. A couple even make the game worse. The Commando excels at guns, but guns don’t handle well. The Bio-Engineer exchanges combat prowess for healing abilities, which is pointless when you’re practically invincible anyway.

During the third dungeon, Baldur and Thor fight through hordes of robots while Loki taunts them from miles away. Throughout all two or so hours you’re in the place, Thor and Loki exchange the same two or three lines of dialog every couple of minutes. It was this segment of the game that made me realize how lazy everything about Too Human felt. There are cool ideas – fast-paced combat against armies of robots, awesome Norse mythology, huge customization – but they’re buried under poor game design and shoddy execution. I’m really not sure what the hell happened here. Maybe Too Human really needed the rest of that decade in development or perhaps Epic Games really did sabotage the game (not likely). Whatever the case may be, this just isn’t a good game and not worth taking a chance on even at its usual $10 or less price tag. Once I finished this one, I had to send it to my own personal Hel – a bookshelf with all the other bad games I never play.

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Community review by Genj (July 30, 2010)

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fleinn posted August 06, 2010:

"but watch out for Níðhöggr – he’s malware!"

..oof. Great review, though. Starts off a bit slowly, but goes all the way to Valhalla in the end.

Is the story really that bad, by the way? ..apart from Baldur with a sword hunting for Loki, thing.. do they have some sort of narrative going on? Or is the direction only there during the fights with the slow-motion cheesiness..?

I mean, this game got a lot of... well, criticism, turning up long before the game was out. There was this thread on NeoGAF by the director, and so on - but how is the story told? A to B, fight in between? ..anything else?
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Genj posted August 06, 2010:

The narrative is mostly comprised of a few cutscenes in between long bouts of dungeon crawling. I think the story would have been decent if it had been better executed: better pacing, dialog, voice-acting etc.
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bluberry posted August 06, 2010:

so basically, GunValkyrie is not only one of the best games ever but has cooler Norse shit than Too Human.

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