Statuesque obelisks stand transfixed in the distance. The stillness grips the cold air surrounding you. You feel the trembling palpitations of warriors, the shuddering cacophony of bestial roars.
They strike first, a single shimmering beam of searing energy rips through the gap between you in an instance. Like a wave they rush over the horizons, first one or two, then several, then dozens and dozens of machine abominations, a ferocious hoard flooding towards you, unstoppable, driven by an insatiable thirst for blood.
You raise your weapon high; you give the command. Sprinting fearlessly into battle you lead your men and your hammer devastates the first few enemies unfortunate enough to make acquaintance with the hefty bulk of iron. You thoroughly punish one after another after another, only to be greeted by another wave, each one more savage and unrelenting than the last. Pulses of energy spill from your rifle, half a dozen of them fall, but another two dozen rise up.
You haven't even begun to fight. Dashing and sliding between enemies, you step through a deadly dance of destruction, elegantly bringing death to your enemies, viciously dismantling their forces. Finally you fight your way to the leader of them. He strikes first, his blows hold twice the force of his underlings. You scathe off his attack, and smash your way through two more foot soldiers before you retaliate - you only need one opening. You strike him upwards, serving him skyward before rapidly ascending to meet him with a swift follow up, finally you unleashed a barrage of brutal blows, ripping his metallic body to pieces.
Victory is yours.
I couldn't think of a way to describe my experience with Too Human in a nutshell, so I settled for that instead. Don't believe me? Play it yourself.
Yesterday afternoon I decided to play through the recently released demo of Too Human, a game from Silicon Knights set to be released this August. Despite what feels like an underwhelming amount of attention being paid to Too Human, I've been thoroughly anticipating its release for several months now.
I'll spare you the details of recapping what the game is about, but if you're interested read up on Too Human's Wikipedia page or hit up GameTrailers.com to watch some of the developer diaries from Silicon Knights.
If you've caught up now, or if you've been anxiously awaiting this demo as much as I have, allow me to continue.
The demo is pretty lengthy, I played through it the first time at a quick pace in about thirty minutes, and again being more thorough in about forty-five minutes. You start out watching an opening cinematic that preps you for your mission in the demo, and introduces the main character Baldur, and some other supporting characters. You get a pretty decent amount of plot for a demo, which may be good or bad depending on much you'd like to know before playing the full game. I won't go into detail, I'll just say Baldur has good reason for wanting to explore a certain tomb that holds a certain amount of significance, and you find out why as you push deeper into its depths.
The cinematics in the game are well done, and blend well with gameplay. Through a combination of regular cinematics, flashbacks, and events that happen alongside gameplay and exploration, you get pieces of dialogue and story that do a good job of giving your mission a sense of meaning and purpose.
The core gameplay, specifically the combat and controls, are easily the most note worthy and original aspect of Too Human. I have to caution anyone planning to immediately jump into the demo after reading this, there is a learning curve to the combat system and unorthodox controls. Likewise, I have to implore those who have already tried it and complained - it is absolutely worth taking the time to adjust to Too Human's combat controls.
I have to admit I was put off by the learning curve on my first play through of the demo, it wasn't until the end of it that I really felt I was getting the hang of it all. In Too Human you use the right analogue stick to control both your melee and ranged attacks, tilting the right stick in the desired direction of your attack for melee. When you want to switch it up to ranged, simply hold down the right trigger and then "aim" with the right stick, same as you would with melee. It sounds simple enough, but in truth it feels awkward at first.
Give yourself time to get acclimated to the controls, odd as it may seem at first, you'll learn to love the combat in Too Human. It's actually quite rhythm based, as you start to get a beat going with your melee attacks, you start to find a groove between standard attacks, more powerful finisher moves, slides, air combat, and "ruiner" attacks to the point where it's really an amazingly fluid experience. And then once you start mixing in the shooting elements of the game, it flows as well as you could hope for once you get going.
The camera in Too Human is another significant difference which I'm sure you'll notice from the start. It's a A.I controlled camera, and you have very limited ability to control it, which is unfortunate and one valid complaint that can be levied at Too Human. Nevertheless, you can get by with the control you have, and even make it work for you in ways a traditional camera might not.
You essentially control the camera with the left shoulder button on the 360 controller, tapping the button once centers the camera behind Baldur, while holding down the button in non-combat situation allows you to slightly (and I do mean slightly) look to the left or right using the right analogue stick. Be sure to notice the bit about "non-combat situations," because in combat situations you only have the ability to center the camera, that's it. Surprisingly enough, however, you can actually make it work for you. Because the intuitiveness of the right analogue combat controls don't actually require you be immediately lined up with your target, you can flick the right stick in the direction of an enemy, attacking and also turning Baldur, then tap LB and be lined up in that direction. It works particularly well when transitioning between melee and shooting when you want to start aiming and lining up shots. Again, it takes getting used to, but it makes the camera manageable.
Outside of combat, in exploration, the camera feels smart and intuitive, smoothly transitioning around all kinds of landscapes and obstacles as you progress freely throughout any given area.
One thing that must be noted is how visceral and utterly satisfying the combat is in Too Human. Simply explaining it doesn't do the trick. Once you get used to the controls and start to find a combat style that works for you, taking on multiple enemies finds a perfect balance between giving you a feeling of power, and giving you a challenge. Hacking, slashing, and smashing through a hoard of enemies, sliding and serving up one after another, finishing with a furious mid-air blow - it makes you wonder how you ever played melee combat in a video game any other way.
Finally, the shooting elements of the game do play better than I had expected them to. At first I found myself reluctant to use my ranged attacks, and relied heavily on melee, and should you choose you can play with that style and have a great time. But the game really opens up into new territory when you start fusing melee and shooting combat together. I have to admit the pistols you get at the start feel under powered, but once you loot a couple of the more powerful ranged weapons, they make themselves incredibly useful.
The ability to mow down waves of enemies while dodging and maneuvering feels right and is incredibly useful. Your ranged weapon not only serves to water down on coming enemy forces, but also makes for a cool retreat or flank manuever. Should you find yourself surrounded and overwhelmed by enemies, try sliding towards one on the perimeter, quickly switching to ranged attacks, and then strafing or dodging away, shooting as you backpedal you can change the landscape of the battle and shift your position.
And yes, in case you had any doubts, Too Human is still a role-playing game and as hardcore as they come. I feel the need to justify the combat and controls in this preview, because I feel that's what more people would have a hard time adjusting to and questioning. But I assure you, there is nothing lacking in what we've seen from the role-playing elements of Too Human, and the full version of the game is sure to expand on that. The amount customization is immense, so much so I literally couldn't go into detail without a dozen or so more paragraphs. The standard plethora of weapons and armors are available, yes, but you can go deeper by customizing each individual weapon and piece of armor. You can also branch out your skill tree in a myriad of ways to tailor make your character with exactly the abilities and attacks you want.
I was impressed with the level of depth and complexity seen in this demo, to think of the options and intricacies the full game will feature, it's enough to bump this game into the 'must have' status if it wasn't already.
Too Human releases on August 19, 2008.
Think about it, seriously.
Originally published on InsiderGamersLoop.com.