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Mike Mignola's stone-fisted demonic hero makes his first foray into the gaming world with this fairly enjoyable romp through past and present battles against the forces of darkness. Not for the young or overly sensitive, this game includes werewolves, witches and of course zombie Nazis - or is that Nazi zombies? One for Dad then.
Whether your first introduction to Hellboy was through Mignola's comic-book creation, or, like me, in Guillermo Del Toro's 2004 film you can't help but like the big red gruff demon (who files off his horns in an attempt to look more 'normal'). Ron Perlman re-creates the character perfectly and fortunately the game has the movie cast providing the voices (though this seems to be pretty standard nowadays with big-budget titles like this - having anyone else do the voices would just not be acceptable).
The plot of the game is, to say the least, a trifle confusing - with each chapter taking Hellboy either through a present day battle, or, with no discernable connection, back to a scenario from years before attempting to tie it all together at the end. While this can work in a film it seemed jarring to me while playing; maybe a little better handling of the jumps between periods would have eased the transitions somewhat.
Probably one for the early-teen audience as they will like the characters and Hellboy's one-liners still have a chance of making them laugh.
Gameplay itself is a bit of a mixed bag. While it was fun to stomp around raining havoc down on all the enemies, with some nice touches like throwing or kicking the bambini's exploding heads around, it quite soon became a frustratingly repetitive. Each level just seems to comprise of clearing an area of enemies to make a magical gate open, followed by - yes you guessed it - exactly the same again, maybe with a couple of slightly 'harder' enemies thrown in. Rinse and repeat half a dozen times before a 'boss battle' and then onto the next level.
Hellboy has some nice attacks and can pick up bits of the destructible scenery to wield to good effect against his foes. A variety of combos are available to you, though to be honest it really just comes down to mashing the X button, with the occasional use of a pick up and smash move to restore your energy. The environment can get in the way of these moves at times; with Hellboy snatching at thin air as you try to grab or whack an enemy who is apparently out of your reach though can certainly hit you. You can also perform a cool finishing move which will extract your opponent's weapon from them allowing you to give them some of their own medicine. Though for some reason they've seen fit to give you on-screen prompts every single time, which makes even the battles against the tougher enemies a bit like painting by numbers. Unfortunately all of the weapons you pick up - from slabs of tombstone to massive spears will disintegrate after a few strikes. Your other weapon is the trusty 'Samaritan' pistol which sounds great when fired. You'll pick up a variety of shells for it as you progress, with each being effective against certain enemies. Unfortunately the reload time is really long and manual aiming is a pig - though auto aiming works alright most of the time.
The final battle against what should be the biggest, baddest monster of all turns out to be a bit of a damp squib as well. I instantly thought 'oh look, a Zelda monster' when I saw the many-tentacled beast that looked rather like it had a flower on its head (not exactly scary) and sure enough it was a similarly styled battle with it becoming quickly apparent what was necessary for it's defeat.
my youngest son had to forego his penchant for playing games on 'easy' - but he still finished the game in around five or six hours.
Hellboy is not a particularly taxing game and I managed to complete it in around eight or nine hours; with no actual difficulty level options my youngest son had to forego his penchant for playing games on 'easy' - but he still finished the game in around five or six hours (or so he claimed!). He initially insisted that he was only playing it for achievements, but in the end he quite enjoyed it. It also made a re-appearance in split-screen co-op mode when a friend came over. In this mode one of you plays as Hellboy, and the other as either Liz Sherman or Abe Sapien, each of which has their own special range of attacks. The presence of these characters in the historical levels raises some interesting questions - like 'shouldn't Liz be in nappies?', and of course they won't be part of the cut-scenes. This is pretty much in common with a lot of co-op sections of games though and isn't really that important. The important thing is whether they had a good time and they did. And it was nice to actually have a game that could be played split screen co-op rather than online only (though of course Hellboy wont be making the 360 sweat as much as a Call of Duty 4 or Burnout Paradise.
In summary I would say that I had an ok time playing this game - I actually finished it so that must count for something (if it had been a difficult game as well I'm not sure this would have been the case though). It is let down by a few control issues, repetitive gameplay and confusing storyline, but is worth taking a look at - more so if your really into the character. One additional caveat to this is that it has limited replayability unless you fancy also playing through with a friend in co-op mode. I would say it's probably one for the early-teen audience as they will like the characters and Hellboy's one-liners still have a chance of making them laugh. More discerning gamers will probably find the repetition starting to really grind them down after a while.
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