Playing through the abysmal Family Guy: Back To the Multiverse, I couldn't help but be reminded of some of the Acclaim games of old – you know, the games that merely existed for the sake of their license, offering nothing substantial to the gaming industry. I mean the old South Park games, Total Recall, Judge Dredd…just plain drivel. I could see where the development team tried to deliver some ideas with the Family Guy gameplay, but none of it just really comes together. It's just a sloppy third-person shooter that drags and drags and drags, with no relief in sight.
The game puts smart-alecky baby Stewie Griffin and loyal family dog Brian in a bit of a quandary, as they once again face the evil Bertram, Stewie's most feared rival. He's made his way through the Multiverse to wreak havoc on their world, so the duo set out through various alternate universes to put a stop to his plans.
Seth McFarlane and his fellow Family Guy writers did contribute to the game's script (and I believe the voice acting – it sounds like the characters from the show), but you'd never be able to tell throughout gameplay, as you're constantly bombarded with the same lines, over and over again, throughout each stage. When you're fighting the Amish (inexplicably, might I add), they constantly throw threats your way, even while you're killing them with a sniper rifle. If that's not enough, Brian and Stewie become overly repetitive, as if they themselves were trapped in a Multiverse, where their dialogue became limited. Only a few jokes manage to slip through the cracks, and very few are funny.
For that matter, the gameplay is no laughing matter either. The game is set up as a third person shooter, where you can zoom in aim with your left trigger button and fire with the right one. But the controls are useless, for two reasons. One, enemies take two to three bullets to bring down, even with a headshot. Two, so many come at you at once, and your firing rate is so bad, that you end up being bombarded anyway, forced to use your up-close melee attacks – which barely connect due to some heinous collision detection. Even in co-op, it's a no-win situation – especially considering your enemies have super-accurate aim.
Early on in the game, for instance, you face an inexplicably super-powered frat boy who throws exploding kegs at you. We scrambled like crazy looking for ammo to bring him down (using up-close attacks will just get you killed), and yet he still manages to hit us every single time he heaves a keg – even when we're side-stepping. And after a few minutes figuring out a way to defeat him, there's barely any reward to speak of, save for an Achievement for beating the level. Yay.
Family Guy also possesses a crude animation style that doesn't do justice to the show. The cinema sequences look out of place with 3D characters – the traditional 2D set-up would've been a better fit here – and the level design is uninspired, with areas that are locked off until you can eventually get through, thanks to an outside incident. The camera can also be a pain, as there are times you'll be close to a wall and can't really see ahead in some places. Finally, the AI behavior is erratic. Some characters run right at you, while others merely run in place, waiting to be picked off.
The single player campaign is rather short, only taking a few hours to see everything it has to offer – it isn't much. From there, you've got multiplayer options, all local only, including the ability to take on waves of enemies in a rather thankless mode, or shoot at each other. Neither really have any depth, so you'll likely try them once and then swear off touching them ever again.
Honestly, Family Guy: Back To the Multiverse just feels like an unnecessary game. Nothing really works in favor of it, save for a couple of occasional laughs (like using Meg's flashing to make enemies sick, that was kinda funny). The graphics are crude, the voice samples repeat way too often, and the gameplay just never clicks at all. This is one of the worst licensed games we've seen in some time – and here's hoping this trend doesn't pick back up again. The last thing we need is the "old" Acclaim to show up. Yeesh.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]