It’s a comment that I see bandied about on a regular basis and one that is rarely accurate. Anything seen to be remotely ugly or a little rough around the edges is proclaimed to look like a PS2 game, but in actuality, most are simply lacking visual flair or imagination. It’s very rarely that you will find a modern video game that, on a technical level, actually looks like a PS2 game.
Well, Toro actually looks like a PS2 game………no, it really does. On a fundamentally technical level, Toro looks like a PS2 game – a very ugly PS2 game at that. Honestly, this game is strikingly unattractive. It is devoid of anything resembling artistic design, it’s blocky, muddy, has horrendous character animations. The environments are bland and uninspiring while the character models of both humans and bulls alike are almost laughably bad. On the plus side though, the loading times are incredibly fast.
I would love to say that shoddy visuals (and that’s me being polite) were the only problem with this game, but below that unpleasant veneer lies an oversimplified, awkward and repetitive mess. Toro might have raised an interesting conversation on the potential merits and cultural relevance of a video game based upon the morally questionable sport of bullfighting had it been a decent, or even a passable experience, but as it stands, any such discussion would feel utterly pointless given the complete lack of emotion that this game elicits.
Split into three vaguely separated rounds per event, Toro asks you to simultaneously enrage the bull and subsequently win the applause and adoration of the crowd. This is done by completing simple combos and attempting to string them together into larger combos without getting yourself gored by the bull. Being gored sounds horrible (I’m sure that it is), but here, it only serves as a combo breaker while offering up a chance to feast your eyes upon the games’ horrendous animations and implausibly shocking physics.
Round one and two are essentially the same and see you timing your combos around the bull’s movements. The final round is nothing more than a very simple quick time event representing the Estocada (the ultimate killing of the bull). That might sound distasteful to some (again, there is a potential conversation to be had regarding Toro’s place within an industry that includes the mass murder of endangered animals to make larger ammo pouches – we’re looking at you Far Cry 4), but really, in practice, Toro lacks the ability to shock in that regard. Everything is too clunky, too repetitive – the only thing shocking here is the complete lack of quality control.
Yes, in the moment, the system works just about well enough to make you want to finish each round with as high a score as possible, but that’s just the gamer in you – you enter combos and a score goes up – of course you want it to go as high as possible. The question is, after that first go, will you be compelled to go back, to beat your score or to move onto new and equally horrible looking environments? The answer will almost certainly be no. This three round set-up continues on for the rest of the mercifully short career, and other than the aforementioned change of locations and the occasional piece of new gear, there is very little to differentiate one bout from the next.
There are two mini games that round off the package, but these are equally dire. The first of these offers up a chance for the bull to get revenge via a type of home run derby that sees you smashing the bullfighter as far as possible in a mode that reminded me of an awkward and clumsy take on International Track & Field. It’s extremely basic and will be almost immediately forgotten, but it does at least offer some form of extremely fleeting entertainment (if only for another chance to enjoy those terrible physics in all of their gravity defying glory). The second however is a simple QTE event that has you pressing the correct buttons to ensure that the bull smashes through the seemingly endless collection of wooden gates in his path. A slight amount of control is required to line up the bull with the gate, but it’s limited at best with most of the challenge coming from the simple and repetitive button prompts. You’ll play it once and forget about – much like the rest of the game.
I haven’t played every game on the Xbox One, but I like to think that I’m aware of just about all of them and I’m willing to bet the farm that Toro is the ugliest of the bunch by some distance. It’s not just the looks though – I could forgive the looks if the gameplay was worth a damn, but again, Toro fails to deliver on just about every level. This is repetitive, redundant stuff that is made all the worse by its array of technical limitations and poorly implemented ideas. The thing is, whatever your views on the ‘sport’ of bullfighting, there is a potentially decent video game to be made from the concept……sadly, Toro is not that game.
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