Thor: God of Thunder Review
To be fair, I have never been a fan of the superhero explosion in Hollywood, although I admit to liking the new “Batman” movies. For the most part, I find the milking of this all-out supernatural action craze to be intensely boring. But on the other hand, I have enjoyed watching superhero video games get significantly better this generation. Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best example, but other similar titles (like X-Men Origins: Wolverine) have been decent and entertaining. Therefore, I was sort of hoping for something brainless yet fun when I sat down to play Thor: God of Thunder. What I got was a tiresome, annoying, ultimately clichéd game with only a few substantial highlights.
Given the intense backgrounds and majestic environment we find in the movie, I would’ve expected the game to boast a grander, more memorable presentation. And while we do get some nice vistas and the character design is good, the whole thing falls flat. It’s just lifeless; the textures are bland and unimpressive and the detail is lacking. I had a lot of difficulty indulging in an atmosphere that simply doesn’t believe in itself; all potential impact lies buried beneath a dull, uninspired, unpolished palette. The special effects can be explosive and jarring enough to open your eyes, but even this positive element is too rare to be considered a bonus. If you want some flashy visuals, you’ll have to stick to the film.
From a sound standpoint, they’re able to enhance our interest by including a few actors from the movie. But oddly enough, it almost sounds as if they really dislike the idea of this video game, as they always utter stilted and unconvincing lines. Of course, the poor dialogue could be more at fault. The soundtrack isn’t bad but it never smacks us upside the head with Thor-like brutality; it just doesn’t appropriately match the on-screen action. As was the case with the graphical effects, the audio effects represent brief high points in the gameplay, but fail to make us jump. One would think, taking this game’s premise and style into account, that it would assault our speakers with unabashed violence. But the sound is just erratic and never really captivates.
The character of Thor is wicked cool, primarily because he’s not really a superhero; he’s essentially a Norse God in human form. There are just so many possibilities here, especially in regards to the hero’s abilities and story. Had Liquid Entertainment employed the requisite effort and resources, we could’ve had a really engaging, even original-feeling action game. But we get none of that; instead, we have one of the most generic, uninteresting adventures of the year, which begins to chafe after the first hour of play. At the start, Thor has to defend the great city of Asgard against an invading army of Frost Giants. The hammer-wielding hero emerges victorious but his comrade in arms, Lady Sif, goes down in the fray. Thor seeks revenge but he’s risking everything…
His quest for vengeance might just result in Ragnorak (no, not the bad-ass sword in Final Fantasy Tactics), which is essentially the death of all Gods. Technically, this plot is a prequel to the movie, which makes it appealing to fans. Now, I haven’t seen the film (and I don’t really intend to), so I can’t say if those who played the game will sense any sort of continuation of events. For the sake of optimism, let’s just say they do. That still doesn’t excuse the mediocre storytelling in the game, which does little to keep us interested and features surprisingly forgetful characters. Remember, this is one of those rare breeds of single-player-only adventures so without a great campaign, the player is sorta screwed.
Still, this is an action game and I can easily ignore a disappointing story, bland environment, and faceless characters provided the gameplay keeps me immersed. …nah. Doesn’t quite work. The combat is too awkward and almost completely devoid of the power Thor should demonstrate with every swing of his hammer. Basic attacks feel blasé and ho-hum and you just never feel as if you’re wielding a devastating weapon. The only relatively entertaining element centers on the hero’s grasp of lightning and wind attacks, which add some much-needed diversity and makes us feel a little better about ourselves. The boss fights can be pretty damn cool, too, but that appeal wears off quickly, as the control and collision detection isn’t good enough to be considered reliable.
But I could almost deal with these drawbacks; I could almost, very tentatively, recommend this game to die-hard Thor aficionados, if it weren’t for one glaring flaw: the platforming sucks. The camera is a constant problem, movement isn’t very crisp, and the amount of times you plunge to your death is unacceptable. Then there’s the puzzle-solving, which is even more hackneyed and generic than the combat and overall feel of the game. I really don’t mind trial-and-error gameplay at all; in fact, I really like it when in the correct situation and surroundings. This was just really annoying. And boring. There’s just nothing in this game that’s even remotely fresh, and even stuff the designers stole from other titles doesn’t work 100% correctly. It's functional, but that's about it.
To sum up, Thor: God of Thunder is like the Frankenstein’s monster of every straight-up action game you’ve played in the past few years. It has all the basic parts and it’s kind of sewn together properly, but the end result is a broken, half-retarded thing that’s a little unsteady on its feet. I don’t wish to be too melodramatic, though, because I did have fun for a while, and I did enjoy some of Thor’s bad-ass powers. I also liked the atmosphere’s potential and the story isn’t entirely without its good points. But the drawbacks pile up way too quickly and in the end, its undeniably generic nature means it can’t stand out. It’s questionable even as a bargain bin title.
The Good: Some of the landscapes are interesting. Thor has a few really cool powers. Pacing and learning curve are decent.
The Bad: Completely generic and forgettable presentation. Technical elements are blah. Combat is often even more blah. Platforming and puzzles drag everything down. Camera and control are unreliable.
The Ugly: “You keep falling. You’re a God. …this is stupid.”
5/7/2011 Ben Dutka