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PSP/PS3/X360 Preview - 'Hellboy'

by Thomas Wilde on Feb. 5, 2007 @ 5:23 a.m. PST

Hellboy lets players step into the muscle bound frame of Hellboy, a hulking crimson-skinned warrior of supernatural creation. On the trail of a crazed witch, Hellboy uncovers a fiendish plot for world domination and must rush to defeat the crazed Hermann von Klempt before he can exert his evil will on a hapless world.

Genre : Action
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Krome Studios
Release Date: Q2 2007

I was already interested in Hellboy the video game, since the comic books are some of the finest work in the medium, but then the gorilla with the chaingun showed up.

What can I say? I’m a man of simple pleasures.

Hellboy made a debut of sorts at Konami Gamers’ Day, after first showing up in a teaser at Konami’s pre-E3 show last year. While the characters are made to resemble their movie counterparts (so Liz Sherman looks like Selma Blair, and Ron Perlman is returning to his role as Hellboy), this isn’t a movie tie-in. Instead, it’s a brawler with a brand-new story, written by Krome Studios with input from Hellboy’s creator Mike Mignola and Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro.

You play Hellboy as the title character, a demon of the apocalypse turned paranormal investigator, as he fights occult threats, Nazis, occult Nazis, and all manner of other monsters across the world. Most of the time, you can pound enemies to death with Hellboy’s right hand, using punch combos and a variety of brutal grab moves. You could just knock a monster’s head off with your fist, or you can grab it and use it as a projectile, or yank its head clean off its body. Several of the larger monsters, such as the aforementioned chaingun gorilla (at least, I think it’s a gorilla), will also require context-sensitive commands, a la God of War. In the event you can’t reach an enemy, you also have access to Hellboy’s hilariously oversized revolver.

Hellboy can use his fist to pound down walls and access new areas, or pick up a surprisingly large number of items in his environment and use them as weapons. The more items you destroy and enemies you defeat, the more energy you absorb, eventually further powering up Hellboy’s attacks. Notably, Krome is trying to work the game so Hellboy doesn’t have a visible health meter in the final version. As anyone who has read the comics can tell you, Hellboy spends a typical case getting the crap kicked out of him, so the game will probably be no different.

In the 360 and PS3 versions of Hellboy, you have the option of playing cooperatively with friends. One player controls Hellboy, who takes the role of the offensive powerhouse, while the others play as the merman Abe Sapien and the pyrokinetic Elizabeth Sherman (who, for the sake of the game, has also mastered a bit of telekinesis). Abe fights with acrobatic kicks and punches while Liz mostly sets people on fire, but the majority of their moves are meant to set enemies up for Hellboy to come in and finish them off. Liz and Abe aren’t the only playable characters, either; apparently, the game will contain a new character that wasn’t in the movie, but is in the comics. (I’d guess it’s Roger the homonculus, but no one at the show was able to say.)

There were two playable levels available at the show. One was set in a crumbling Romanian village, where Hellboy was dogged at every step by small, skull-throwing imps. He could pick them up, wrench their little heads off, then throw the heads like grenades, or simply batter them to death with his fists, a barrel, or a pipe he yanked off a wall.

The other stage was set on the battlements of a castle somewhere, where Hellboy’s natural enemy, the undead Nazi, was on the prowl. Some tried to enter melee with Hellboy, while others were smart enough to bring machine guns. Either way, there were plenty of loose flagstones to hit them with if the fist or revolver failed, and then the giant Frankensteinian monsters started showing up. It was smoothly animated and looked good, with Hellboy’s arm constantly glowing in a nicely demonic sort of fashion. The only criticism I’d have is that Hellboy didn’t have his trademark coat, so he wound up looking less like himself and more like a red version of DC Comics’s Blue Devil.

The PSP version is a little different from the others. Instead of being a port, it’s a different game entirely, with exclusive abilities for Hellboy, new and shorter levels, and hand-painted textures to provide a cleaner, more readily visible look. Hellboy had many of his grab and punch moves in the PSP version, but the action was pulled further back to accommodate the needs of a portable system.

Hellboy was still really early code when I played it, so it’s difficult at best to make any real pronouncements about it. It looks good, but it’ll need some solid level design and challenging enemies to avoid a bad case of Just Another Brawler Syndrome. I’ll be looking forward to playing the final version sometime this year.


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