"Hellboy: The Science of Evil"
Reviewed for: Xbox 360 and Playstation 3
Also available for: PSP
From: Krome Studios/Konami
ESRB Rating: Teen (blood and gore,
mild language, violence)
By Billy O'Keefe
Sometimes, even games not licensed after a movie can suffer from the dreaded summertime bug known as movie tie-in disease.
Witness, for instance, "Hellboy: The Science of Evil." Though not based on the current "Hellboy" movie and buoyed by a storyline written expressly for the game, "Evil" bears all the scars and warts of a game that was rushed to market for reasons other than because it was polished and ready.
At its core, "Evil" plays like a "God of War" knockoff, mixing in third-person hand-to-hand combat with the rare environmental puzzle and boss fight. Everything from the semi-fixed-camera perspective to the button-masher-friendly controls should look immediately familiar to any fans of "War." Given the physical similarities between Hellboy and Kratos, it's hard to fault Krome Studios for aping the formula as much as it does.
It's just a shame Krome isn't as adept as Sony at making it work. As mentioned already, "Evil" is rife with signs of rushed development, including sloppy combat and hit detection, unimaginative boss battles and a lack of variety when it comes to both Hellboy's arsenal and the enemies on which he unleashes it. Though the various levels look different from one another, the objective — mindlessly kill wave after wave of enemies using the same technique on almost every one — remains almost mind-numbingly consistent throughout.
Such one-track gameplay would be fine were it not for "Evil's" most glaring flaw: pokiness. Hellboy is awfully slow on his feet, and his attacks fare no faster. The similar lack of urgency on his enemies' part makes for a fair fight, but all this slowness denies "Evil" of the fluidity and intensity that makes the "War" formula so much fun. Without the speed needed to keep players on their toes, the limitations of the genre become distressingly apparent, and all that repetition becomes impossible to ignore.
It's a shame, too, because "Evil" does have its strong points. The story is pretty entertaining, and while there isn't as much of it as one might hope, the voice acting does come courtesy of the same people who embody the characters on film. "Evil" supports both offline and online two-player co-op, and "Hellboy" fanatics should elect to play this way if they absolutely must play the game at all. Just be sure to select Hellboy before your friend does: Pokey though he may be, he's still considerably more fun to play as than either Liz or Abe.
(c) 2008, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.