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Review #411

Thor: God of Thunder
Developer: Liquid Entertaiment
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Action
Release Date: 05/03/2011

I have to admit I’m always a little leery of both Sammy Sega games and licensed titles. Since Sammy purchased Sega the quality of their games have gone down noticeably and licensed titles, especially those based on movies or super heroes tend to suck. Since Thor: God of Thunder is a licensed movie game featuring a super hero and published by Sega, you would think this unholy trinity would have had me running in mortal terror. Well, Sega’s definitely been improving lately. Sonic games are getting better, I’m loving Virtua Tennis 4, the Yakuza games are always cute and Valkyria Chronicles is a previous GOTY winner. As for super hero games, Batman: Arkham Asylum won our game of the year in 2009 and the last few super hero games I’ve played have been a lot of fun. Granted, those games were Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, the aforementioned Batman and Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe, but they were still great games featuring super heroes. Hell, even Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was a decent game even though it had notable issues that left both Mark and myself grumpy.

At the same time I felt kind of bad that I missed out on the back to back horrorfests of Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Just reading those reviews by Capra and AJ reminded me that I haven’t played a truly horrible game since oh, the PS3 port of Dream Chronicles five months ago. Of course those games weren’t made by Liquid Entertainment, the developers of Thor: God of Thunder, but take a look at what they have made: Battle Realms: Winter of the Wolf, which wasn’t very good, Dungeons and Dragons: Dragonshard, which received rave reviews, Desperate Housewives: The Game, which was as bad as it sounds, and Rise of the Argonauts, which we gave a positive review to. So Liquid Entertainment seemed like a step up from the teams that made Sega’s Iron Man games, right? I decided that either way something good would come of this. I’d either get to play a fun game or readers would get an entertaining review. Now the question is…which was it?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Although the plot of Thor is supposedly written by comic scribe Matt Fraction (possibly best known for his Iron Man run), you wouldn’t be able to tell because the story is that awful. In fact, there really isn’t much of a plot at all. There is an attack on Asgard by Frost Giants, which leads to Sif getting killed. Thor then sets out on a quest to bring her back to life with the help of Loki. Unfortunately Odin doesn’t know Thor has left to do something stupid and brings her back himself. Loki COULD tell Thor and have him come home, but this is all part of Loki’s master plan to make Thor look like a dunce and save the day himself. As Thor is more brawn than brain, he accidentally unleashes Magnog (Which probably SHOULD be Magog, but that’s the least of the translation/folklore butchering in this game…). Loki tries to stop Magnog but fails. This means he has to find Thor and have him save Asgard from destruction by Magnog.

The problem with the story is many. First, there is no character development. None of the characters exhibit any personality except for Thor and Loki. Thor’s personality is limited to “THOR SMASH. THOR SAVE SIF!” which is better suited for David Bruce Banner’s alter ego. Loki is not the wily trickster he is supposed to be, but an atonal dumbass who is constantly trying either create a mess or clean it up by using Thor as his patsy. Everyone in the game, whether it be Odin, Surtur, Thor or Loki comes off incredibly stupid and unlikeable, making the game a chore to play through. Unfortunately, there really isn’t any story to game past this. It’s all just sending Thor from one level to the next without any real justification other than “He HAS to go here.” The game also overlooks that Asgard appears to have a) a teleporter, b) Loki teleports throughout the game and c) Loki has tons of magic powers. All of these could just bring Thor back to Asgard once Loki’s plan at being a faux hero has failed, but no…the game is just one big hodge podge of bad writing and level design from beginning to end.

Story isn’t even secondary here. It’s just window dressing on five long and boring levels that will take you roughly eight hours to complete…if you don’t get hit with the end game stopping bug I’ll talk about later. Honestly, this story is so generic and dull it could be done with any other cast of characters. Switch out the Asgardians for say, the Mario Bros. or the cast of Frasier and it still works. Hell, with the lack of characterization you’d never even notice. Hmm. Now I want to hear David Hyde Pierce voice Loki.

