The primary audience of a licensed game is fans of the license, so the main goal is always (or at least should be) to create a game that feels like the extension of the source material. Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse definitely feels very Family Guy; it’s chock full of raunchy humor and references to characters and episodes in the series. As often happens with licensed games however, there are many better examples of the included play style. To put it simply: those who love the idea of being able to fight the giant chicken will want to check it out; anyone who doesn’t know what that means will probably do better elsewhere.
The game begins when Stewie discovers that his nemesis Bertram has been traveling to alternate universes, building an army with the hopes of destroying his rival. Stewie and Brian must travel to these alternate universes and thwart Bertram’s plans, in order to save their own reality. The journey includes lots of references to Family Guy episodes and appearances by characters from the show, so fans will have a lot to look for.
Back to the Multiverse is a third person shooter with some platforming elements. The story mode can be played co-op, with one player controlling Stewie and the other Brian, or single player, switching back and forth between them. In the single player game, they share a common health pool, but each has a separate weapon set. Stewie carries more futuristic weapons of his own design, while Brian carries standardarmaments, like a 9mm pistol.
In addition to the base weapons, there are additional attacks, each with a character-specific variant. Stewie’s grenade is a poop-filled diaper, while Brian’s melee attack is swinging an empty whiskey bottle at foes. The functional differences are negligible, but they make the characters feel more true to the story and serve to differentiate them. Throughout levels, you’ll collect money, which can be used at the store to upgrade attack power and health, buy single use items, or purchase weapon and costume upgrades that you’ve unlocked.
Each universe has a theme, so in true Family Guy style, you’ll cover vastly different areas all tied together with a single narrative. Much like the show, the game holds nothing sacred, so in addition to a pirate themed universe you’ll also encounter one inhabited by the Amish, and one populated entirely by crippled people. Each universe has optional, setting-themed challenges that will unlock concept art or items for purchase in the store upon completion. All that said, standing in the top level of a barn, shooting Amish men with a sniper rifle and trying to kill all of their chickens feels right in line with what you would expect from a Family Guy game.
In addition to having objectives that fit the license, the game is littered with references to characters and episodes from the series. You’ll get level objectives from Mort and Seamus, and run across Death, Herbert and Tom Tucker, just to name a few. Even your single use items fit in; you can throw a bottle of Ipecac to make your foes puke, distract them with a wacky waving arms flailing inflatable tube man, or summon a Rupert turret. As a fan of the show, I have to admit watching a giant chicken run around punching enemies while “Surfin’ Bird” played in the background was pretty funny.
In addition to the story, the game has a challenge mode, where one or two players can attempt to complete objectives loosely based on the game’s levels. Based on the difficulty chosen, you’ll earn stars for completion. These unlock additional challenge levels, as well as additional characters and levels for multiplayer. The multiplayer supports two to four players, in standard games like deathmatch, horde mode and capture the flag (in this case capture the greased-up deaf guy).
As a third person shooter, Back to the Multiverse is competent, but nothing special. The controls are generally good, although on occasion my character would behave as though they were locked on to an enemy, moving relative to them instead of running free in the world, despite the game having no sort of lock on system. I found the in-game menu screens to be a bit touchy, and several times when trying to change items, I switched characters instead. The game is structured in a way to get you through it; health and ammo items found in levels regenerate, and store portals can also be found mid-level for picking up supplies. The checkpointing system is great, and it even saves your progress in boss fights.
Visually, the game presents the Family Guy style well, and both the character and area designs fit the series. The only consistent technical issue I had was screen tearing, which is common in some areas, but more of an annoyance than anything else. The audio has a sharp divide. The dialog recorded for the game by the original cast is good, generally funny and fits well. On the other hand, there are also a collection of voice samples from the series that are thrown in randomly and become repetitive over the course of the game. Some of them really stick out because they’re clearly part of a larger conversation – for example Brian saying “We’ll die if we don’t!” while picking up a random item makes no sense at all.
As an exercise in fan service, Back to the Multiverse hits a lot of notes that fans of the series will recognize and appreciate. It’s certainly offensive, but so is the source material, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. As a game, it’s a very average third person shooter that doesn’t do anything special, but doesn’t do anything horrible either. The value is determined by your feelings about Family Guy. If you like the show, then you’ll enjoy getting level objectives from Bruce, or randomly running across Peter singing “Milkshake.” If you don’t like the show, or you’re just looking for a third person shooter to play, your money and time will be better spent elsewhere.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.