Too Human hands-on with screenshots

Courtesy of DailyGame

When Microsoft signed-on two next-generation trilogies, it was tempting to wonder whether the company had lost its marbles completely. Granted, “Too Human” and “Mass Effect” were being developed by Silicon Knights and BioWare, respectively, but committing to six games in two contracts was a huge risk. Having gotten our hands on “Too Human,” though, we can safely tell you that the gamble, at least on this game, is going to pan out in a big, big way.

Silicon Knights has been “thinking” about “Too Human” since 1994, and although the graphics certainly show no age (they’re hot), the concept and gameplay certainly shows that it’s been steeped for years. At its core, “Too Human” is an action role-playing game in which the combat is fast, frantic, stylish and evolves as you upgrade your character. Like fighting with katanas? Focus on making that your most-efficient weapon. Prefer staffs or pistols instead? Simply use those weapons and upgrade those talents accordingly.

As your cybernetically enhanced human (named Baldur) evolves, he will become more and more effective at saving humanity from the machines determined to exterminate our species. As you kill enemies, a power meter in the bottom left corner gradually builds, and when it reaches a certain point enables you to unleash a “super move” that wipes out many enemies in a single attack. One such super move we saw involved generating a globular vortex above Baldur’s head that eventually exploded and killed six enemies in a blinding flash.

To keep the gameplay fresh, Silicon Knights has created a semi-random enemy spawn pattern and placed up to 10 cameras in any given area. This means that the combat will seldom be exactly the same, and it will also make it more enjoyable and unpredictable when playing on Xbox Live in the game’s four-player cooperative mode. Yes, you read that correctly. You and up to three friends can play cooperatively through the entire campaign, and since certain combos borrow a page from “Otogi”, you can feasibly have some of your mates going through entire levels without touching the ground while others stick to terra firma.

Having up to 10 cameras placed around each area should help mitigate the lack of a user -controlled camera. In most third-person action games, the omission of user-controlled cameras is incredibly frustrating, as you can never quite get just the view you’re looking for. Silicon Knights obviously understands this risky territory, though, so it has engineered the camera to automatically switch, zoom out or zoom in depending on the direction you’re facing, the number of enemies on screen and the direction from which they’re coming. We’re normally the first people to complain about a bad camera (“Ninja Gaiden”), but even though the camera in “Too Human” isn’t user-manipulated it works wonderfully, even in this early build.

Ironically, the one portion of the camera over which users do have control is the cutscene camera. Much like players could do in “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay,” “Too Human” players can move the camera around in the middle of any cutscene, and they can even maintain control over the main character, Baldur, during the scenes. One cutscene was so dynamic, in fact, that Baldur killed an enemy even as the camera had automatically switched to the robot’s point of view. Very cool indeed.

The only troubling aspect of “Too Human” at this point is the lack of a heads-up display (HUD). As in “King Kong,” there is no energy bar, no ammunition gauge, no anything (except for the super-move bar). Hits and health are detected by the screen going red as things go bad, or by body parts blinking when they’ve been damaged. Presumably the lack of an energy bar is to keep players immersed in the world, but in some of the more-frantic situations, it could be hard to track just how well (or poorly) you’re really doing.

From our short time with “Too Human” at E3, it’s clear that Microsoft’s gamble on this trilogy is going to pay off. With astounding graphics (screenshots are forthcoming), a great “man vs. machine” plot, intelligent gameplay and four-player co-op, there’s really nothing not to like about “Too Human.”

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