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Constantine

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCi / Midway
Developer: Bits Studios

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PS2/Xbox/PC Preview - 'Constantine'

by Thomas Wilde on Feb. 7, 2005 @ 1:26 a.m. PST

Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo "Hellblazer" graphic novels, the supernatural thriller "Constantine" tells the story of John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), a man who has literally been to hell and back. When he teams up with skeptical policewoman Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) to solve the mysterious suicide of her twin sister, their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exists just beneath the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles. Caught in a catastrophic series of otherworldly events, the two become inextricably involved and seek to find their own peace at whatever cost.

Genre : Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Bits Studios
Release Date: February 14, 2005

For comic geeks such as myself, Constantine represents a sort of crash-course in bizarre filmmaking. The film is ostensibly based on a comic called Hellblazer, from DC Comics’s mature-readers Vertigo imprint, but the two are distinctly and drastically different. Hellblazer is a book from the Chainsmoking British Bastard school of UK fiction, about a subtle magician who has a tendency to leave bitter enemies and dead friends in his wake; Constantine is about a Californian magus with a “holy shotgun” who sometimes hangs out in Hell.

With that kind of disconnect between the source material and the final product, one could be excused for thinking that Constantine the video game would be something bizarre, like a fishing sim. In Hell.

Thankfully, it isn’t. (I’d play that, though.)

Instead, you’ll control John Constantine as he fights demons and monsters, throughout both Los Angeles and its Hellish counterpart. In more than fourteen levels, you’ll fight a host of demons in a series of events that’re both inspired by the film and designed exclusively for the game.

The first thing that hit me about the game is its environments. On Earth, you’ll visit some fairly mundane locations, such as a morgue or a bowling alley, with the expected side order of “creepy.” When the action switches to Hell, it translates the cityscape into the scene of some past apocalypse. Everything turns to ancient wreckage, demons openly prowl the streets, and it looks like ash is raining from an angry red sky. It’s a compelling image, made all the more so when the legions of Hell come to eat your face.

To combat said legions, you can find and wield a variety of firearms, such as the aforementioned holy shotgun (what makes it “holy,” anyway? the ammo?); vials of holy water; the well-named Crucifier, which shoots nails taken from martyrs’ hands; the dual pistols called the Witch’s Curse; and an artifact called the Moses Shroud that detonates in an area around Constantine.

By destroying demons, you can claim their souls for your own, and in so doing, increase Constantine’s magical power. When you cast spells, you enter a short-lived period of slow-motion (also known to people who are me as Mojo Time; I know, I’m strange), during which you can input new motions to cast a variety of spells. These include True Sight, which sees through illusions, detects half-breed demons, and reveals secrets; Hunger, for occasions when you really need a cloud of ravenous maggots that feast on the flesh of the unholy; Exorcism, to drive demons out of corpses or people that they’ve possessed; or Gateway, which uses special portals to move Constantine between Los Angeles and Hell.

One of the central hooks of Constantine’s gameplay is the Gateway spell, as what changes in L.A. may change in Hell, and vice versa. By teleporting back and forth from one to the other, you can destroy or evade various obstacles. A tunnel that’s blocked on Earth may not be in Hell.

Whether the film’s watchable or not, Constantine the game looks like a decent shooter. The magic system’s a nice touch, striking a balance between an elaborate spellcasting gimmick and the fact that elaborate spellcasting gimmicks tend to get you killed in fast-paced games like this one. Constantine is currently slated to be released later this month, alongside the film.


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