The digital adventures of Bear Grylls and his reality TV show, Man vs. Wild, are pretty close to the worst thing I’ve ever played. Really thinking about it, I’d say the actual worst thing I ever played was the saxophone. I sounded terrible on that thing.
Now that’s what Man vs. Wild is: a bad joke. It’s uglier than Hitler in a tutu offering you sexual favors, lazier than a Sunny afternoon spent on heroin, and dull enough that a weekend at your horny grandmothers with your kinky college roommate is a more attractive proposition by far. I’d rather drink my own piss than play it one second further.
…OK, that one I apologize for.
Man vs. Wild is effortlessly bad. While I was hardly expecting award winning material to begin with, that MvW has turned out this awful is practically an achievement in the field of low expectations. Honestly, I am impressed by how succinctly the game matches all my most cynical predictions.
As an adventure title, or at least as a game that makes claims of being an adventure title, I’d sooner recommend Mario Kart as an open world experience. There is, quite literally, not one deviation from the beaten path, and every level is a straight shot from point A to point B. Effectively, the entire thing is just a series of mini-games held together by narrow invisible corridors.
This lack of ambition suggests that MvW could very well have been pulled off on the generation before this, if not the one before that. Certainly five hours worth of running forward through low resolution environments is something the N64 and PlayStation pulled off on a regular basis. Honestly, by those standards there are a number of technically superior games to Man vs. Wild to have come out over a decade beforehand
Graphically, the sole indicator of modern generational power is that dirty screen effect so popular with developers these days. Otherwise, MvW is a painfully ugly game. The character model for Bear Grylls looks like they took Cole McGrath, star of the Infamous series, and stretched him out until he resembled an anorexic giant. The world he inhabits noticeably lacks definition, and plant life is just sort of there and all mushed together without every seeming like a living and breathing environment. The best word to describe it all is “dead”. Man vs. Wild looks like death.
Poor graphics – not to mention a whole host of other cosmetic problems – could be forgiven by quality gameplay. But Man vs. Wild is not that sort of title, and the gameplay more than easily matches the levels of mediocrity present throughout MvW. Indeed, it’s possible that MvW’s gameplay represents the worst of its failures, as not only are the mechanics badly made, they’re also very poorly thought out.
To begin, the timed button press maneuvers that make up the lions share of the games mechanics do not apparently require anything in the way of actual timing. I discovered this during an especially frustrating moment when the game would lag between me pushing a button and activating the corresponding action on screen. Eventually, as I came to realize that I needed to hit the button a few seconds earlier than might otherwise seem necessary, I subsequently realized that there was no penalty for pushing the buttons early. As soon as this mystery was solved, any pretense of difficulty swiftly left Man vs. Wild.
That said, even if the mechanics had worked to a half decent standard, I have to think the gameplay still would have sucked on account of some bright spark on the development team making the piss poor decision to randomize nearly every action. You’ll never learn how to defend yourself, or properly climb a mountain. Instead Mr. Grylls remains a constantly clueless adventurer throughout the game’s running time. There are so many different things going on in the game that they really missed an obvious chance to give the player a real sense of growing experience. Gradually, it all blends together, and between random and buggy mechanics you’ll end up spending most your time starting at a corner of the screen waiting for the game to tell you what to do next.
So, it’s ugly to look at, poorly designed, dull to play and as ambitious as taking your cousin to prom. There isn’t really a whole lot else to say, really. Star Bear Grylls makes an appearance as the games narrator, but his performance is neither good nor bad enough to inspire much comment. There’s a shit ton of extra content, production shots, little movie clips, stuff like that, and it makes me think their might have been some confusion in the offices of Crave Entertainment over whether they were making a game or a set of DVD extras.
Ultimately, Man vs. Wild is simply a bad game. It is not broken or unplayable, and there are a number of worse experiences to be had. Take playing a gameplay free edition of MGS2 while repeatedly being kicked in the crotch, for example. What makes MvW so terrible though, is that even had every aspect of the game been executed to perfection, the best it still could have hoped for was a very mediocre 3/5. When you set the bar that low to begin with, it really puts the notion of underachieving into perspective.
Do not buy this game, do not rent this game. If a friend offers you the chance to play his copy then burn your friend and flee the country.
Man vs. Wild was released on April 26th, 2011 for Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. Review is based on the PS3 version.