GDC: Too Human

Vikings in space.

Denis Dyack says he's surprised there's been such a big turnout for his pre-GDC presentation. Indeed, every seat in the room is taken and there are plenty more journalists standing at the back. But is that really so surprising? After all, Too Human is high up on the list of the most interesting titles coming exclusively to Xbox 360 this year - and it's not a long list.

There's also the fact that anticipation for the game has had nearly nine years to build. It was first unveiled at E3 '99 as a PSone game that would come on four discs. Obviously much has changed since then. However, Too Human is still an action RPG and its basic theme is still the relationship between humankind and machines.

"If you want to know about Too Human and its history, you have to go back thousands of years - before the Roman Empire, before Ancient Egypt, before the time of Atlantis and its war with Ancient India, before the Ice Ages," Dyack tells the audience. Before the game was announced, even?

"It's a time when mankind is at a peak of technology. A giant empire is waging war with machines against another group called the Azaire. Instead of machines, the Azaire use technology and cybernetics to enhance human beings to help fight this menace."

But as the war rages on the Azaire realise they need more firepower and start using atomic, nuclear and anti-matter weapons. The planet's climate is affected and a new ice age kicks off. "This is where Too Human begins."

Scene it

And this is where Dyack's demo of the game begins - with the first cut-scene. Without wishing to spoil it, let's just say the first bit involves a burly man on a mission to retrieve a body, a woman with ridiculous breasts and a severe skin problem and a lot of robots. Then the message "Nine months later" flashes up and a Bladerunner-style cityscape of towering black buildings, glittering lights and holographs appears. We see a different man on a different mission and another robot. There's a dramatic fight with an interesting ending.

1

Of all the character classes, the Beserker is probably the hardest.

The cut-scene is cryptic and doesn't actually reveal a great deal of the storyline. However, it does show off the game's visual style. It's science-fiction meets Norse mythology; vikings in space, if you will. There are plenty of holograms and neon lights and futuristic weapons, but also swords and runes and tankards. It's a fusion of ideas and genres - much like Too Human's gameplay.

"One of the things that is not well-known about Too Human is the deep role-playing elements of the game," Dyack says as the character-creation menu appears on the screen. He explains that you can design many characters and share them between the single-player and online game.

There are six character classes to choose from. First up is the Champion, and once again fusion is the theme as Dyack reveals he can handle firearms, excels in melee and air combat and is good at pulling off critical strikes too. "A lot of games like Diablo or Phantasy Star Online are statistically-based, they're not done in real time," says Dyack. "This game is all real time, it's all fast-paced combat, and by fusing those things we feel we're really bringing a different experience."

On to the Commando. "He's essentially your nuker," excelling in firearms combat, explosive techniques and using a spider-like robot called, ah, a Spider to explore new areas. The Bioengineer is the healer, using nanotech to both repair damage and engage in combat. "One of the interesting things about Too Human is there's no mana," says Dyack. "We have a concept called nanofuel, and the more enemies you kill the more you can heal and use your various different powers."

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