Story Rating: 2/10

2. Graphics

Look, it’s 2011. There is no excuse for graphics in a game being this bad. The only thing that separates Thor for a Wii shovelware title put out by Zoo Games is that it is in really bad high definition. Honestly the game shouldn’t be. The graphics are noticeably jaggy from beginning to end, there is little texturing to characters or backgrounds, there are times when the game is hit with such severe slow down you would think this is a SNES side scrolling shooter and it just gets worse from there. I’ve seen enemies embedded in the scenery or halfway through the floor. When in Mjolnir throwing mode, Mjolnir often disappears, leaving Thor looking like he’s doing upper body aerobics. The thrown in knick-knack of being able to change Thor’s lightning colour doesn’t actually work at all (It stayed blue even when I moved it to say, the colour red) . There is so much wrong with this that is makes a lot of PS3 launch titles look like they are pushing the system’s graphics to the max. IIT’S THAT BAD.

Character designs are pretty awful. There is very little detail to anything save Thor, and even he looks more like a high end PS2 character. The other Asgardians have very little visual detail to them. Their animations are jerky and everything just looks awful. Unfortunately, the enemies are even worse looking. At times, the cannon fodder you are facing is little more than amorphic blobs. Even when you are close up on an enemy there is very little detail to them. Boss enemies are surprisingly disappointing looking. Whether it’s an armoured frost monster or a Voltron-like fire giant gestalt, there’s so little to the visual appearance of these characters, you feel like you are playing a budget game rather than a $49.99 title.

The worst that I’ve encountered with the game are the backgrounds/level designs themselves. The graphics are so bad that you sometimes can’t see where to go next. There was one level (Muspelheim) that was so bad, everything just looked like one solid black background without any design at all. At first I thought the design team had left something out, but no, the game is purposely this ugly and sloppy.

Thor: God of Thunder is easily the ugliest game I’ve ever seen on the PS3 and the screenshots Sega gave us to use in this review are heavily doctored and look nothing like my actual play experience with a very large 1080i/p Panasonic Viera TV with an HDMI cable.

Graphics Rating: 1/10

3. Sound

On one hand, it’s great that the game has the actors from the movie providing voices to the same characters in the game. Chris Hemsworth is Thor and Tom Middleston is Loki. However, every actor in this game reads their lines as if they are doing a Ben Stein impression. Everything is atonal and emotionless and it just makes the game’s lackluster attempt at storytelling all the more unbearable. Either the cast is phoning in for a quick paycheck and Liquid Entertainment just didn’t care, or the movie is going to be amazingly awful. I’m sadly hoping for the former

Worst of all is the fact that NO ONE can actually pronounce the names of Norse locations or terms correctly. You would think that for a game based on Norse mythology people would PRONOUNCE THINGS CORRECTLY. It doesn’t take that much work or research. Instead I visibly cringed whenever I heard Thor butcher “Einherjar” or “Vanaheim.” Just playing this game made me want to rinse my brain out with a few hours of Valkyrie Profile. Seriously, they should have given this license to Tri-Ace. Even VP2 wasn’t as horrible as this. Somewhere Walter Simonson is weeping and he doesn’t know why.

Music is…passable. It’s very generic and forgettable but it’s nowhere as annoying or flat out offensive as the voice work. Still, you won’t be paying too much attention to the music as it will be droned out by the sounds of button mashing and combat noises. On that front, everything sounds alike. The only time there is any real variation is with the types of attacks you are using (Wind, thunder and lightning) and although it’s nice that there is some variety here, it’s overshadowed by the awful voice work you’ll here coming from Thor and his enemies throughout the game.

The bottom line is that the voice work is Thor is so awful, it is shameful. It’s worse than some early Saturn/PSX games and even a mediocre soundtrack and some trivial sound effect doesn’t save the audio aspects here; it just makes them bad instead of dreadful or outright worthless.

