I’ll be honest; I was worried when I first found out I’d be reviewing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows. Maybe because I hadn’t seen much advertisement leading up to its release, or that it was my first game review on the site, or maybe because licensed games always come off as a quick cash grab, but this title is one that’s definitely worth the 15 bucks (or however many Microsoft Points). Now, that doesn’t mean the game is perfect; it definitely has its flaws. Graphically, technically, and just an overall lack of polish almost constantly remind you that you didn’t pay a full 60 dollars for it, but these detractions aren’t enough to hold back what is, frankly, an addicting game.
Right off the bat, you recognize that this isn’t quite any version of TMNT that you’ve seen before; this is a darker version of the turtle brothers, but it doesn’t forget all that the property has been through, referencing every form of media it’s seen, while incorporating a little bit of each into the overall design of the game. The end result is a gritty, unique art style, with realistically creepy looking turtles (I mean, they are gigantic humanoid turtles, after all). This refreshing style also very smoothly transitions to the comic book style cut-scenes, referencing back to its comic roots. Unfortunately, despite decent visuals for an Xbox Arcade release, they are hampered by not-fully-loading environments, lagged menus, and some choppy textures that will disappear and reappear depending on how close or what angle you are viewing them at. At one point, during a parkour-inspired chase scene, I phased through an object, only to get stuck there until I got a game over; this happened at 6 times.
The turtles themselves are easily the shining gems of this game. Each of the brothers were clearly designed to be different from one another in every facet; from their looks, to their stats, and to the abilities that they can learn, making for some diverse gameplay. All 4 come equipped with their signature weapons and dialogue that’s appropriately as cheesy as their beloved pizza, it feels like authentic turtle talk. When the ‘chuk swinging Mikey seems to reference the game itself, saying “I wish I could reinvent myself… as a grittier version of myself,” I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself.
The major difference between each of them, though, is their individual combat styles, which is what brings a true sense of identity to whichever of the four you choose to play as. Each character has his own skill tree which, when upgraded, gives special stat upgrades that can apply to both the individual as well as the entire gang. Leo has his leadership abilities which reflect on the entire team in the form of special attack and health bonuses during battle, and Donnie’s genius intellect makes the hacking mini-game (which is actually a bunch of pretty neat little puzzles) a bit easier.
The combat, which uses a free-flow system resembling the one developed in the Batman: Arkham series, does its best to maximize the “team” aspect of the game, and while it does work at times (especially when you nail a tag-team-like finisher) it’s one aspect of the game that I wish was a bit more polished. It’s hard to mention the combat without getting into the wonky camera angles that tend to crop up in just about every fight scene. It also doesn’t help that the enemy targeting system wasn’t very accurate; at times, the camera would go behind a wall which I couldn’t see through, mid combo, and by the time I got a view of the fight again, Leo was slashing his katanas at nothing but air. The beginning and end of every confrontation was signified by a crazy drop in frame rate, which was jarring, but it was something that was less noticeable when the game started dropping us into bigger battles.
As the name suggests, stealth combat does play a part throughout the story, but the AI is so unbelievably stupid during these scenes, it wasn’t very much of a challenge. Doing just about anything but breaking the line of sight will keep you undetected, even allowing you to practically walk right in front of enemies, so long as it isn’t directly in front of them. Even when I decided to throw stealth out the window and just start attacking groups of foes, I’d still somehow perform a stealth takedown on an enemy who happened to have his back turned to me, even though the entire group around him was alerted to our presence and already on the attack.
The story is by no means groundbreaking, and it isn’t a long one, but it doesn’t have to be. The story serves its purpose and feels like a typical TMNT story; it feels like you’re playing through an elongated episode of the show, which I think was the aim. Spanning four chapters and clocking in at about 6-7 hours, it doesn’t leave you hanging once you’ve completed it. There are a ton of collectibles hidden throughout each level to entice you into another play through, and those inclined to explore will be handsomely rewarded with bonus inventory and health, in addition to finding the collectible comic book items. Aside from replaying the main game and building the stats of each of the turtles, there are also a few side game modes; a survival mode, a practice mode, a challenge mode, and my personal favorite; arcade mode. The arcade mode, based on the classic beat-em-up style of gameplay featured in past TMNT games, is a blast to play by yourself or with a friend. While the local co-op in the main game splits the screen up which makes the aforementioned camera issues even more of a problem, this mode is a bit friendlier to those sharing a couch for a game session.
This game may not be a candidate for Game of the Year, but it does seem to be one of the top TMNT games yet, and for the Xbox Arcade price, that’s a bargain. Although the game has its fair share of flaws, I found myself excited to go back and play it again and again. I couldn’t help but feel that, with these very fixable problems covering up a solid base, this game could have been touched up a bit, given a little longer of a story and been released as a full game. With that said, this is clearly one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played lately, and probably one of the best games I’ve played from the Xbox Arcade.
Nerd Bastards Rating- 7.5/10