Game Review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Dave Letcavage

The wait for a great TMNT game continues...

We've reviewed three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games in Pure Xbox's lifetime, and the highest any of those games scored was a 3/10. That's pretty dire, huh? Not since TMNT: Turtles in Time landed on the Super Nintendo back in 1992 have fans received a genuinely great game based on this timeless entertainment property, and that hurts. So when we heard that the action wizards at PlatinumGames were developing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, a co-op brawler with overt similarities to Bayonetta and Transformers: Devastation, we were filled with an overwhelming sense of hope. However, now that we've saved New York City from the clutches of imminent doom, we have to admit that our hope has been put through the shredder.

In Mutants in Manhattan, General Krang and Shredder team up to take over New York City, but the extent of their plans is unclear. The setup is similar to Batman: Arkham Origins, where the events take place in one evening, while a cavalcade of notable enemies come out of the shadows to cause problems for the turtles. But the narrative here is paper thin and amounts to little more than an excuse for players to face off against iconic TMNT villains. Thankfully, these characters, which are based on the IDW comics, have been handled with a great deal of respect. The models look, move, and, for the most part, sound like the characters we've known for over 30 years, which helps to make up for the banality of the plot.

The visuals, while clearly not as impressive as most current-gen games, succeed because the gritty-meets-glossy cel-shaded art style gels so well with the source material. Again, the main characters, enemies, and animations are so fluid and spot on that we wish the rest of the game received the same amount of love and careful consideration. Like Platinum's last game, Transformers: Devastation, the environments are where the art direction loses its luster, as the lifeless suburbs, recycled sewers, and bland skyscrapers lack variety and are visually uninteresting. It cheapens the overall presentation substantially, especially when directly compared to the nearly perfect, detailed renditions of Bebop, Rocksteady, and Armaggon, just to name a few.

But it's not only the look of the environments that diminishes the quality of Mutants in Manhattan; it's the uninspired, humdrum layout of the levels and the mundane activities found within. Certain settings, like the suburbs and rooftops of NYC, are wide open and spacious, aping the feel of a constrained sandbox environment. But other than the level-ending boss battles, the only thing to do in these "arenas" is rush to the randomly-generated missions and meet an objective before time runs out. You can collect some pickups and collectibles scattered throughout the levels, but it's not a rewarding enough process to be of merit.

Surprisingly, the missions that simply ask you to beat down all baddies are easily the most satisfying, while activities that require the transportation of money or bombs are poorly designed and equate to a chore. This inconsistency means Mutants in Manhattan is frequently bogged down by its dull and frustrating mission structure, which is exacerbated by a couple of poorly-conceived enemy types – like Foot soldiers that tie you up in chains so tightly that you can't move until a friendly runs up and sets you free – that probably shouldn't even be in the game due to how consistently their attacks disrupt the flow of battle.

When it comes to putting the hurt on foes, Mutants in Manhattan adopts the hack-and-slash combat from Bayonetta and Transformers: Devastation, waters it down, and adjusts it ever-so-slightly for multiplayer conditions. It's a two-button attack format that largely amounts to mindless button mashing until it's time to dodge or execute a special move. Even though the combat is much less technical, rewarding, and combo-driven than the aforementioned games, the special moves do inject the online co-op scenarios with a needed sense of strategy. For example, synchronizing Leonardo's time-slowing ability with team-up combos ensures your opponent can't evade the resulting damage. You don't need to be this calculated to overcome the game's nine bosses, but it certainly gives you an advantage and makes your involvement more fulfilling.

The boss battles undoubtedly make for the most memorable and thrilling moments in the game, ending most of the nine levels on a relatively high note. These tank-like mutants can take quite the beating, making each battle feel like a matter of both skill and endurance. It's usually just the turtles against a single boss, but it is possible for another one of the game's big bads to show up during a battle. We couldn't deduce the criteria necessary to trigger these encounters, as the game makes no obvious attempt to communicate their existence; they just kind of... happen. But when Bebop unexpectedly lunges into the ring during a brawl with Rocksteady, you'll no longer care why or how it happened.

