I haven’t discovered a way to tell this story that is not highly uncomfortable, which is why I haven’t told it. But when I saw that Too Human wasn’t just my greatest disappointment of this year’s E3 but actually a direct obstacle to new Eternal Darkness games like some kind of intestinal blockage I managed to find the strength.
We had several appointments to see what people were doing with the 360 in various genres, to try and get a sense of what they’d be dropping around the release of the PS3. I considered skipping a couple of these appointments, games I was only marginally interested in, but ultimately my sense of propriety took hold - for the best, really, because I found Viva Pinata far more compelling than expected (independent of its "My First Micropayments"-style a la carte offerings on Live I think are quite possibly in poor taste for children). I guess this is my Dad voice. Do you feel particularly compelled?
One game I had absolutely no intention of skipping out on was Too Human, Silicon Knights’ action adventure product exclusive to the console. An interesting interpretation of Norse Mythology underpinned a no-fuss approach to brawler controls, where two analogs, two triggers, and the A button convert every motive into insane sword maneuvers and mid-air gunplay acrobatics. As someone who gravitates toward a more elaborate brawler, your Ninja Gaidens, your Devils who May Cry on occasion, let’s even take it up to something like Gunvalkyrie, the chance to master a unique control scheme is what attracts me to games of that type. Maybe I’ll approach the game more like a director would, I thought. One step removed from gameplay proper, I may don the mantle of the auteur and create something of my own.
They should never have shown what they showed at E3, let alone showed it under "by appointment" circumstances. You have likely heard these assessments already, let my own as it is presented here bolster those prior claims. Let it be definitive, let language mesh tightly and allow no passage of ambiguity: no eye outside their "guild" should ever have looked upon it.
The game simply did not perform well, by which I mean performance was miserable, and without any of the storytelling I associate with Silicon Knights it was just a guy I didn’t give a fuck about attacking nonexistent enemies and dropping frames. It isn’t any more complicated than that. Apparently earlier press builds of the game have provided more robust performance, but I’m not going to invest their primitive exercise with glory because people I don’t know somewhere are rumored to have played a game I’ve never seen. That information could not be more useless to me.
In the damage control interview after the Expo, Too Human director Denis Dyack says that Epic is partly responsible, because they made changes to the engine. This strikes me as kind of low rent. It’s like blaming Napoleon or something. Just own it with grace. If your game hits and truly delivers four player on-line co-op, with smooth frames and an epic three part story, no-one will care about this. They’ll only remember when you were an evasive dissembler.
Penny Arcade is a kind of performance space, in that while I can be counted on to relate my authentic perspective, these statements are sometimes augmented by a powerful pyrotechnic display. In person, I am meek and accommodating. So when Dennis Dyack asks me, to my face, if I like his game, and I say something about how it is "easy to play" because I know it will defuse the situation and I can run back to my blog, that is not a proud personal moment. It might have been different if I’d felt angry or betrayed by the low impact, Lite Brite affair that I’d been exposed to, or if I didn’t actually care about Too Human and the company making it. As it stood, the whole thing just made me sad.