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Konami's movie tie-in that isn't offers very little to get excited about, even if you are a Hellboy fan...
Handily coinciding with the cinema release of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, despite sharing little in common with Guillermo del Toro's sequel beyond Hellboy himself, Konami and Krome Studios attempt to bring Dark Horse's comic hero to life may be marginally better than Cryo's attempt the last time around, but there's still little to recommend in this bland and dated action title.
From the very first punch of Hellboy's oversized fist it's apparent that Konami and Krome Studios have been happy to rely on the tried, tested, and tired movie/superhero approach. What follows is six chapters of mundane button bashing, as Hellboy fights to stop a Nazi plot for world domination and defeat the crazed Hermann Von Klempt.
On the face of it, Hellboy does at least have all the attributes that a good action hero needs. The Right Hand of Doom should provide the opportunity for plenty of pummelling action, and the Good Samaritan shouldn't exactly lack a punch. Regretfully the combination is never fully realised, it's as though Devil May Cry never existed and we've jumped back a generation or two. Generally, the combat system beneath The Science of Evil is woefully tired and fails to provide any long-term attachment, with tiresome combos unleashing a scant selection of moves that we've all seen a million times before.
The interchange between combos, particularly switching to the revolver, is clunky and far too slow; Hellboy may not have the pace of Nero or Dante from Capcom's Devil May Cry, but in comparison the lack of pace ensures Hellboy is severely deficient of any intensity - probably not what you want from an action title. Like the very worst examples of the genre, Hellboy: The Science of Evil is a hack 'n slash game where it's far too easy just to mash buttons with your eyes closed and still emerge unscathed.
With the standard light and heavy attacks, Hellboy's repertoire of moves is short and limited, which on one hand means a large audience can master the game, but on the other severely restricts any depth or sense of development. Grappling opponents provides a handful of extra techniques and some of Hellboy's most gratifying moments, but that's not exactly saying much particularly when getting hold of them is a frustratingly hit-and-miss affair in the first place.
The criticisms only continue with the gun system. Using the right thumbstick to aim a ridiculously sensitive targeting reticule on the game's fixed-point perspectives is weird and just wrong. Compounded by the sheer effectiveness of the mundane button-bashing melee combat, opportunities to unleash a few pounds of lead are few and far between.
With a limited number of bullet types to unlock as each stage grinds on (mostly geared around passing through the impenetrable barriers), there's no sense of progress with the game and as such Hellboy: The Science of Evil provides very little engagement as you repetitively slog further into the game.
Although the game maintains a thankfully brisk pace throughout the six stages (a few still drag on for far too long), there's little to detract from the repetitive, mundane combat that accounts for the vast majority of the game. In keeping with the dated feel that runs throughout the game, Krome Studios have slapped virtually every level with an aggravating "kill all enemies before moving on" design. Stretching the woeful combat system, the dull opponents, and the tired challenge beyond boredom, when all you really want to do is rush through each stage just to see the back of it, things are made even worse by the fixed camera as you attempt to retreat through a stage in search for the final enemy to kill.
Although Hellboy gets to visit locations as diverse as the Carpathian Mountains to the Tunisian deserts, the bland, path based designs ensures there's very little that lingers long in the mind. On the first run through, smashing doors and walls with a rapid few hits of the X button is mildly entertaining, but all too quickly becomes an overused attempt to add a little impact to a game that's distinctly missing any sense of power.
Perhaps the only redeeming factor is Hellboy himself. Captured perfectly and featuring Ron Perlman's voice-over, Hellboy's quips and one-liners may provide a little comic relief, but it's no reason to persevere with what's otherwise a thoroughly dated and dull action title
If for some strange reason you have the inclination to drag your way through Hellboy: The Science of Evil with a friend, then you're in luck, why not convince them to play as either Abe Sapien or Liz Sherman in the splitscreen/online co-op mode. Exactly why Konami or Krome thought two people would suffer through this at the same time is beyond us, but the option is at least there if you're willing to risk friendships in the process.
On the plus side, Hellboy: The Science of Evil is a brief game with the end credits rolling after only a few hours of play. Perhaps an ideal challenge for a younger audience, but one that will provide only a couple of nights for anybody accustomed to action titles (provided you can stick with it for that long).
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