I Don’t Get It
There is only one thing I want from a Family Guy video game: I want it to be funny. You see, I actually still enjoy Family Guy. I love the cutaways, references, surreal humor, and yes, even the chicken fights.
Yet, regardless of the fact that it has the show’s actual voice cast, regardless of the fact that the its cel-shaded graphics make it look exactly like a Family Guy episode, regardless of the fact that Seth MacFarlane himself had a hand in developing it, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse somehow manages to screw it all up.
The game’s story takes the form of a Stewie and Brian episode of the show. Stewie’s evil(er) half-brother Bertram is hopping between different universes in order to raise an army to destroy Stewie’s home universe. It’s up to Brian and Stewie to use the Multiverse Remote in order to chase Bertram and put a stop to his evil scheme before their home universe is lost forever.
Does this plot sound familiar to you? If you are a Family Guy fan, it should. It’s essentially the Season 8 episode “Road to the Multiverse” all over again, with Bertram thrown into the mix in order to add tension. Granted, the game markets itself as a sort of unofficial sequel to that episode, but even so, it still feels more like a retread than a sequel.
This is the biggest problem with the game. It’s not giving us anything we haven’t seen before. It’s not re-inventing old Family Guy jokes or referencing them in an interesting way; it’s just doing them all over again. Frankly, if I wanted to see these jokes again without any clever spin put on them, I’d just watch the episode they came from.
In the original “Road to the Multiverse” episode, Stewie and Brian visited a variety of themed universes, such as the Disney universe, which included an amazing musical number “It’s a Wonderful Day for Pie,” and the Robot Chicken universe, which existed solely as a way to poke fun at Seth Green. However, in Back to the Multiverse, all of universes that Brian and Stewie visit are essentially themes after old Family Guy jokes. In fact, most of the game’s plot is really nothing more than a ball of references to older Family guy episodes. I get the feeling that this is why so many people don’t like Family Guy in the first place.
Of course, this is a video game, so good gameplay could potentially save a bland, humorless, entirely referential story. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The game is a shooter, which is one of the most bizarre choices for a Family Guy adaptation. I don’t honestly think that the shooter fan base and the Family Guy fan base have a lot of overlap, and even if they do, I wouldn’t expect they would take time out from their busy Gears of War 3, Halo 4, and Black Ops II schedule to play a game based on Family Guy.
It’s not even very good at being a third-person shooter. It’s essentially an over-the-shoulder-type shooter where you can’t really hit anything by firing from the hip. Aiming basically makes you snap directly to your target, but if the target moves at all, you’ll never be able to re-center the reticle on him while still aimed in. The controls are just too clunky and stiff to work that way. So instead you’ll just be re-aiming your weapon a lot, doing the same over-the-shoulder aim button dance that we have seen time and time again from newbie Gears players.
The weapons and items In the game are also meant to serve as Family Guy references. In some circumstances, they are decent for a laugh, but that’s about all they’re good for. For example, you’ll eventually come across the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man, which is supposed to act as a decoy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work. You plop it down and the A.I. behavior of the enemies barely changes at all. In fact, the only weapons you’ll want to use are short-range area-of-effect weapons that don’t require much aiming. This allows you to get around the clunky controls and poor aiming system altogether, at the expense of making the gameplay incredibly dry and repetitive.
Speaking of dry, repetitive gameplay, this game has a ton of it. The objectives in the game are never very interesting. They are all just variations of “go from point A to point B while killing things.” In a way, it’s just a weak framework to carry you from cutscene to cutscene, and to let you see the game’s cartoonishly animated environments.
I will give the game credit when it comes to level design. The environments, though sometimes fuzzy around the edges, look like they come directly from the Family Guy TV show. The character models also look like they do in the show, and in still frames it’s a bit hard to tell that you aren’t actually looking at an episode of the TV series. Unfortunately, these similarities fade when characters start talking. While the game sometime manages to get emotions right, often the facial expressions simply don’t match up with what the character is saying. Lip flaps are also pretty horrendously animated, looking like something out of a ten-year-old PC game rather than a current HD production.
The game also excels in the audio department. Having the show’s voice cast really helps the game out, and the music includes orchestral numbers reminiscent of the show’s many musical interludes. However, the sound effects for the enemies and environments are literally lifted directly from the show. While this is somewhat cool in the beginning, it gets incredibly boring and repetitive very quickly. In addition, the sound quality from these copy/pasted clips is nowhere near as good as the quality of the voices recorded specifically for the game. It gives the game a bit of a sloppy feel that just rubs me the wrong way.
The game features both co-op and competitive multiplayer, but both of these feel like an afterthought. In co-op, one of you controls Brian and the other controls Stewie, but the game really doesn’t change more than that. Competitive multiplayer offers Family Guy variations on classic shooter modes like Death Match, Capture the Flag, and Horde Mode, but in offline mode only. In fact, there isn’t any online component to this game at all, which is an absolutely criminal offense in this day and age.
However, you can ignore everything that I have said in the past few paragraphs because it’s impossible to get past one simple fact: The game just isn’t funny. Even if you remove gameplay from the equation, the story amounts to a below-average episode of the show at very best. By passing this game up, even diehard Family Guy fans aren’t missing anything other than a few “Meg is ugly” jokes and a pirate remix of the knee-holding gag.
If you absolutely must experience everything with the Family Guy logo on it, rent the game with a couple buddies and play through the incredibly short single-player campaign in a few hours over some beers. Otherwise, I’d suggest purchasing a Family Guy DVD box set over this game for your Family Guy-obsessed friend or loved one this holiday season.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
The graphics are probably the best part of the game, but they still miss the mark in terms of lip timing and facial expressions. 1.7 Control
The controls are really quite bad. There’s nothing fun about shooting enemies in this game. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice acting is competent, and the voice cast is great, but the re-used clips from past shows get very annoying. 1.5 Play Value
The game isn’t funny, and that’s inexcusable 1.9 Overall Rating – Avoid
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best