November 27, 2012
If you were to believe South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Family Guy is written by a family of manatees. In fact, the nonsensical, cutaway plot and irrelevant jokes have since become acknowledged by the Family Guy team as “manatee jokes.” Despite that, and even by Matt and Trey’s own admission, I think we can all agree that the Family Guy writers are a smart bunch. They know how to make people laugh, they know what strings to pull and they know how to structure a TV show. What is clear after playing their third-person shooter, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse however, is that they don’t know how to write a video game. It turns out they’d completely run out of new content as well.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse, developed by ex-THQ studio, Heavy Iron Studios, who have had such hits as WALL-E and Spongebob’s Truth or Square, is a co-operative third-person shooter that sees you take control of Stewie and Brian Griffin as they embark on an adventure into various different parallel universes known as multiverses. Their mission is to stop Stewie’s evil brother Bertram from creating an army to destroy the protagonist’s own universe. You’ll venture to universes where chickens have become almighty rulers, universes where Santa is an evil industry mogul and more – some of which didn’t feature in the ‘Road to the Multiverse’ episode too. Why it’s a third-person shooter though is beyond us… it’s like turning the Twilight films into a video game version of chess. That said, those two are both boring so that correlation makes sense.
Back to the Multiverse is an odd creation in truth. The subject matter is obviously aimed at adults, what with its lowbrow and often topical swipes at modern popular culture. Heavy Iron Studios on the other hand have arguably only ever created kids games, and that’s what BTTM comes across as: a game without an audience. It’s not an unplayable third-person shooter by any means, but it comes close to scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to third-person shooters.
It works, it’s simple, but the enemy AI is buggy, the game is too easy and it’s essentially one repetitive sequence of events after another. There’s a little imagination in the weapons (but not nearly enough) and the enemy types are actually quite varied, but the linear environments, mundane tasks and awkward platforming all add to what is a veritable clusterfuck of a game. Heck, if you die you just simply respawn, so there’s not even much of a challenge. We’re still trying to fathom out what the point in creating this game was.
It won’t take you long to blitz through the story mode – which is available in co-op, only local though – and after that you’ll be left scratching your head as to what you’ve just experienced.
Okay, so the gameplay might not be all that, but at least the subject matter should make for a few laughs, right? Well, no, not exactly. It took me all the way till the closing lines to actually laugh out loud – a poor return on a show that is full of laughs. It’s not that some of the stuff isn’t funny, it’s that it’s mostly recycled from the actual TV series. Remember the walkie-talkie “over, over” exchange between Stewie and Brian in the episode where Meg goes into hospital and Peter vows to take better care of her? Well, that’s in there, almost word for word.
It’s poor form for a game that should be utilising the show’s talent to create a real treat for fans. That said, it does at least use the show’s actual voice cast, which pretty much saves it from complete obscurity, and there are a few nods to the fans who watch the show, but the old jokes only go to prove our suspicion that this isn’t for fans of the series, as they’ll already know the bloody punch line. BTTM needed to have more than just a few nods for fans of the series, it needed to reward them with brand new Family Guy material. Being a Family Guy fan, BTTM is a painful experience.
Once you’ve blitzed through the campaign, there’s multiplayer that’ll… Well, it’ll just sit there and you’ll likely never play it twice. There’s only a few modes at best, from deathmatch to variations on classic modes like capture the flag, but here’s the kicker, it’s local multiplayer and there are no bots. Yes, folks, it seems as though the devs are caught in a ‘multiverse’ themselves, one where people still use telegrams to communicate and the internet and “online” are things dreamt up in sci-fi novels. It’s frankly astonishing… Not that multiplayer makes sense anyway, but at least Heavy Iron could have tried to do it right. That they did not. That said, there is a challenge mode, which you can rinse in under an hour, and a horde style mode, which will bore you within 10 minutes. Wait, that doesn’t redeem it at all!
When we talk about not knowing who its audience is, we know who its biggest audience will be, and it’ll be the ‘achievement whores’ out there as BTTM an easy 1000 Gamerscore. It’s not an enjoyable 1000G though, and it’ll have you collecting stuff when all you want to do is finish the game, it’ll have you boosting the multiplayer achievements against a second controller because no-one in their right mind would play with you, and it has you grinding out challenges and getting to wave 30 in the horde-esque mode when all you want to do is gouge your eyes out with a spork. For the love of all that is holy, if you want the achievements in BTTM then rent this bad boy or borrow it from a friend. Whatever you do, don’t reward this atrocity by awarding its creators with your hard-earned cash. Is it worth £40/$60? Hell no! Maybe more like £4/$6, and that's being generous.
The problem with Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is this: it doesn’t know its audience and it plays like a kids' game. But the subject matter is anything but suitable for kids. As for fans of the show, they’ll be annoyed to hear the same old plots and gags from the show itself. It’s lazy, it’s obviously a cash-in, and it’s not a very good one at that. Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse was definitely written by manatees.
Voice actors from the TV show. Win. Repetitive lines and the same gags we’ve heard time and time again on the show itself. Lazy.
While South Park’s upcoming game looks like you’re playing an episode of the TV show, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse has no such charm. It doesn’t look terrible but it’s an homage to a cartoon. Come on! We expected more.
It’s playable, but only just. That’s probably the best thing we can say about it.
A fairly short campaign, with local multiplayer and local co-op. Yes, local… What is this? Frickin’ 1990?
Too easy, not enough imagination, and multiplayer achievements in a game where there’s no online multiplayer. Easy to boost, yes, but boring. Very, very boring.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is by far the worst game I’ve played this year, and I’ve played Kinect Star Wars! It’s a title that’s utterly marred by its own identity crisis, with gameplay more suited for kids but with subject matter aimed at adults, and too many recycled jokes to warrant a purchase for diehard Family Guy fans. Still, the disc might make for a good butt-scratcher.