Sadly, though, boss battles also expose some of the kinks in the combat system. For one, dodging isn't as reliable and precise as it is in the Bayonetta series. Even during our second playthrough, we struggled to dodge with efficiency on a consistent basis, a problem we've never encountered in a Platinum game. With four turtles wildly slashing away at a single foe in fairly small arenas, it's sometimes a struggle to identify enemy attack patterns through all the stylized weapon effects and surrounding chaos. You're going to take hits that you feel you don't deserve – that's just the way it is. You're also going to suffer many KOs during these showdowns, which is irritating because you have to rely on your AI or human teammates to constantly revive you.

When you play in single-player mode, you'll be able to assume the role of any of the four turtles at any point during battle. While it's nice to be able to switch on the fly and not feel committed to one character for the duration of a level, constantly rotating between characters during boss battles – to make use of each turtle's special attacks – makes things feel sloppy and unfocused. Furthermore, there are too many scenarios where you have to rely on the AI to revive or assist you. For the most part, your AI teammates are disciplined and helpful, but we did run into numerous occasions where the AI was stuck on walls or incapable of traversing the environment without hindrance. To put it simply, single player is not the ideal way to play.

Which brings us to online co-op. By teaming up and conversing with other human players via matchmaking or private matches, some of the game's tedium melts away. If you're going to take a chance on Mutants in Manhattan despite our warnings, this is the way we recommend playing. But not even online co-op functions without a hitch, as we have encountered a few glitches – enemies are sometimes only visible to the host, some enemies don't take damage – that negatively impacted the experience. Make no mistake, regardless of the Platinum sheen that shows so wonderfully in the trailers, this is a game that's suffered from a strict development cycle and/or limited budget.

A single playthrough of Mutants in Manhattan lasts between 4-5 hours. In a way, that length is even shorter when you consider that an hour of it is dedicated to re-fighting every one of the bosses toward the end of the game – a cheap tactic used to artificially pad the length of an adventure. There is a leveling system, as well as unlockable and upgradable special moves and buffs, but it's not really substantial enough to serve as a reward for multiple playthroughs.

Conclusion

You could refer to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan as the best TMNT game in years, but that really doesn't mean much. While there's a moderately entertaining co-op experience underneath the lazy level design, short game length, bland missions, occasional bugs, and minor kinks in the combat system, the quality and value most certainly aren't in line with what we expect from a $50 game. Sure, it could be worse (look at the last three TMNT games, for example), but it's especially heartbreaking considering Platinum's history of delivering fantastic action games. This is not Bayonetta. It's not even Transformers: Devastation. Don't shell out your hard-earned cash when you could spend it on delicious pizza instead.

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User Comments (24)

KelticDevil

#1

KelticDevil said:

Platinum is one of the most "hit or miss" development companies in gaming. For every Bayonetta or Vanquish, we get garbage like this TMNT game.

I know these licensed games are a good way to make some easy $, but maybe Platinum should stick to their own IP's. They are even starting to make me worried about Scalebound.

Vincent294

#2

Vincent294 said:

Disappointing, guess I'll get that Transformers game instead. Activision rush this to the market in time for the movie sequel?

Anthinator

#3

Anthinator said:

@KelticDevil It seems to me that Platinum is composed of an A team and a B team, with the latter developing licensed games like this and Transformers: Devastation. These games — while not up to the standards of Bayonetta and Vanquish — probably sell well and generate enough income for them to make their AAA games.

Rezalack

#4

Rezalack said:

@KelticDevil As long as Kimiya is involved it should be good. His track record is always grade A stuff. Anything else Platinum does is not that great, barring Vanquish.

