Too Human ReviewBonus points for the man-eating robot.
Too Human is one of those games that I feel was unfairly trampled to death by my reviewing peers, as although it isn't some sort of misunderstood masterpiece, but after all of the time it spent in Silicon Knight's oven, you think it would be a much better experience. It's just so strange to have a game that is as equally good as it is bad- like a trail mix of your favorite candies and most hated veggies that you have to eat by the handful. I wanted Too Human to rock the faceplate off of my Xbox 360, but I ended up with a half-way decent grind-fest that dragged on in the worst ways.
Silicon Knights worked on Too Human from 1999 until its Microsoft-published release in 2008 with plenty of teases in between. (It wasn't a Duke Nukem wait, but we were still salivating over Too Human for far too long) The story is set in a combination of Norse-inspired lore meets high-tech cybernetic future setting with you taking the role of Baldur. One of the larger hooks of Too Human is to take the blank slate of Baldur and make him your own by choosing important features at the start of the game such as your class, abilities and human/cyborg affiliation. I picked to stay as human as possible and I choose the Defender class. Thank goodness I picked the Defender too! With Defender Baldur's higher health and defense I only died slightly less often than most other classes would have.
There are some nice points to the game, such as its pretty pre-rendered cut scenes, in-game graphics engine and character designs. I really enjoyed the robotic enemies, such as the skittering "Gremlin," hulking hammer-armed "Troll" and human-munching Grendel robot. Seriously, the first mission revolved around putting down the anthropomorphic flesh-eating beard trimmer and it worked well as an introduction to the game. You can tell that Silicon Knights worked tirelessly to make a world that is saturated in its own history, as though you have just stepped into a universe that extends much farther than what is shown to you in Too Human. Oh! And you can play with a friend too!
Don't get your hopes up though, as there is an ugly flipside to Too Human. The controls are clunky and seem to fight you every step of the way. Your "moves" are limited to pushing the right thumbstick in the general direction of the robots while Baldur (seemingly) automatically beats down the baddies. All of the attacks feel too similar, often resulting in Baldur hitting one to several robots into the air for an aerial combo, following with a smash that sends them flying. If that sounds fun, it is- the first 500 times you do it. Ugh- and don't even get me started on the camera control, or lack thereof. For a game that took nearly a decade to release, it felt extremely awkward to play through three extremely, tediously long levels to complete Too Human. Maybe the horde of baddies felt tedious since I went into the fray alone, but even then you would think that the game might have dialed back the "Oh, look- A large open square platform room is up ahead. Will I kill 50 or 60 robots in this room?" theme. I don't think that I've ever played through linear levels to lengthy that I felt should have ended two hours ago.
Baldur is easily molded to your own playstyle for a more personalized experience. I preferred the laser rifle style of weapons since they were the easiest to use. The pistols and other weapons felt like literal pea shooters as every monster in Too Human seems impervious to bullets and all non-lasers controlled poorly… As I said before, I am thankful that I became a Defender since the game gangs up on you with a massive group of enemies smacking and blasting you while the worthless AI "helpers" are getting slaughtered by the handful. I was mowed down so many times in Too Human, but that's not normally a bad thing- I like games with a challenge. If I wanted the story to solve itself, I'd have watched some Netflix. The real problem is the Valkyrie- Every time your hero takes one too many bullets to the face, a robotic angel descends from the sky to take Baldur to Valhalla. This in-game scene of being retrieved by the mecha-angel takes half a minute before you can play again. There is nothing that will try your patience more than having to wait 30 seconds over and over after losing all my health. Apply that "feature" to Donkey Kong Country, Fable or Halo and see how much fun it is for you.
The character armor and weapons easily sum up Too Human's problems; Although the development team went out of their way to add interesting descriptive text for each helmet, hammer and laser gun, you will toss each piece aside the moment a slightly better one is dropped by the Troll you dismantled. Since you "die" so often in this game, you will grab any combination of armor so that you can get even the slightest edge against the mass of android fiends. No matter what abilities you picked, what class you chose or if you are more machine than man, by the end of the game Baldur looks like an even mix between Captain Caveman, Daft Punk and Bozo the Clown all in the name of survival. Silicon Knights seems bent on finishing the apparent trilogy hinted at the end of the game, but who knows if Microsoft or another publisher will invest in the further adventures of cyber-punk Baldur's machine-bashing crusade with Thor. Too Human is for the patient, or at best for someone with a patient friend to struggle against the controls with. Perhaps it's not as much of a pain to brawl the bots with a buddy? Or am I just too nice to Too Human?
-Arnold B. Carreiro
Developed by Silicon Knights
Published by Microsoft Game Studios
ESRB: T for Teen
The Arnold B. Carreiro Rating System
A - Awesome! Why haven't you bought this yet? Go! GameStop doensn't close for another 2 hours!
B - Great game! It'll be something fun to play for a good while. It's better than most games, but shy of perfection for some reason. You should check it out!
C - Meh. It's not a BAD game, nor is it good. Enjoyment may be limited to a certain audience though. Perhaps some aspects of the title are great while others are bogged down by bad design/gameplay/etc.
D - Not too great... Too much of the game lacks polish to be appreciated to the general gaming public, but there might be enough here for someone to enjoy. Maybe...
F - A complete train wreck. Vampire Rain is the last "F" game I've ever played. The bargain bin is too good for an "F" game.