Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™: Out of the Shadows
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles played a big role in my childhood and while I haven’t checked out their Nickelodeon series I remain a fan of the four brothers to this day. Suffice to say I was quite chuffed when I heard about Out Of The Shadows as a decent Ninja Turtles game has been long overdue. There have been some nice attempts over the years but I was hoping that this game would finally capture the elements that have made the turtles such a timeless franchise.
The story predictably follows the exploits of the turtles as they investigate the doings of arch nemesis Shredder. Along the way gangsters and foot soldiers are beaten up with some Kraang aliens also making an appearance. Their reporter friend April ‘O Neil is also kidnapped along the way so as far as plot is concerned there is nothing here that we haven’t already seen before from the turtles.
The first thing you notice about this game is the visuals. I was under the impression that the game would be based on the Nickelodeon cartoon series but it appears that the developers mixed in some influences from the original comics and movies as well. The result is four very detailed but extremely freakish looking turtles. It took me a while to get used to their new look but the characters kind of grew on me. The diverse fighting styles and personalities of the turtles definitely helped in this regard.
While the turtles look good the enemies and environments are less impressive. The classic turtle games offered some very creative locations to battle through so it is somewhat disappointing to be restricted to dark alleyways, rooftops, sewers and subways. This might be more realistic than the beaches, floating islands and prehistoric levels seen in the past but it does become a bit monotonous. The game runs on the Unreal Engine so it also suffers from the usual texture pop-in problems. Enemies are a mixed bag and consist of the “Purple Dragon” gangsters, foot soldiers, mousers, robots and the Kraang aliens which are brains wearing humanoid disguises. You’ll encounter a few bosses as well but don’t expect to see old favorites such as Bebop or Rocksteady. The cut-scenes consist of cartoon stills with some voice overs which seem a bit out of place compared to the detailed turtle models used in the game.
The story mode only consists of four chapters set in various locations around New York but it takes about an hour on average to complete each level. The game is a third person brawler which fits the license nicely and you can switch between the four turtles at all times. The turtles not under your direct control will still continue fighting enemies and you can even use team attacks once you have upgraded the half shell heroes. Defeating enemies earns you experience points which enable you to upgrade your turtles once they level up. The upgrades are surprisingly comprehensive and lend unexpected depth to the combat. The combat can initially feel like a poor man’s version of the Arkham Asylum and City freeflow combat but once mastered you can pull off some impressive moves. The controls felt sluggish to me at first but I was soon countering enemy attacks and leaping all over the place during combat. I would definitely recommend a gamepad if you plan on pulling of feats such as 99 hit combos.
There is a dojo to practice the moves between levels and you can unlock weapon upgrades that make the turtles even deadlier. Sadly the camera which you have to control manually is a bit of a hindrance during battle and it is all too easy to get hit by enemies from behind which spoils your combos. You can interact with some parts of the scenery such as swing around poles or leaping off objects but overall the environments feel a bit empty. I also encountered a few weird glitches such as my turtle repeatedly running up a wall before back flipping off which is a bit annoying during combat. You can only kick, counter or attack with your weapon as there is no jump button. Although there is no difficulty select, the game isn’t too tough and enemies actually have color coded attacks so you always know what is coming and how to counter. Levels are littered with shurikens, bombs, pizza and energy drinks which can be used during battle for healing or ranged attacks. Turtles do not share items that you pick up which is a bit of a hassle and the process of reviving downed turtles is also a bit fiddly in the heat of battle.
It’s clear that the developers care about the license and tried to create a great game but overall this title feels rushed. I suspect that the budget price might also have resulted in less funding which could have had an impact on the final release. I was impressed with the “Partners in Kryme” track from the original movie playing on the menu screen but during gameplay sound effects frequently dropped out and speech samples played over each other. The voice acting is quite good and Mickey’s quips about pizza topics and raising children had me in stitches but the comments repeat way too frequently which quickly becomes annoying. The hacking mini-games are also way too basic to provide any kind of challenge and only serve to pad out the game artificially. The final chapter in particular is littered with doors that have to be “hacked” first to open. You can employ stealth to take down enemies but it is not implemented very well and you can practically run up to an enemy and kill them with a stealth move provided they don’t turn around.
Apart from the story mode there is also an arcade mode where you get to play the game as a classic arcade title but with the modern visuals. You have to unlock the levels for this mode by completing the chapters in story mode but it is well worth the effort. This mode has to be completed in one sitting with no saves or checkpoints but contain plenty of homage’s to the classic turtle titles. I couldn’t help but smile when my turtle was knocked over by a car speeding out of a garage during combat. There is also some challenge maps and a survival mode for further longevity.
With a bit more time and polish I believe this game could have been a lot better. As it is I had a lot of fun but it is hard not to be disappointed by what could have been. Bugs such as the online co-op mode not working and the uneven quality of the visuals make this feel like a rushed title. The lower price tag helps to smooth over some of the bumps but it is still no excuse for releasing an inferior product. Hopefully a few patches will iron out most of the wrinkles but what this game really needs is a big budget sequel to truly show off what the turtles are capable of.
*Review originally published September 2013.
- OS: Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 2.40 GHz/AMD Phenom X3 8750 @ 2.4 Ghz
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: GeForce 8800 GT series with 512 MB RAM or ATI Radeon HD3870 with 512MB RAM
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Network: Broadband Internet connection
- Hard Drive: 5 GB available space
- Sound Card: DirectX® 9.0c or later Compatible Card
- Additional Notes: Internet connection for Steam activation and multiplayer functionality.