Gaming has moved on a great deal since the Playstation 2 and original Xbox, but developers Heavy Iron Studios may not have been told as their Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse feels like its 2005. You control Stewie and Brian as they come up against one of Stewie's arch foes, Bertram. Bertram has invented his own Multiverse device and is using it to jump from place to place recruiting an invincible army. The baby and the dog must follow in his footsteps undermining his plans and saving their own Universe from destruction.
If you are a fan of Family Guy you should be well aware of the tone the game is likely to take – and it does. The Multiverses include ones; populated by disabled people you can kill, sorority girls to impress, or Santa to exterminate. The game is very reminiscent of Fur Fighters: Viggo's Revenge, a third person shooter with cell shaded graphics. Stewie and Brian waddle around a series of sandbox areas (with linear progression) and shoot things. Each character has a different set of guns; Stewie’s laser is great for heat shots, buts Brian later gets a sniper rifle that is extremely useful for long range action.
Each level is set in a different location, but you soon get the feeling you are doing the same things over and over again. Level starts, shoots things, level ends. The gameplay begins to get tiresome and the repetitive nature of the game is also present in the dialogue. Brian and Stewie have a set number of things to say in each level and they may be funny the first time, but they are certainly not on the 20th. Graphically, the game is cell shaded so feels like the cartoon, but the 3D rendering of the characters is still not as impressive as it should have been.
The game has bland level design and relies on a fan’s love of the show to paper over the cracks of not being that fun. Throwing in 2 player local co-op should help to increase the entertainment for both parties. If this element of the game was implemented cleanly, it certainly would. There is drop in/drop out co-op that splits the screen. One player is now Stewie, the other Brian. The game remains exactly the same as single player – the goals, number of enemies etc. This makes the game easier and it is certainly fun running around shooting comedy characters as a duo.
Unfortunately, there is an issue that negates the positives of playing in co-op. The solo game is a little flaky and prone to pausing for no reason; this occurs far more often in local co-op. The freezing does not appear to be linked to anything in particular e.g. too many enemies on screen, but is a simple oversight by Heavy Iron which becomes frustrating during play. The pauses are long enough to be notable and drag you out of the experience.
So in conclusion, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is a rather uninspiring third person shooter that repeats dialogue, has bland level design and is prone to freezing. However, for Family Guy fans there is enough here to make the game worth playing. The various in jokes are amusing; with the Peter vs. the Chicken level standing out. If you don’t mind some old fashioned shootin’ and collectin’, you should still like the game – just don’t worry that it is pretty much a pointless cash in.