Usually, the rule of thumb for a video game based on a comic book inspired blockbuster film is that it’s a lesser product. This has proven to be the case countless times, from the ill-fated “Batman Forever” to the most recent release of “Thor: God of Thunder” (which could easily be retitled “Thor: God of Blunder”). There are some exceptions to the rule, such as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which, surprisingly, turned out to be better than the film. It’s looking like the same may hold true for “Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters,” the latest from the developers at Double Helix and Warner Bros. Interactive.
Granted, we haven’t seen the “Green Lantern” movie based on the DC Comics hero yet, so we can’t stick by that statement just yet. However, after playing a couple of stages from the video game, CBR News expect the whole game to be a worthwhile adventure, something both comic book fans and action gamers alike will enjoy.
The game doesn’t specifically follow the plot of the film. Rather, it takes place afterward, following Hal Jordan’s transformation into the latest Green Lantern guardian. At this point, he’s managed to get the hang of the ring’s superpowers, and he’ll need every last one of them as he fights to keep the galaxy at peace.
“Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters” takes place across three planets. The first is the planet of Oa, home base of the Guardians. It’s here that Jordan must work alongside his compatriots against the invading Manhunters, a robot protection force originally built to protect innocent people. The Lanterns have since taken their place, and the robots, hell-bent on delivering justice at any cost, attack in retaliation. The battle then spreads across two other planets, Zamaron and Biot, with Hal battling the Manhunters both in the sky and on the ground.
That’s one advantage that “Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters” has over other comic book-licensed games — it doesn’t stick with one particular type of gameplay. Rather, it distributes evenly along two. The first is fisticuffs-style combat, with Hal bashing enemies with ring-powered attacks of varying strengths. The second has Hal flying through the air, shooting at everything within his range through ring-powered blaster and missile attacks. After a hands-on with both of these gameplay types, we came away very impressed.
During ground combat, Hal has a number of attacks he can unleash on his enemies. He can combine weak and strong attacks together into combos, similar to the “God of War” games. This includes hitting an enemy multiple times, then launching into the air for a double-fisted ground smash. Hal can also use the ring to grapple nearby enemies and hurl them into the distance, or grab objects such as explosive mines to use as projectiles. This is particularly handy when clusters of attackers show up and start floating your way.
Along with punching and throwing enemies, Hal can also take them out using ranged attacks. You can associate up to four special techniques using the game’s sub-menu, simply by pausing it and picking which attacks you want to use. From there, to use these attacks, simply hold down the right shoulder button and one of the face buttons. These attacks vary, from firing off quick blasts to using a gatling gun. But be careful — these maneuvers use ring power, which takes time to regenerate. You don’t want to leave yourself short with Manhunters surrounding you.
In addition to ground combat and projectile attacks, Hal can also use the ring a few other ways. He can generate a shield to protect himself from incoming attacks or launch into a rushing charge move, either on the ground or jumping in the air. These charging moves are great when it comes to hitting a larger enemy, then immediately going into a combo to eliminate them.
The controls for this ground combat, from what we played in the demo, are excellent. Not once did we have an issue with not hitting our desired target, nor did we have any problems executing the type of attack we wanted to use. Our personal favorite is the gatling gun, which fires off a successful stream of lasers — perfect for groups of enemies.
You’ll also use your powers to solve the occasional puzzle-like situation. At one point in the game, you come under attack by Manhunters approaching through an opened portal. You can continue to take them down, but the most logical step is to close the portal. To do this, you’ll need to beat up the generator, then, once prompted, remove the activation cell by using your grapple, then throw it away before it explodes.
In another sequence, we found ourselves under attack by a floating tower. In order to subdue it, you need to fly over to a nearby panel and damage two breaker switches to reveal the main power source. From there you bash it to pieces and the tower comes tumbling down. These sequences really show the extent and ingenuity of Hal’s powers beyond just mindlessly pounding buttons.
The flight sequences comprise the other half of the game. These are “on-rails” along a predetermined path, so you don’t actually control which direction you’re flying. However, you can fly around within the space, using the right analog stick to evade incoming attacks and the left analog stick to control the on-screen cursor to aim at and shoot enemies.
Players can utilize a number of weapons against incoming enemies, all using the power of Hal’s ring. Constant blaster fire can be used to shoot enemies down and missiles lock on to whatever enemies you put in your sights, usually dispatching enemies with a single shot. Destroying enough Manhunters allows you to store up special ring power, which is activated by pressing two shoulder buttons together. From there, Hal transforms into a fighter jet, with continuous gunfire mowing down anyone in his path for several seconds before turning back into the Green Lantern.
These sequences reminded us of some of our favorite old-school shooters, most notably “After Burner.” Flying around and shooting bad guys out of the sky never gets old, and Double Helix has the classic style of gameplay dialed in. While not being able to control where you go might be a bummer, these sequences tie in with the ground combat almost perfectly. On top of that, there’s a fun boss battle where you try to shut down a weapon cell before it powers up, shooting down its four glowing cylinders while dealing with incoming Manhunters.
With these two gameplay styles intact, the only thing some of you might be concerned with is Green Lantern’s presentation. Well, from what we’ve seen, Double Helix has definitely stepped up to the task.
As far as in-game audio is concerned, the Green Lantern vibe is definitely there. The soundtrack sounds like it’s been taken straight from the film, with orchestrated pieces playing along as you fend off the robotic horde. The sound effects are also very good, with lots of crashes and thuds akin to those normally found in an action game. Kudos to Double Helix for also putting some time and effort into the voicework. Not only are the secondary characters able to bring the script to life, but Green Lantern himself sounds like a bold hero. Ryan Reynolds provides Hal’s voice for the video game, Just as he does on the big-screen.
As impressive as the sound and gameplay are, where “Rise of the Manhunters” really shines is the visuals. It’s almost as if Double Helix camped out on DC’s lawn and said, “Okay, we’re ready to take in the Green Lantern universe now.” The futuristic city of Oa is absolutely fantastic, with its huge, sprawling cityscape and its continuous signs of war, with explosions going off in the distance and enemies coming from all directions. You’re not just stuck here, though. In the flying sequence we tried out, we buzzed through the universe at a rapid pace as planets and asteroids zoomed right past us. The game really shows signs of progress that other comic book-based games fail to deliver on. Again, “Thor: God of Thunder” comes to mind as not living up to expectations.
What’s more, you’ll be able to witness all this in 3-D should you have the equipment to back it up. This is primarily for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, though the Wii version takes advantage of motion controls, perfect for younger players.
“Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters” has us convinced that some developers still about how comic book-oriented video games turn out. It leaves us hopeful that the full game will be just as much fun — and for that matter, the movie as well.
“Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters” arrives June 7, 2011 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Nintendo 3DS.