Biomutant is a game that aims very firmly to sit in the genre that I’m going to call “Late 2010s Video Game.” If you’ve played, well, anything really, from the last six or so years you will be immediately familiar with how things work. Open world? Check. Badly implemented levelling systems? Check. Damage numbers when you hit things? Check. Splashes of neon colour here and there? Check. It’s so very by-the-numbers that its attempts at originality here and there are drowned out with its focus-group mentality, while the one truly unique idea it has brought centre-forward is, frankly, awful.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Pretty world design|
+ Big Stompy Robot
– Weak combat mechanics
|Price (When Reviewed)||£34.99|
|Our Playtime||Too many hours|
|Available On||PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC|
That unique idea? To give the game a narrator. I can only assume that someone involved in this decision had played the excellent Stanley Parable and completely missed the point. In Stanley Parable the whole game is structured around the narrator, their character and the dialogue they have with you as the player. In Biomutant the narrator acts as a hundred-foot wall between you and any kind of meaningful engagement with the world.
A key factor in any Late 2010s Video Game is the appeal of the world, and a large part of that is the characters who inhabit it and who you interact with throughout. These are often games that expect you to stick around for at least dozens of hours, and buy the season passes and whatever other monetisation the publisher thinks they can get away with, and they do that by making the worlds immersive places to spend time in. The narration in Biomutant kills any hint of that by, in a stunningly poor decision, replacing all of the dialogue in the game with narration.
I can’t quite get over how much of a misstep this is. So much of the characterisation opportunity of every single NPC is immediately flushed down the toilet and replaced by a tonally inconsistent middle-class British guy. All we’re left with are some vaguely interesting anthropomorphic generic-post-apocalyptic models, not a single one of which has any defining character.
The narration occasionally gives you verbatim transcripts of what the character has said but more often provides instead a summary, further removing any hint of characterisation from the game’s dialogue. Sometimes this seems to be trying to be funny – it really isn’t though – but most of it is played straight, in another baffling decision. The world design is clearly comic, with little animal people running around in Fallout cosplay, silly names for things and NPCs, and all that aforementioned neon paint, but much of the narration leans away from the innate silliness, leaving just the feeling that I’m playing in a badly scripted post-collapse Peppa Pig episode – except that even in Peppa Pig the characters get to have voices.
So tonally the game is wildly off the mark. I guess we should also talk about the gameplay.
Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot to say about it. It’s fine. It’s ok. You’ve played a recent Assassin’s Creed or Horizon game? It’s like that, but not as well tuned. I’ll grant that movement feels good; the character you play runs and jumps around with a speed and agility that seems befitting of a little fox person. Combat, however, feels imprecise and floaty, with targeting and auto-lock being inconsistent at best and an active hindrance at worst. Ranged weapons in particular are often wildly (and intentionally) inaccurate, leaving them feeling quite unsatisfying to use compared to the melee options.
To the game’s credit it gives you a customisable mech quite early on. (Frankly, more games should do this, regardless of genre or setting.) Sadly the mech suffers from the same imprecise combat, especially noticeable with its ranged options, but stomping around in a 20ft metal monster is always going to be fun to some degree.
This customisation aspect leans into another Late 2010s Video Game staple – an overcomplicated loot system with upgrades and crafting liberally sprinkled throughout. Cross it off your bingo card. As with all games that do this – it’s bad – there’s far too much loot with minimal stat differences to filter through, you’ll pick up far too much of it to even really care, and the “best” stuff almost always looks terrible leaving you forced to choose between a character who you can stand to look at or being the model of efficiency who got dressed in a skip, in the dark.
The version of Biomutant that I played was the new PS5 release. Performance was fine and graphically the environments are very pretty, though not particularly original, feeling a bit like Last of Us or Horizon’s green-apocalypse with a touch of Borderlands’ irreverence thrown in. Fur, though, is something that is often a challenge for graphic engines. That makes the decision to have every single character in the game completely covered in fur a brave one, for sure, though it doesn’t quite work. Often characters appear shimmery, overly reflective or just… off, in a furry uncanny valley kind of way. I’d hesitate to say it looks bad, it’s just not quite there. There is though, in a saving grace, an excellent electrocution animation triggered whenever your character fails a puzzle. I will freely admit to failing several on purpose to see it repeated.
Overall, it’s hard to recommend Biomutant when there are so many other games doing similar things better. The narration absolutely murders any immersion or character that the game might have salvaged from its focus-grouped setting, while the gameplay mechanics just aren’t strong enough to carry the game alone. Having one of these aspects work would raise the game to a respectable middle-of-the-road 7/10 Late 2021s Video Game, but failing on both leaves a world that sadly isn’t worth exploring.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.