Platforms: Xbox 360/PC/PlayStation 3 (September 24)
Developer: RedFly Studios Publisher: Activision
Genre: Action-Adventure Platform Played: Xbox 360
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a title developed in fan service to the TMNT fans around the world, doing its best to provide an array of nostalgia throughout its manoeuvres, taunts and dialog. However, aside from the fan service that will please hardcore TMNT fans, Out of the Shadows fails to be a competent action title. Developer RedFly Studios has developed a title that may make hardcore turtle fans brim with excitement, but it is hard to enjoy the amount of fan service amongst the technical problems, awful music, and lack of polish.
Out of the Shadows has been created by a team that understands what fans want from a TMNT’s title. As soon as you start the game, you will feel the rush of nostalgia as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie theme accompanies the start-up screen, with the fan service continuing during the game’s 4-5 hour campaign. The main menu gives a great representation of the turtles sewer-home, Mikey will constantly express his love of pizza (including a long description of pizza toppings), group taunts and attacks mirror those from the live-action films of old, and the comic style cut scenes used to tell the game’s narrative express the TMNT’s comic origins brilliantly.
The narrative itself feels like an attempt to throw as many TMNT characters into one short story as possible, leaving the idea of a cohesive narrative at the door. Our first introduction to Out of the Shadows is a poorly put together tutorial scene that sets low expectations for the rest of the game. From here, the narrative never made much sense. April is kidnapped, there is a secret underground subway, and Shredder is behind it all. That is the basic plot, and if you decide to stress over what is actually happening, you will find yourself having a poor experience. It is best to enjoy the game’s in-depth combat, whilst forgetting the reasoning behind these encounters.
The combat within Out of the Shadows is where the game’s true strength lies. There is a great sense of depth that leaves some fighting games ripe with jealously. Button mashing is still an option, however, you will find your skills truly lacking during later stages of the game, and pushed to breaking point during the game’s other modes. Each turtle feels truly distinct: Raphael produces a gritty, in-your-face style of fighting, while Leonardo’s fighting style feels balanced in-line with Splinter’s teachings. Since each turtle has their own flare, weapons, and signature manoeuvres, it is great to see that each turtle has its own distinct feeling, rather than plain copies. The added option to change your playable character on the fly with a simple press of the D-pad is also an appreciated addition.
The in-depth combat is an added bonus, however, due to the game’s problems, the combat wavers. One main issue is the camera: it can be downright atrocious in hectic battles. It will lose you during fights; it will get stuck outside the map and behind objects, leaving you completely unaware as to your enemies’ location. For some reason, the ability to use signatures moves means you must hold the Right Trigger, this button also locking the camera in place. So if you are trying to pull off a powerful move, the camera will become completely useless. Out of the Shadows also suffers from framerate issues when battles become too frantic. These issues mainly occurred when using team-based attacks, bringing the game to a snail’s pace.
The imprecise ability to focus on one enemy also hinders the player, as I would be attacking one enemy when my character to randomly pounce across the screen to attack another foe. This became a big issue during a certain boss fight, when you must target certain areas of your enemy. Poor control designations continue to cause issues when trying to revive your team members. The odd combination of Left Bumper and Right Trigger (using items, locking camera in place) continuously meant I would use equipped items by mistake. It feels cumbersome and unnecessary complex.
Aside from the main story, we are also offered a Training Mode, and various Challenge Maps and Arcade Stages by completing sections of the main story. These Challenge Modes provide survival based areas, as players must try and stay alive while facing waves of enemies to set high-scores. Arcade Mode offers the main story experience… without the story; as it throws away the jumbled narrative allowing combat to stand centre stage. You will re-visit areas in a side scrolling format, rather than the open areas of the main campaign. Arcade Mode allows you to hone your skills and improve your combat abilities, without having to deal with the atrocious camera; which is a plus in my book.
