Framing its "epic" tale inside Norse legend, Too Human introduces a future past where gods defend humanity from mythical mechanical monsters. Confused? Well, maybe that was the point.

Too Human has been in development since the halcyon days of the Nintendo 64, so it brings with it a lot of history and a fair amount of bad press. The game had a dreadful showing at the 2006 E3 convention, and there's an ongoing lawsuit against Epic Games, the creators of Human's Unreal Engine platform.

After more than a decade of development, this title should play smoothly and feature a sharp, focused narrative. Instead, it fails on both counts.

"Too Human"

System: Microsoft Xbox 360

Players: 1 (2 players online)

Price: $60

Rated: T for Teen

Who Should Buy It?: Hackers and slashers

GameOn! Grade: C

Players assume the role of the reborn Norse god Baldur on his quest to protect humanity and uncover the nature of a secret war between the gods and their foes. The game's first levels set the stage for the entire game: Baldur runs through caves and crypts with a squad of human soldiers, destroys hundreds of robotic foes and collects countless random items and weapons along the way.

Ostensibly, there's a deeper tale lurking somewhere in there. This isn't the age of vikings - Baldur and his troops wield energy rifles and high-tech melee weapons, and the elves and trolls are cybernetic monstrosities. The game attempts to bring players into this futuristic conflict, but the story falls flat (no thanks to some pretty dreadful dialogue).

Despite the story, fans of the action-role-playing genre created by titles like Diablo will recognize and possibly even like the gameplay formula - kill baddie, get loot, manage inventory. Rinse and repeat through the next five levels.

Combat in Too Human can be an enjoyable ballet of death and destruction, but that's rarely the majority of your experience. Puzzle-solving elements feel tacked-on and usually break the excitement of the game.

Players can join a friend online to go through the game cooperatively. This feels like the best way to experience Too Human, but unfortunately the story and cinematic elements are removed online, leaving five levels of mindless action with no context. Those who haven't played the game would likely be lost.

Too Human is the first in what is proposed as a trilogy of games. The developer might be able to fix a lot of the missed opportunities going forward, but this mediocre and shallow title is a rental at best.