Sound Rating: 3/10

4. Control and Gameplay

It’s obvious that Liquid Entertainment wanted to make a God of War clone. Unfortunately, what they made was one of the worst button mashers of all time and easily a game with the worst quick time events I have ever encountered in my decades of gaming. This is not hyperbole. It really is the worst.

Let’s start with basic controls. These are all well and good. You move Thor with the left stick and the camera with the right. You press down on the right stick to enter Mjolnir throwing mode, which as you might expect often messes up the camera angle. This mode often causes severe slowdown when you first enter it as well, so be prepared for that too. Each of the shape buttons does an attack. Triangle is power attack, Square is fast attack, X is jump or spurts of flight when used with the L1 button, and Circle is grapple and everything else. Unfortunately this last one is a source of real vexation. Even though circle is programmed for interacting as well as grappling, the game will almost always default to grappling. There will be very miniscule hotspots to allow Circle to function as an interact button and sometimes they are so small, the game will say you can use O to do the required function but instead Thor will just stand there trying to grapple nonexistent enemies. It’s even worse when there are actual enemies around but that are nowhere on the screen as Thor will somehow think he has Mr. Fantastic’s power base and try to grapple them when all you really want to do is open the door that bars you from them and vice versa. Perhaps the worst example of this issue is on the final level of the game, “Asgard Besieged.” You will have a multi-stage battle where you have to keep Asgard’s morale bar from hitting zero. One of these stages involves triggering three runes while dealing with a ton of enemies. Unfortunately, that whole “Grapple takes precedent over interact” comes into play here and even if there is only one enemy left in the battle and he’s on the other side of the field, Thor will still try to grapple him, even when you are STANDING ON THE RUNE’S HOTSPOT. It is so buggy here that it can be virtually unplayable at times. You will just watch your morale bar go down as you desperately try to get the game to recognize your command. In conjunction with the even worse bug that plays the next part of “Asgard Besieged,” it’s no wonder the two bugs combined are rendering the game unbeatable for many.

So let’s talk about that bug. Next you’ll have to defend a giant horn from being destroyed by frost giants and their laser cannons. Yes, laser cannons. We don’t even need to go into the insanity behind that. We’ve already established this is a bad game. Anyway, again, the morale bar comes into play. You have to keep the horn from being destroyed, or your morale bar will drop to ten percent, making the rest of the game unbeatable. However there is a severe bug in the game where nine times out of ten, you will have to replay this same level two or three times from the start, while the horns health doesn’t reset. This ensures that the horn WILL be destroyed and you will not be able to complete the next phase of the game (beating a frost giant gestalt in very little time) before the morale bar hits zero. The sad thing is that the way to stop the repeat bug is letting the horn be destroyed so you are pretty much screwed here. The bug seems to be triggered by using you “kill everything” super attack (R1 where the power surge bar is full, which is hard to tell sometimes as it could be 99% full and you just can’t tell) which is how you are supposed to clear the level. Instead you have to kill everything manually to prevent this bug, which ensures you get a little more morale left on the clock, but combining this with the rune triggering bug in the stage before it and even if you had a 100% full morale bar before the rune stage, you’ll be at no more than 25% here – even on the easiest difficulty setting. This makes one trophy in the game literally impossible to achieve (Finish Asgard Besieged with 75% morale) and thus the Platinum Trophy is as well.

The aforementioned bugs are merely the ones that plague the final world in the game, and are easily the worst as if you get either one, you have to restart the entire section of the game over. And over. And over. And over. And over. You get the point. Thor: God of Thunder is so horribly done that even though the game is mostly playable in other stages, the slowdown, bugs, and unresponsive controls make this one of the worst games I have ever played. The camera angles’ default settings are generally terrible and they can often obscure the trigger points to let you know you are supposed to jump or fly to a new section. I died on one level over and over again because I simply couldn’t find where I was supposed to go next. It turned out there was a flashy glowing bit that indicates to jump, but it could only be seen as a specific and precise camera angle and even then it wouldn’t always trigger the auto move it corresponded to. This happened constantly throughout the game and again, I managed to get through Thor, but it was one of the worst experiences I have ever had in gaming.

