Double Take: Unlucky there’s a Family Guy game
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is a third-person shooter based on the long-running animated TV series. Taking cues from the popular Road to the Multiverse episode, the game puts you in the shoes of Stewie and Brian as you travel between alternate universes looking to put a stop to another one of Bertram’s evil plots. Unfortunately, Josh and Matt found the E3 demonstration somewhat lacking.
Josh Harmon, Contributing Editor: Ah, licensed games. There’s nothing quite like seeing a franchise you love taken out behind the barn and savagely beaten into an unrecognizable pulp. Alright, that might be a bit too harsh. Back to the Multiverse isn’t a shameless cash-grab by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly not going to win any awards for its gameplay. The shooting and movement both looked horrendously clunky, and that’s essentially all you’ll be doing in the game. The entire demo was just one big red flag from start to finish for me.
Matthew Bennett, Associate Editor: When the game was first announced, I was incredibly excited by the whole premise. Finally, we were going to get a Family Guy game that isn’t a “shameless cash-grab,” as you put it. Sadly, after seeing it in action, I have to say that I’m dissapointed. The whole game looks like a last-generation title and appears to handle really badly. We have to take into account that what we saw was pre-alpha, but with a September release date penciled I don’t see enough improvements being made to save it.
Josh: Yeah, that was one of the most shocking things about the whole presentation. Normally a pre-alpha demo means there’s plenty of time to fix any outstanding issues, but they really seem to be shoving this thing out the door as fast as humanly possible. And that’s a real shame, because the central concept seems to have a ton of promise. Sure, a third-person shooter might not be the most natural extension of the franchise, but controlling both Stewie and Brian and being able to switch out at any moment could be a ton of fun, and the multiverse premise means there will be a ton of variety to the levels and enemies. But none of that counts for anything unless the gameplay is compelling, and that just looks bland and outdated on all fronts.
Matthew: I always look at TV tie-in games as being a chance to try something different. You don’t need to shoe-horn shooter mechanics into the Family Guy universe to make it popular. They could have opted for a Heavy Rain style approach or an adventure game—similar to how Telltale makes the transition. I feel that the gamification of the series and a short development window will doom the game to failure. It has a few bright sparks such as the humor—which tries its best to copy the show. But, I just feel that taking an extra six months development time could result in a really good game.
Josh: Yeah, I was actually quite impressed by the humor. The team has been working closely with a few of the show’s writers and creator Seth McFarlane, and it shows. The level we saw, set in the Amish multiverse, was absolutely loaded with the kind of gags that make the show a blast. I think that’s going to be the real draw here, at least for fans of the series. Walking around the levels and picking out all the hidden jokes and references to the series should be infinitely more fun than actually, you know, playing the game.
Matthew: Exactly the point I’m making about not needing the third-person shooter aspect. If fans could just enjoy the world and take the time to take a look at all the little jokes left in the game, then it would be a much better game. Maybe the time contraints have forced them to go down this route, and if that’s the case then maybe they shouldn’t have bothered creating the game at all. If you’re going to do something do it right.
Josh: Yeah. They’ve put so much effort into ensuring that the tone is authentic, but they’ve just thrown on gameplay that’s basically irrelevant to what you see on the show. I mean, there are a few aspects of the gameplay that have clearly been designed with the show in mind—summoning the giant chicken to aid you in battle, for example—but that seems a bit like shoving a round peg into a square hole solely for the sake of relevance. I will say, though, I was impressed by the seamless drop-in, drop-out co-op. That’s something a lot of great games fail to get right, and it’s one of the rare signs I saw that any serious thought was put into polishing gameplay.
Matthew: The drop-in drop-out co-op is a nice addition, and the way you can switch between Brian and Stewie on the fly shows a lot of promise. My only worry is that once people see the cluncky shooting mechanics they will automatically dismiss the game, meaning that all the hardwork that’s been put into the story will have been for nothing. It’s obvious that most of the resources have gone into making it like the show, it’s just a shame that the same effort couldn’t have been put into gameplay.