The AI throughout Out of the Shadows ranges. There are stages where you will be surrounded by a multitude of enemies that require precision counters as you try to take them all done in one piece. You can easily get overwhelmed if you don’t use your counter techniques, especially when juggling a boss-fight with relentless enemies on your tail. The game also includes a handful of stealth sections that showcase some of the more horrible AI options. Enemies would stand waiting for you to approach and trigger a stealth takedown, but they wouldn’t move, even if you were having a battle right in front of their eyes. This broke the experience completely, as I wasn’t sure if this was a glitch, or just poor programming on RedFly’s behalf. Either way. It felt broken.
During the main story, players will earn experience by defeating enemies and meeting optional objectives, such as performing a certain number of special attacks, stealth knock-outs etc. Once you earn enough experience, your turtles will level up, allowing you to designate skill points to numerous skill-tree options for each turtle. These options include adding new abilities to your arsenal, increased buffers for your team, and new moves. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of options given to upgrading your turtles. It could take a few playthroughs of the main story to actually maximise each turtle’s abilities. The range of options allows you to cater to each turtle as you see fit: if you are more inclined to use Leonardo, then you can focus on his skill-trees, or vice versa.
Out of the Shadows also offers 4-player couch-co-op or online cooperative multiplayer, finding a match is easy enough; however all bets are off once you begin an online match. During online matches my character would randomly teleport through walls to be in areas located later on in the stage, not only that but my weapons (in this case Mikey’s nun chucks) started floating next to me. Though the weapons were still in my characters hands, they were somehow floating with my character the entire time. It was hard to find a semi-playable experience that didn’t have some sort of glitch or malfunction.
Visually, the turtles look drastically different to the turtles I have known in the past. Although they’re not terrible, they may throw some fans off the game entirely. Environments themselves are very generic, with the visual style used on the turtles themselves definitely not carrying over to the world itself. Each location is bland and littered with PlayStation 2-esque visuals, lacking the polish of the characters themselves. The environments has its own set of issues. Multiple times I found my character would jump through areas of the map leaving themselves floating in an empty void of nothingness. Luckily, the ability to switch turtles would save me from re-loading a new checkpoint, though this was a re-occurring issue throughout the narrative.
Aside from the movie theme that accompanies the main menu, the music throughout Out of the Shadows feels completely out of place. It provides an electronic/hip-hop sound that doesn’t match the style the game presents. As a fan of the turtles, I was greatly surprised by the choice of sound. I found the music quite overwhelming and found the experience increased when the music was switched off. The witty banter between turtles also becomes a problem, even though these conversations can be quite entertaining. They lose their appeal after the 8th time and counting. These same dialog options will continuously repeat, from battle cries as your turtles fight, to the conversations you will hear in-between battles.
The turtles will also relentlessly complain if you start to explore your environments. It was unnerving to hear all four turtles complain that I was taking too long; simply because I wanted to search for the hidden concept art located within each stage. Even though the environments are fairly linear, the addition of collectibles encourages exploration. Yet, for some strange reason, the turtles are programmed to constantly annoy you if you decide to start exploring. It becomes frustrating to say the least.
RedFly definitely has passion for the TMNT license. The problem is that everything else feels underdeveloped. The fan service in Out of the Shadows will make any hardcore TMNT brim with fond memories: the shout-outs to the movies, the signature taunts and the group attacks, all feel like a love letter to the brand.
However, no amount of fan service can save the game. The problems are too robust and too frequent. There is definite potential here, but it feels under-cooked and un-finished. With the amount of problems that have found their way into the final game, it makes me wonder if they had to rush this game out for its release.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a great fan service to Turtles fans for those who are willing to overlook the abundant issues. But for those looking to play a quality action title, I would strongly suggest packing your shell and heading somewhere else.
+ In-depth combat that may make some fighting games jealous
+ Amazing fan service to turtles fans
+ Leveling your turtle team has impressive depth
– Atrocious camera that loses track of your character
– Technical issues with environments, AI and control configurations
– Music tracks feel completely out of place
– Online matches are a technical mess