Gamer83

#6

Gamer83 said:

@KelticDevil
Scalebound and the new Nier game were two I had my eyes. Forget it now. I'm convinced Bayonetta 2 was only good because Nintendo was funding it and frankly needed the game to be great so it wasn't going to allow anything less. I don't like the excuses for this game either. 'It was budgeted,' 'Activision rushed them.' People need to stop it. It's a TMNT game, the older ones could be blasted through in 3 hours tops but were infinitely replayable because of great gameplay, particularly the co-op, and strong level design. You don't need a $50 million to make a freaking Ninja Turtles game, I'm sorry, you just don't. Sick of people constantly letting developers off the hook, but then again people are still excusing Capcom for Street Fighter V so what the hell do I know? I guess I'm just entitled.

KelticDevil

#7

KelticDevil said:

@Gamer83

Exactly. People constantly making excuses for these companies is why we get crap like this in the first place.

And you aren't entitled. You just want the TMNT game you deserve for your money. There's nothing wrong with that. And there is no excuse for Platinum not delivering on this game. Anyone that tells you any different, tell them to.......nevermind. Family website.

SuperKMx

#8

SuperKMx said:

@KelticDevil "And there is no excuse for Platinum not delivering on this game. Anyone that tells you any different, tell them to.......nevermind."

As a software developer, I would say there are a number of reasons why this hasn't turned out the way it should. Not making excuses as I don't know their development policies, management practices, staffing levels, budgets, or anything like that.

But I know that I've started software projects for clients and had management constraints, budget cuts, and moving deadlines restrict the scope of what I was making and eventually the software was worse as a result. If someone said there was "no excuse" and that I wasn't good enough at my job because I couldn't do 12 months work in 3 weeks, I wouldn't be best pleased.

JaxonH

#9

JaxonH said:

@Gamer83
They absolutely should be held accountable and called out for garbage like this. Of course I think it's only fair that Activision (it is Activision, right?) take their part of the blame as for all we know they gave them a shoestring budget to work with and 6 months to do it in.

I never think excuses should be made where the developers shouldn't be held accountable for garbage. But at the same time I think it's important to acknowledge their achievements.

Bayonetta 1 and Bayonetta 2 were both brilliant games. Vanquish and Wonderful 101 were also both brilliant games. Metal Gear Rising Revengeance was a top-shelf game. And although it wasn't to my taste, many would agree Madworld was a solid game as well. Star Fox Guard and Zero were developed at the direction of Nintendo (Star Fox Guard is brilliant though, really). EDIT And even going back as far as Clover Studios you had gems like Okami and Viewtiful Joe, and the divisive God Hand (some hated it, others loved it- divisive seems to be their m.o. which we saw- albeit to a lesser degree- with Infinite Space and W101).

It seems there is a less experienced team at Platinum that is handling licensed work- Korra, Transformers, and TMNT. It is because of these games people are questioning the credibility of Platinum. And they should. But I do think it's important to make the distinction between which team at Platinum is making a given game. Based on the evidence, the team handling licensed games is mediocre at best and downright embarrassing at worst. But the teams with Kamiya or Hashimoto at the helm... those teams crank out some incredible games and have a really impressive portfolio to show for it. I think most would agree that Scalebound and Nier Automata look very promising, and with Platinum's A-team track record I don't think too many are concerned they will be anything less than amazing.

Grawlog

#10

Grawlog said:

Man, it must be nice to have complete control over every aspect and person involved in whatever your jobs produce. I'd love to be able to always produce a quality end product regardless of what all the other hands in the pot decide to do.

Something like this and something like SFV are very different and do require being judged differently. SFV is inexcusable because Capcom had complete control of development and publishing. Sony may have bankrolled it, but they clearly took the path of letting Capcom do their thing. After SFIV, did anyone think that Capcom would really abandon core content that made that title great? Obviously not, hence the outcry.

Platinum could be taken to task for accepting jobs like this, and perhaps too much work at once, but taking contract work is always going to be challenging and restricted by the demands of the customer. In this case, Activision being what they are is a convincing enough factor to give Platinum the benefit of the doubt on this one. Doesn't mean I'm going to support them by buying this game, but I'm not going to swear them off over it.

Anyway. Great review as always. Going to give this a pass.