Oh yes, the QTEs. I still need to mention those. You know how they are in most games, right? You get a direction or button command in the middle of your screen (or top middle) and you press it within a time limit to continue on. Well, Thor: God of Thunder has these, but they are awful. First the direction commands as the same yellow that cover a lot of enemies in the game. The animation sequences also cause these arrows to often appear right on top of those yellow segments of their armour or their yellow grapple points meaning that due to the horrible graphic quality of the game – YOU CAN NOT SEE THEM. As well, while the arrows are in the middle of your screen, the shape button commands are in the very lower right hand corner of the screen and sometimes are only there for half a second. Because you are instinctively looking in the middle of your screen after the diagonal command, you can easily miss these. Worse yet is that the game is buggy enough that sometimes neither the arrow or shape commands show up on screen leaving you to have to guess (and fail) ala something out of a third rate Dragon’s Lair.

So, Thor has game stopping bugs, the controls are unresponsive, it looks like crap, all you do is button mass, and the QTEs are the worst version of this already loathed form of mini game that I’ve ever seen. Thor does nothing right and it is barely playable. I haven’t seen a game killing bug this bad since the DS version of Card Fighter’s Clash. This game should not have been released in the state it is in and everyone involved with its production should hang their head in shame or be drug out into the street and have rancid food hucked at them. It’s that bad.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 2/10

5. Replayability

Thor: God of Thunder is exceptionally linear and there is only one reason to replay the game, and that’s if you want trophies. You see, many of the power ups and items you need to max out Thor can only be found in hard or Valhalla level difficulty. You have to beat the game at least once to unlock Valhalla difficulty, so you’ll be stuck trying to play this thing twice, if not thrice if you want to get all the obtainable trophies in the game. The fact that some power ups are unobtainable to casual or younger gamers who don’t have the skill set needed to play the higher difficulty settings really annoys me. If you’re a trophy gamer, you’ll have to play on Valhalla to get about seventy percent of the trophies and since the game has a 90% chance of not being able to move on past a certain point, there’s no real point in playing the game even once, much less twice. So a big middle finger to Liquid Entertainment for their horrible snake oil con in an attempt to increase the replay value of this game. Still, I guess it’s nice that the option is there?

Replayability Rating: 3/10

6. Balance

Well, when a game has not one, but TWO potential game killing bugs in it (back to back no less!), the balance is completely and utterly destroyed. When the game has massive slowdown in times events, the balance is completely destroyed. When the game has Quick Time Events where the button presses don’t actually show up on screen…well, you get the point. Besides all of these massive bugs the game is playable; it’s just that it is barely so. Then there is the nonexistent A.I. of the game. Computer controlled opponents have no intelligence – just painfully obvious patterns. Even on Valhalla difficulty, the game is painfully easy. I only got a “game over” bit once and that was because of the inability for the game to trigger where I had to go next in the spire (which was mentioned earlier). Other than that, the game was a cakewalk except for the Asgard Besieged bits and even then it was because of the bugs. For a second I was thinking the difficulty just ramped up big time and I just sucked at the game until I kept replaying and seeing for sure how bug ridden this game was. Hell, I even stopped my game and started a new one on the easiest difficulty to see if it was just me and unfortunately the game really is that awful to play through.

So the game is pretty much a cakewalk and requires neither skill nor intelligence to play until the final bits of the game when it is so bug ridden that luck determines if the coding holds up enough to let you pass. What do you think I should give Balance here?

Balance Rating: 1/10

7. Originality

Okay, if you play Thor for fifteen minutes or more, you’ll realize that this is meant to be a bad God of War. However, it’s a God of War clone without quality controls, game killing bugs, no real story, no characterization and QTE events where you kill things without gore or blood (even though the game is rated T!) so calling it “third-rate” is kind of insulting to actual third rate games like Shadow the Hedgehog, or Antiques Roadshow: The Game. However, the game is the only beat ‘em up button masher I can think of to have Thor and his fellow Asgardians in it…so there’s that. I guess points for making a Thor game even though Asgardians can be found in everything from Square-Enix published titles down to Revelations: Persona. I do kind of feel like Thor should say, “You will be the one escaping!” to a bad guy at some point though. Maybe Captain America will in his upcoming (and probably awful) Sega published movie tie-in game.

