Animated adult sitcoms have not had a great time of things in the videogames industry. The Simpons, Family Guy, Futurama and South Park have all benefited from interactive outings, and while both the first and last franchises have had enjoyable outings to accompany the rather poor products, the others have not faired so well. In fact, they’ve been nothing short of detestable from start to finish. Given such a legacy, few would expect Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse to provide a design template worthy of such highly acclaimed series.
One might well argue that the reason so many of these franchise adaptations have failed is due to their reliance on imitation. All four of the above name animated series have proved their worth by being original, innovative sitcoms that dare to tread where so few others would. So why then do their videogame counterparts rely upon by-the-numbers platform or first-person shooter (FPS) design? Sadly, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse doesn’t provide the answer to that question, deciding that a generic third-person action videogame is all it needs to package a product and print its name on the front cover.
The core gameplay mode is playable either solo or as a two-player co-operative campaign, and it is undoubtedly superior experience with the latter. A fairly by-the-numbers action videogame with missions invariably providing the players with fetch quests and combat-heavy sequences perhaps most closely comparable to the very first Destroy All Humans!, but without the amusing weaponry and varied tasks. The levels are reasonably sized and present new avenues of exploration as the player(s) make their way through the expanding list of primary objectives. Levels also have secondary objectives for the completionist, and the videogame has an overarching currency system which allows players to improve their characters abilities or unlock bonuses for other modes. Suffice to say, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it’s also far from the appalling presentation that many would make it out to be: in no respect is the videogame broken or unplayable, it’s simply bland and uninspiring.
The additional gameplay mode for solo/co-operative play is the Challenge Mode, which is a series of different tasks playable on three different difficulty ratings. Completing each challenge will award you with a number of stars dependent on the difficulty beaten, further unlocking new challenges. It’s clear that most of the challenges have been designed with two players in mind as many are nigh-on impossible playing alone, which is the first reason many gamers will be disappointed that there is no online play in Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse.
The second reason is the competitive multiplayer, as while it’s a fairly simplistic presentation – as is fitting considering the rest of the videogame – it’s actually reasonably entertaining. Allowing up to four players in split-screen gameplay, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse features the usual deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag (starring the infamous Greased Up Deaf Guy) as well as the interesting infiltration mode which is essentially a competitive variation of the now common horde mode, albeit with a score/time limit as opposed to fighting through waves. Though it doesn’t reinvent the wheel Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse’s multiplayer is enjoyable enough to earn a few hours attention and would be significantly more had the development team taken the time to include online gameplay, even for just eight players.
The technical presentation of Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is a decidedly mixed bag, at one moment presenting a pleasing accurate 3D adaptation of the television series and the next failing to provide any life to the poorly animated characters. It’s simply astonishing that a videogame based on an animated series can get so much right while still being wrong. The same can be said of the sound quality, wherein the use of voice samples from the original animated series is well placed (if often far too repetitive) while those provided by impersonators are clearly inferior.
Frequently malnourished and occasionally humorous, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse isn’t about to rock the action genre boat. It’s as formulaic a production as can be, and while that isn’t always a bad thing releasing amidst a period of groundbreaking titles doesn’t bode well for an averagely enjoyable action-orientated romp. Ultimately Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse changes nothing. It’s exactly the same kind of derivative fixed-genre experience we’ve come to expect from adaptations of animated adult sitcoms. It’s equally simplistic as it is ignorable, and is clearly a product designed for the core fanbase and bargain bin adopters only.