Sunday, 1 April 2012

Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters (PS3 Video Game Review)

For years licensed games have been consistently known as being failures. Attempts to cash in on a film and quickly squirt out something to get a series or movie a small amount of money with apparently the least possible effort. There have been repeat offenders towards this, Transformers I’m looking at you, and many which have failed due to the company making the film pressuring the people making their game.

So considering these points how does Green Lantern fair? In all honesty it’s actually not bad. It’s nothing groundbreaking but considering it’s from a genre which produced such games as Superman 64, Catwoman, Thor and Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis it’s outstandingly good. It’s the latest in a recent trend of licensed games which have been fairly fun for something I’d usually criticise, but it makes a lot of sense here. They’re copying more popular releases.
Due to the rushed schedule of licensed games to capitalize on their film’s release, developers don’t have as much time to work on an entirely new game as other titles do. Using an already successful game as a template makes for a much higher quality product. You can probably think of a few just off of the top of your head, Tron Evolution using many aspects of Prince of Persia, Captain America: Super Soldier have obvious elements of Arkham Asylum, especially in its combat. Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters is itself basically a God of War clone.

The story, as is the case with the better licensed games mentioned above, distances itself from the plot of the film as much as possible. During the funeral of Abin Sur the now homicidal predecessors to the Green Lantern Corps, the robotic Manhunters, return to the Corps’ base of power on Oa to try and enact a campaign of revenge. The player uses Hal Jordan to try and hold off the legions of robots in their invasion attempt and get to the bottom of who is apparently helping them from behind the scenes.
Unfortunately, anyone who has read the comics knows who this will be right from the first cutscene. The player also isn’t given much more of a story than the first cutscene and it’s only a single line which gives the background to the Manhunters, so the basic story isn’t that great. There are some parts of it which stand out though such as the inclusion of elements from the Green Lantern mythos such as the Zamarons and the use of the different energy types (yellow, blue etc) give spikes of interest, but it’s overall unremarkable.

What does help it a lot is the voice acting which for the most part is good. The quality in which Ryan Reynolds delivers his lines varies greatly, frequently sounding directionless or phoning in his performance but when he’s given something of substance to work with he gives some emotion to his character. Sinestro’s voice actor, Martin Csokas, gives a much more villainous sounding performance than Mark Strong but seems into the character and Kevin Michael Richards delivers a very solid Kilowog. Other background figures such as Ganthet have good voice acting talent behind them, so while the hero might be giving an occasionally lackluster performance those he’s talking with can usually pick up the slack.

So that’s the story related stuff out of the way now for the graphics and gameplay. As I mentioned before this is mostly a God of War clone so you already know what to expect, lots of hacking and slashing, but unfortunately the Green Lanterns don’t allow blood crazy madmen into their ranks. As such there’s no gory finishers or watching as Kilowog rips the eye out of a cyclopse after stabbing it repeatedly or dismembering Manhunters. Actually, for the first part of the game the Manhunters really don’t stand out very well as the villains. The average muscle bound linebackers with energy swords backed up by Iron Man clones with projectiles don’t present that much of a challenge.
You could be fighting over a dozen of them at once and you’ll never run the risk of them taking off any health, much less killing you.
This does thankfully change later on to provide you with some challenges, but it can become a real slog to get through the early stages on Oa to reach the game’s more interesting challenges. One thing which does help keep you interested in playing, and makes up for the lack of gore, is the way the energy constructs are used.

While what the Lanterns start out with is fairly generic, just a pair of sword constructs and giant fists, what you unlock and buy quickly starts to make the game fairly interesting. One especially fun very early edition is the Grab Throw which allows you to summon a hug three pronged claw, pick up enemies and then lob them several meters in any direction. Being able to use enemies as projectile weapons to destroy targets, others in their squad or throw them off bridges proved to be endlessly entertaining and it only got better once more abilities were unlocked.
Between cluster missile launchers, flying buzzsaw blades, jet fighters, a giant freaking assault mech, it is clear Double Helix Games was trying to give some variety to how you took out enemies. Some are definitely broken, spamming the aforementioned jet will kill anything in your way, but it remains undeniably amusing. Even more so when you’re playing co-op and have two people doing it at once, sure it’s repetitive hack and slash gameplay but it’s fun repetative hack and slash gameplay.

Unfortunately the third playable mode, Take Flight, is fairly dull by comparison. It’s just a rail-shooter and in all honesty not a very good one at that. You just fly, dodge and shoot down enemies, killing hordes of them over and over again. And while the other two modes do pretty much that, they at least have some innovative ways of slaughtering Manhunters in them. The only noteworthy thing is the environments and backgrounds in this mode, both of which look very nice, but you see far better in the other two modes.

The environments in the core gameplay mode look very nice, while you’re limited to ruins at the beginning there’s much more variety displayed as you keep playing ranging from the catacombs containing the central power battery to the Manhunter’s stronghold on Biot. Each has its own type of atmosphere and has been artistically designed to have its own theme and feel to it and they’re well done, at least on par with the designs of War for Cybertron. Speaking of War for Cybertron, one of the reasons I specifically mentioned the backgrounds is this one of the few other games which displays the sheer scale of war in the same way.
The first level you enter shows a massive Manhunter invasion force behind you, demolishing buildings, bombing cities and landing troops. The specific way it’s shot and is displayed emphasises your small role but makes you feel like you’re a part of a much bigger fight. It also helps offset the average graphics which, while a cut above that of other licensed games, are visibly worse than stuff like Arkham City.

Between its enjoyable hack and slash gameplay, short campaign and co-operative; Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters is fun if flawed and short lived. It’s a good game to rent for a weekend and blitz through with a friend, but unless you are a fan of both the comics and film it’s not worth buying. Even then it’s only worth getting if you can find a copy with a very cheap price tag attached.


Green Lantern and all related characters and media are owned by DC comics. Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters was developed by Double Helix Games.

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