So yeah, nothing at all original here save for the God of Thunder getting his own game.

Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness

To say that I hated nearly every moment that I spent playing Thor: God of Thunder is an understatement. The week before I managed to fall through a rotting plank of a platform around Mt. St Helens where the outside of my right thigh ended up with a bone bruise from knee to ass cheek. That was less painful than playing Thor: God of Thunder. This is up there with Pokemon: Team Turbo where I am inclined to send it to Mark for a “Playing the Lame” column because it is that bad. Thank god I have Virtua Tennis 4 to remind me Sega can still publish some pretty kick ass games after this.

If this doesn’t get a “Worst Game of 2011″ nomination from us, then I will be shocked and scared, because honestly, Storm City and Zoo Games could combine forces and they still couldn’t put out a game this bad. This is what I do for you people – I play games so you don’t have to risk wasting your money on them.

Addictiveness Rating: 1/10

9. Appeal Factor
Since it is almost a universal given that movie tie-ins and licensed games suck, I always wonder how and why people keep buying them. However Thor kind of showed me why. Even on Facebook when I said Thor is one of the worst games I have ever played I had a friend say she was going to guy it for her husband? WHY? WHY???? Then a fellow staffer offered to buy it from? They were still WILLING TO PAY MONEY FOR THIS GAME. Why would you use something this awful as a declaration of love to someone else? That’s like going “Hey Baby, I love you so much I just gave you syphilis! Aw yeah!” This kind of indicates to me that people will buy anything sight unseen or even after getting impassioned warnings as long as it has a particular brand name attached to it. It’s easy money without any real quality. No wonder publishers love these things.

Anyway, even though Thor: God of Thunder is the worst game I have played this year, some people will pick it up and play it simply because it is a Marvel super hero based title. As sad as that is, it still remains fact. I just wish Sega would stop publishing awful Marvel movie tie-in games and give the development details over to companies that did half ass it. Thankfully even the people that purchase this game will still hate it, but it doesn’t keep Sega from learning its lesson or from making money off it.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

Thor: God of Thunder is tied with Dream Chronicles for the second lowest score I have ever given a game. It’s not Walk it Out bad, but it is close. There is truly nothing good that can be said about this game and it is amongst the worst games ever made in its genre, for its system, featuring marvel super heroes and any other category you can think of. There are things wrong with this game that simply should not have made it through quality control and anyone that spends money on this game should be irate. For the love of god, looking at consumer websites, this game is getting the minimum possible score…and that’s from average gamers, not critics! That should tell you how horrible this thing is. There is no excuse for the litany of problems plaguing Thor: God of Thunder and everyone involved needs to carry around a big sign reading, “I shill crap to the ignorant” as penance.

Miscellaneous Rating: 1/10

The Scores
Story: 2/10
Graphics: 1/10
Sound: 3/10
Control and Gameplay: 2/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance: 1/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 1/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 1/10
Total Score: 22
FINAL SCORE: 2.0 (DREADFUL GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Thor: God of Thunder is an easy contender for “Worst Game of 2011,” if not the outright winner even though it is only May. The game’s graphics are awful, the game is plagued with slowdown, controls are unresponsive and there are two back to back bugs in the final world of the game that will cause you to have to start over numerous times in hopes that you won’t trigger either of them (or god forbid, both) . It is more likely that one will break the control or just stop playing the game in disgust before that happens though. The actors from the movie phone their lines in so badly that you would think they came from the Ben Stein school of acting rather than a multi-million dollar film. There is honestly nothing good that can be said about this game. Kill it. Kill it with fire so its undead corpse cannot rise from its grave complete with Altered Beast sound bite.

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