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Hellboy: The Science of Evil
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PSP. Xbox 360 version reviewed.
Here's the good news. Hellboy: The Science of Evil is the best comic-book to movie to game tie-in of the summer. It's both more playable than Iron Man and more polished and interesting than the Incredible Hulk. It makes some attempt to stay faithful to the tone of Hellboy, and it features vocal performances that don't sound like they were phoned in while the actor was doing something more interesting, like clipping their toenails or watching the home shopping channel. And while it's a staggeringly unoriginal piece of work, The Science of Evil does at least take its cues from God of War and Devil May Cry. If you were a Hellboy fan and you bought it, you probably wouldn't come away feeling that you'd completely wasted your hard earned cash - though you might come away feeling that the development team could have made more of the license.
It probably helps that the talent behind the comic-book and the movie - Mike Mignola and Guillermo del Toro - were prepared to get involved in the game's production, as was the cinematic Hellboy, Ron Perlman. As a result, The Science of Evil tells an all-new story distinct from Hellboy or Hellboy II: The Golden Army, pitting the amiable red-skinned demon against an unholy combination of witches, Nazis and assorted eldritch horrors, with a quick soujourn against Japanese nature spirits for good measure. The plot isn't all that engaging (or even coherent) but there are some witty lines well delivered by Mr Perlman, and at least you don't feel like action sequences are being shoehorned in to make a video game work from an existing plot (see Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Bourne Conspiracy and an awful lot of other movie tie-ins I could mention).
The other thing developer Krome has got right is the combat system. Like God of War, The Science of Evil goes heavy on large-scale brawling, and while the fighting isn't as fluid as it is in Sony's epic or Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, it certainly isn't a disaster. The X and Y buttons bring in light and heavy attacks with the legendary Right Hand of Doom, just as you might expect. These can then be chained together to scatter imps, trolls or robots like so many nine-pins, but you can also use the right trigger to grab enemies, then either throw them, smack them or press B to unleash a finishing move that might leave you with something to throw or an offensive weapon. Crates, barrels and miscelaneous bits of masonry can be picked up and thrown around, while occasionally more heavy-duty melee weapons can be grabbed and brandished. Finally, Hellboy also has his trusty handgun - the Samaritan - which can be loaded with several different types of ammo and fired using the left trigger, with the right analogue stick used to switch targets. The result is a game where you can still get by with a little button mashing, but where a little more finesse produces some more satisfying and effective manoeuvres.
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