Gamer83

#11

Gamer83 said:

@JaxonH
Yeah, it's Activision and I'm not letting that company off the hook either, but you have to know what you're getting into when signing up to do work for that company. But again, after what was achieved with far lesser technology and I'd guess even budget, back in the day, I'd expect a quality developer like Platinum to be able to at least get out a good TMNT game. I have respect for the studio's history and have played several Platinum games (which includes MadWorld) that I've loved and that's why I'm disappointed by crap like this and it shakes my confidence in other games. I hope it all ends up being unfounded and Scalebound and NieR Automata are awesome games but right now? They've dropped significantly on my most-wanted list. Fair or unfair, it is what it is. When a company puts out a string of garbage games, and the last few with the Platinum label have been just that, its games are going to fall behind others. Hell as much as I loved Deus Ex: Human Revolution and can't wait for Mankind Divided I am a bit concerned taking into account that mobile trash SE and Eidos released. It shows to me a lack of care for your products.

jasper81

#12

jasper81 said:

I've got to be honest I like this game I think its pretty good. It feel's and plays good its got its proplems yes but I only paid £30.00 for it and I'm enjoying it alot.

KelticDevil

#14

KelticDevil said:

@SuperKMx

I get what you're saying. But this is a licensed property game being published by Activi$ion. Plantinum can't be that naive in not knowing how this may turn out. I just don't think they care. Like someone else said, this type of game is one that makes them some quick $ while they develop games like Bayonetta, Vanquish, Scalebound, etc.

I just think it looks bad for a company to do something like that with a treasured IP like TMNT. Everyone always wants to blame the big, evil corporate publisher like Activi$ion. But Platinum should not be given a free pass here. You have to know what you are signing up for in these situations.

Gamer83

#15

Gamer83 said:

@Utena-mobile
I've scratched NieR off the list, mainly because I wasn't the biggest fan of the first and if it's coming out this year there's too many other games coming out from studios I trust. I haven't completely written off Scalebound because of Hideki Kamiya. He's been part of teams that have made some of my favorite games, but I'd be lying if I said I'm 100% confident in it. MS needs it to be a hit though, and MS is a good publisher, so there is that. At the very least time will be given to make sure it's passable. I can't say that about NieR, it certainly doesn't have to be a hit because SquareEnix has Final Fantasy XV, which should sell enough to make up for any flops.

shonenjump86

#16

shonenjump86 said:

Since Activision has the license to TMNT doesn't the blame go on them? Of course Platinum is at fault too. They make great games like Bayonetta and Vanquish yet they couldn't get TMNT right. :/

Gamer83

#17

Gamer83 said:

@Utena-mobile
The studio is definitely spread too thin, I completely agree with you on that. Telltale does the same thing and the quality of its games have started to suffer because of it.

EternalDragonX

#18

EternalDragonX said:

I'd love to see a Lego TMNT with an open world like Lego Marvel. I don't see why its so hard to make a good TMNT game.

JaredJ

#19

JaredJ said:

@EternalDragonX That sounds awesome! I believe there was a Lego TMNT line of toys recently released so I can't see why there can't be a game.

Gamer83

#20

Gamer83 said:

@JaredJ @EternalDragonX

At this point, might as well try it. Worst case scenario is another bad TMNT game, we've had several already. Best case is it gets both the TMNT and Lego video game properties back on track. While I feel like a lot of recent Lego games have been hit or miss, there have been some great ones. I really liked some of the older Lego Star Wars games. If they can make Star Wars work in that universe there's no reason not to at least try and see if TMNT works, assuming there's no licensing issues preventing it.

RustyBullet

#23

RustyBullet said:

Great example of having your hands in too many baskets, I love most of what Platinum do. But months ago I was having a discussion with some colleagues just about Platinum. The studio just seamed to be working on too much and something was going to be hit hard by it, now it was less likely to be Scalebound (Microsoft's clout behind it) and I hope NieR is also a hit, We came to the conclusion that we were all going to be upset and disappointed with the Turtles. I am old enough to have been a fan of the Turtles a long time, and I really wanted a great game to come from Platinum. Ah well....next time maybe.

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