Family Guy is one of those properties that people really, really love, or hate with passionate disgust. Seth McFarlane’s first televised creation has polarized people since it first premiered after the Super Bowl in 1999. But it quickly developed a fan base, and when Fox cancelled the show in 2002, everyone thought that was the end of it.
Except that the fan base who loved the show when it premiered grew up and went to college. And in college, these same folks found Adult Swim. And Adult Swim ran reruns of cancelled Fox animated shows. And one of those shows happened to be Family Guy. Suddenly, the property got hot and Fox did the only thing it could do: It brought the show back to life. And since 2005, Family Guy has been back on the air entertaining and offending folks without remorse.
And that’s the story of Family Guy. What does any of this have to do with the game? I have no idea. I get paid by the column inch and it was either this, or a recipe for Chicken Fagioli.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is the second game based off the Family Guy franchise. Developed by Heavy Iron Studios and published by Activision, it is also the best game based off the Family Guy franchise, which after 226 terrible attempts before there was a good Simpsons game, that says a lot!
The story of FG:BTTM revolves around Bertram, Stewie’s one-time possible half-brother, now mortal enemy, (who Stewie actually killed a few seasons ago) taking control of a multiverse jumping remote from another universe where Stewie never killed him, and then using that remote to build a weapon to destroy Stewie’s universe as an act of revenge.
That is the most #$%#ed up paragraph I have ever written.
Anyway, Bertram steals the device and Stewie and Brian jump into the multiverse to try and stop him. This is a perfect story for a game like this, as Heavy Iron is able to create ten distinctive worlds/levels to keep the gameplay fresh and funny. And funny it is.
Written by actual Family Guy staff writers, the jokes come fast and furious and just like the show, they are hit and miss, depending on the player’s familiarity with the source. The first game level, which is a universe comprised entirely of Greek frat and sorority houses, starts the game off right with rapid fire anti-Sematic jokes involving Mort Goldman, and every college frat cliche imaginable. As a fan of the show, I found the game funny for the most part, and when it wasn’t, it was still fun to play.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is primarily a third-person shooter, but each level is tweaked and evolves as the story progresses. Early levels are more fetch quests and/or shooter heavy, later levels are exploratory and/or platforming heavy. One late level revolves solely around the requisite epic fistfight between Peter and the chicken that once gave him an expired coupon.
There is a good balance of levels and gameplay, and FG:BTTM never feels boring. One of my favorite levels is a universe where chickens have taken over, and the entire level is a spoof of the movie Alien. There are few jokes, as chickens don’t spew one-liners, and the humor is derived from the absurdity of shooting chickens on a deep space station (the game has a high presence of chickens, but other animals are represented and exploited as well.)
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse uses a dual player control scheme, as the player can switch between Stewie and Brian on the fly. Each character has their own weapons set, and unique strengths and weaknesses, most of which are unlocked by finding special gates, hidden items, or by purchasing outright with in-game currency. The two-character system also allows for local split screen co-op, which makes the game more enjoyable as the two characters will chat with one another or make comments based on the level. In the single player mode, health is shared by the two characters, which is important as switching out at the last second will not save you from Death, who hangs around certain levels looking for love or trying to get a tan.
Graphically, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is adequate. Heavy Iron uses cell shading, which is the preferred way to convert 2D cell animation into a 3D gaming experience. The character models look good, though their defining lines tend to pop in and out with movement. Luckily, it’s only noticeable during cut-scenes as the action in-game is fast and smooth… for a game based off a cartoon, that is.
In addition to the story mode, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse also has Multi-modes of Multi-player (see what I did there?), including Deathmatch, Invasion, Horde Mode, and my favorite, “Capture the Greased up Deaf Guy.” In this last mode, the Greased up Deaf Guy runs around with the flag and the team that finds and tackles him gets the flag and must get it back to base. It’s VERY Family Guy-centric and VERY fun to play.
In addition to using the show’s writers, and music score, it’s also important to mention that the entire cast of Family Guy lends their voices to Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse as well. And there are a ton of “in” jokes, like in the aforementioned Chicken in Space level, our heroes come across a Robotic Chicken, which triggers the characters to make a joke about how dumb a Robotic Chicken is, which in turn causes Chris Griffin, (Seth Green, creator of Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken) to speak up in angry defense.
Unfortunately, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse has some drawbacks. The lack of online Multi-player/co-op is disturbing, as this is a game that begs for more than 1-4 local players playing at a time. The gaming experience would be so much better if the whole family, as well as the other Multi-player characters like Cleveland Brown or Mayor Adam West, could all be on the field of play at the same time.
Fans of the Family Guy TV show will love Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse, because Heavy Iron went to great lengths to re-create the show experience in a game setting. The story works very well (and leaves open so many future possibilities) and the gameplay is fun and enjoyable. The writing is excellent and is not just rehashed jokes from the series, though yes, there are a few here and there.
The Multi-player options add much to the game, as well as upgradable weapons and unlockable costumes, which gives gamers reason to keep playing, even after wrapping up the 10+ plus hour solo campaign. Also, Activision has promised future DLC content, the first scheduled to hit in early January.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse doesn’t pretend to be something that it’s not. It is a violent third person shooter taken from a raunchy and crude animated TV show, and it is unapologetic in the jokes and who or what they may or may not offend. Not everyone will enjoy it, but I do. And I know others who will as well.
Lastly, it begs to be mentioned that it’s a great game to play if you and three buddies are hanging around under a mysterious cloud and eating Funyons and/or White Castles, and looking for something to do.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is rated M for Mature (deservedly so) and is available for PS3 and Xbox 360.
Shop for Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse for a discounted price at Amazon.com (November 20, 2012 release date).