The story behind Family Guy’s rise, fall and rebirth is an interesting one. The show was a modest hit on Fox Television for a couple of years before the network decided to give it the ax, but due to an unforeseen rise in popularity Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block and great DVD sales, Fox gave it a second chance and now the show is working on its eleventh (!) season.
Now, there haven’t been too many Family Guy-licensed games. 2K Games gave the franchise a try a few years back, and while it didn’t totally go down the drain like Acclaim’s dreaded South Park games, it failed to really boost the series at the same time. By contrast, 2012 is looking like a better run for Family Guy games, between a free-to-play online affair that’s been making the rounds over the past couple of months and Activision’s upcoming Family Guy: Back To the Multiverse; the latter looks to bring the perverse, ridiculous humor and style to the forefront of a third-person action/adventure title. From what we've seen: so far, so good.
For Family Guy, Activision went right to the source and worked with the show’s creator (and the voice of many of its characters) Seth McFarlane. He helped with the game's story, and it’s rumored that he’s bringing several actors from the show to voice characters in the game (still not confirmed as yet). The story dips back into the Multiverse, where Stewie (the sarcastic, mean-toned baby on the show) is pitted against his evil nemesis Bertram who’s wreaking havoc. With the help of loyal (if somewhat smart-alecky) family dog Brian, Stewie sets out to make things right – in all the wrong ways, mind you.
With McFarlane on board, Activision is shooting for the same level of humor that the Family Guy show has. In fact, the humor might be a little more raw than the show and it’s definitely shooting for a Mature-rating instead of a lame Teen-rating. There will be plenty of jokes aimed at adult audiences and lots of ridiculous violence.
While Activision showed us a behind-closed-doors demo of only one stage, it really gave an idea of what level of action can be expected from Back to the Multiverse. It takes place in the Amish Universe, where Bertram has managed to produce seeds that can grow wood rapidly. He’s made a deal with the Amish, providing them wood in return for killing off Brian and Stewie; apparently these are some vicious Amish that McFarlane has been cooking up in his head.
Throughout the game you’ll be able to switch off between Stewie and Brian or play co-op if you have a buddy in the room with you, with each of you playing your own character. You’ll need to work together – or stay on point solo – as enemies are coming at you from all sides, all the while staying focused on objectives in each stage so you can continue pursuing Bertram.
Brian’s arsenal consists of handguns that allow him to take out enemies rather quickly; if you seek something a little more imaginative, we suggest going with Stewie. Not only can he use a toy gun that doubles as a laser pistol, but he can also throw grenades that are full diapers, and he can double this diaper’s explosive effect simply by lighting it on fire. These weapons sounds right up McFarlane’s alley, so we’re not surprised in the least.
Other weapons are available throughout the game include a golf club melee weapon that Stewie can use to thwack enemies and (to the chagrin of Peter Griffin) a giant chicken that hatches out of an egg and goes on a rampage.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse doesn’t look like a huge visual triumph at first. The game has a typical third-person viewpoint, and our experience with one level makes it harder to tell what to expect from the Multiverse. However, there are quaint touches that are taken straight out of the show, including visual jokes and characters making cameos throughout – such as that freaky old man who can’t stop talking about young boys. Yikes!
One gripe is that the multiplayer included in the game will be local only; there's no support for Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. Considering that Family Guy Online has tons of users, there’s no reason an audience wouldn’t gather for this experience. Still, it should still make for a fun party experience…if you have friends that can stomach it.
Family Guy: Back To the Multiverse looks to be an evolution for the series when it comes to video games and gives us something to proudly plow through as we wait for the season premiere of the show; look for both of them around September.