Hellboy: The Science of Evil Hands-On
We venture into Romanian graveyards to smash everything in sight with our giant, red fist.
Last night, we had the opportunity to attend Konami's Gamer's Night event here in San Francisco. After focusing on the big guns during its opening presentation, Konami gave us the chance to play a number of other upcoming games. Among the selection was Hellboy: The Science of Evil, a tie-in to the upcoming Hellboy film sequel subtitled The Golden Army. Scheduled for release June 24 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PSP, this brawler features a stylized look reminiscent of the graphic novel and a combat system where the line between enemies and weapons is often blurred.
We jumped right into the first level of the game. This one takes place in a graveyard tucked away in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. In terms of story, those incorrigible Nazis have once again hatched a plan to take over the world. The opening cutscene is a bit vague as to how these graves relate to the latest Nazi quest for world domination, but nevertheless, you are Hellboy--and you've got a giant fist made of stone ready to smash things.
This introductory level is filled with little gremlinlike enemies called bambinis. When it comes to these little guys, you have a few options for how to best deal with them. You've got a light attack button, a heavy attack button, and a gun that can be fired with one of the triggers. It's also possible to link your attacks together, as the combo ticker that pops up on the screen during a fight would suggest.
You can also make use of the game's contextual grapple system. What this means is that you can hit one of the triggers to grab small enemies and use them as unwilling projectiles. You can grab a bambini to throw at groups of other bambinis, which works quite well and is often very amusing, but you can also throw them at the cursed graves from which these little monsters emerge. Doing this a couple of times will demolish the cursed grave, stemming the flow of annoying little critters while allowing you to collect whatever loot lies at the bottom of the graves. These finds seem to be mostly of the ammo variety, with bullets and frag grenades being the most common loot.
The contextual grab is also used to progress through the graveyard's various sectioned-off areas. You'll often run into an area devoid of enemies unsure of what to do next, in which case, you'll need to go searching for a stone door or wall that appears to be in less than ideal condition. If you find one that's weak enough, you can press the grapple button to grab it and then repeatedly whack on the circle or X button (X on a 360 controller, mind you) to smash the living daylights out of it, allowing you to move on to the next area. Grabbing things and smashing them is a common theme in the game, if our time with this first level is to be believed.
Visually, Hellboy is looking quite nice, regardless of the platform. Rather than opting for a photorealistic look to mimic the film, The Science of Evil appears as though it will bridge the gap between the movie and graphic novel with a look that's a touch on the cartoony side but not quite ripped from the comics. In the interest of comparisons, the PS3 version looked a bit better, though it was hardly a massive difference. The PSP version obviously lags behind its console brethren, but much of that is offset by excellent graphic novel cutscenes interspersed throughout this portable version.
We're eager to see how Hellboy's repertoire of combat techniques evolves past this first level. The beginning of the game was a bit limited in terms of what Hellboy could do, but those few moves were pretty fun. As mentioned before, Hellboy is scheduled for release on June 24