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Too Human

Nothing can live up to almost a decade of hype, but "Too Human" is a disappointingly sub-standard role playing game buried under the debris of a thousand forgettable robots slain in a hundred vacant hallways by one man in a silly outfit.

Many gamers know “Too Human” only for its epic background story: First announced for the original PlayStation in 1999, development later moved to Nintendo’s last-gen GameCube and finally to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 as the first part of a promised trilogy.

Nothing can live up to almost a decade of hype, but “Too Human” is a disappointingly substandard role-playing game buried under the debris of a thousand forgettable robots slain in a hundred vacant hallways by one man in a silly outfit. After an initial burst of curiosity, this repetitive, derivative and ultimately ridiculous game will be remembered primarily for how little resulted from so much work.

Development studio Silicon Knights delivers a decent premise crafted from the unlikely coupling of Scandinavian mythology and science fiction. Set in a futuristic world where Norse gods walk among men, the game has players take the role of a warrior god named Baldur trying to foil the trickster Loki. One could say “Too Human” has cornered the market on the cyber-Norse motif.

But once the story gets going, the writing is utterly terrible. Nearly every cutscene is cringeworthy, with terrible dialogue mouthed loudly and earnestly by characters who look like vacant-eyed puppets.

Animation is consistently stiff and awkward, even during frantic battles where the player fights swarms of indistinct enemies. These are mostly robots, with a last-minute appearance by zombies. Locations are vast and empty, often bounded by invisible walls. Whether Baldur is in a battleship, a fortress, a city or even hell itself, everything is just hallways.

For a game sold on fast-paced action, there’s a lot of downtime. “Too Human” is full of waiting, whether the player is walking down yet another long empty hallway, meandering through vacant “cyberspace” that looks like an unpopulated leftover level from “Fable,” or standing by after dying for the interminable resurrection sequences performed by what must be the slowest Valkyries in history. Have these Norse angels unionized or something?

The treasure and character advancement — both crucial parts of an action RPG — are full of incremental and pointless bonuses. A magic sword doesn’t matter when it’s just occupying an inventory slot for the 15 minutes before something better comes along. Who’s going to care about buying a dye kit to color Baldur’s armor when that armor is just going to be replaced shortly?

The only reason would be for the game’s hilarious “Project Runway” moments. Rarely do characters look as ridiculous as they do here, decked out in their mismatched and nearly meaningless inventory items. “Too Human’s” hero dresses as if he lost a bet.

The combat is a strange variation on the usual button-mashing hack-and-slash, opting instead for wild analog stick tilting action for no good reason. Difficult fights are often battles of sheer attrition, pitting the player’s unlimited lives against however many hit points a creature has. With enough persistence, all things will eventually happen, few of them will matter, and “Too Human” will arrive at its “to be continued” non-ending.

Too Human

Rated T. $60

Production: A Microsoft Game Studios presentation of a game developed by Silicon Knights for the Xbox 360.

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