Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters Hands-On First Look PreviewBy Kevin Kelly - Posted May 02, 2011
When Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters was announced last summer, everyone thought “Eh, another movie tie-in game with a short development cycle.” Those usually end up giving us forgettable titles like Sega’s Iron Man 2 and Disney’s Tron: Evolution. It’s almost become an accepted industry staple that video games based on movies will be bad. The original announcement of Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters was accompanied by so little information, that we expected it would follow the same road.
But recently we were able to take a long look at the game with the developers and get some hands-on time with it, and surprisingly it is a lot more robust than we expected. Ryan Reynolds provides the voice of the titular character, and the combat is a lot deeper than you would expect in a movie title. They’ve even come up with some interesting ways to represent the willpower-based powers of his ring.
Developed by Double Helix Games (the Wii, DS, and 3DS versions have been handed off to Griptonite Games), and written by longtime comic book scribe Marv Wolfman, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters doesn’t follow the plot of this summer’s upcoming Green Lantern film. Instead it picks up some time after the events of the film, and takes place in the same universe of the movie.
You won’t be spending any time on Earth in this game. Instead, you’ll be taking Hal Jordan through conflicts and adventure on Oa, the home planet of the Green Lanterns, and two other planets from the comic books (Zamaron and Biot) in both ground-based combat and some flight levels.
The plot of the game pits the Green Lantern against the Manhunters, a robotic protection force originally created by the Guardians of the Universe on Oa to serve as a police force. But the Manhunters were more concerned with punishment than justice, and the Guardians disbanded them. The remaining Manhunters left the planet, and the Guardians went on to establish the Green Lantern Corps to serve the same purpose.
As the game starts out, Hal Jordan is attending a memorial on Oa for Abin Sur, the alien who passes his Green Lantern ring and responsibilities on to Jordan in his origin story. During the service the Manhunters attack, and you’re quickly instructed by your ring on how to use your powers and abilities in short tutorial fashion.
The basic controls are fairly simply. Triangle is your strong attack, while Square is your fast attack. Circle shoots out a green claw that you can use to grapple and carry smaller enemies, while it will latch on and yank you closer to larger opponents. The X button jumps, while L1 erects a short-lived shield around Green Lantern, and R1 performs a “Drill Dash” that both attacks and dashes you in the direction you choose, perfect for continuing to string attacks together.
Obviously, the heart of Green Lantern are the willpower based attacks, which are meant to be an extension of his will. Anything he can think of, he can create via the ring’s power. In the game, these take the form of hard light constructs, and range from giant baseball bats, to Gatling guns, to mech-styled power armor. You summon these by pulling on the left or right triggers, which pulls up a four-button map representing which constructs you have assigned to each of the buttons for each trigger.
With two triggers and four buttons, you can have eight constructs available at any given moment, and there are up to 12 constructs total in the game. You can hit select at any moment to pause the action and re-map the constructs to whatever buttons you want, and these constructs can also be leveled up as you progress as can your fast and strong attacks.
You have a willpower meter in the upper left hand corner, just below your health bar, that shows how much willpower you have stored up. This bar can be built up by hitting enemies with your base attacks. But if you use a construct, say the Gatling Gun for instance, it will deplete the bar. When it’s empty, that construct will vanish. If you let the meter build to full, you’ll have Ring Surge available to you.
Enacting Ring Surge puts you into a brief but powerful mode where your willpower meter is full, and you can use your Constructs without depleting your willpower. It’s best to save this ability for when you’re dealing with a group of enemies, or when attacking a boss. It’s extremely powerful, but also lasts briefly so you need to be judicious about its usage. While it’s easy enough to build up your willpower to the point where you can access this, using your Constructs knocks the meter down, and you’ll definitely need to use those as you get swarmed by enemies.
These Construct-based attacks really show off the game’s attention to detail, and the powers of Green Lantern. For instance, when he’s using the Gatling Gun, you’ll see depleted shells hit the ground as he fires at enemies. His basic attacks use an oversized medieval sword, and as you level those up his sword moves become more advanced. Other constructs include a Piston Blitz, a Warhammer, a giant Buzz Saw, and even the ability to create and throw a fighter jet towards your enemies.
Most Construct power also have a power-up ability where you can charge and hold the attack for more damage. Since the game offers drop in and drop out co-op (with your partner playing as Sinestro), the Construct powers were also built with this in mind. One Lantern can pick up and toss an enemy towards the other, while you power up the Baseball Bat Construct and whack them across the level. There are plenty of these in the game, and the development team hopes that gamers discover them organically.
Double Helix wanted the game to be something you could easily pick up and play, but they also wanted to add depth so they wouldn’t get hammered by the hardcore games press as well. To that end, the team has designed very fluid combat mechanics that has a combo system at its core. By juggling opponents and chaining attacks together, it’s not uncommon to reach 40 or 50 hits in the game, and it wasn’t long before we reached 35. You’ll gain more experience points by doing this, and it definitely adds the depth of a fighting game and the required focus to this button masher.
There is also the opportunity to play with several different styles, or settle on a combination of them. For instance, you can put all of your points into your up close and personal attacks, like the Warhammer, and play as a tank. Or you can focus on your ranged attacks, like the Gatling Gun or Missiles, and keep yourself distant from the action. There is a wide range of possibilities in the ground-based combat, which is definitely the strongest element in this game.
But having said that, the game does have a weak side, and that’s the flight portion. This is one of the biggest hurdles for games based on superheroes: how do you handle the flying? Games either separate the flying and ground-based portions into two different experiences, or they go the route of Marvel Ultimate Alliance, where the characters can only fly a few feet off the ground. Green Lantern takes the former route, and splits up Hal’s experience into ground-based combat, which makes up the bulk of the game, and a few flying levels.
While flying, Hal’s attacks are basically the same with strong turning into a blaster (machine guns) and square becoming missiles. What’s nifty is that he constructs a fighter jet around himself for these levels, and they usually take place in space (one grazes the surface of a planet, we’re told), and are not that long or challenging. It’s somewhat unfortunate, because longtime Green Lantern lovers know about Hal’s test pilot background and are familiar with the fantastic air-based encounters in the books. But the ground game seems strong and deep enough to make up for this, for the most part.
The game features appearances by several other members of the Green Lantern Corps and some other familiar faces. The developers worked very closely with the movie team, and they’ve reproduced a geographically accurate model of Oa based on the same terrain and features used in the film. With Ryan Reynolds providing both heroic dialogue and comedic one-liners, the game looks to provide just enough of a movie tie-in without trying to replicate the film.
The combat impressed me a lot more than I expected, and fighting gamers will love the ability to try and string multiple combos together to up their hit count. With quicktime boss battles finishes available, and wave after wave of enemies on tap, the game can feel like Green Lantern of War from time to time, but is that a bad thing? Granted, I’ve only played two levels of the game, but Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters looks like a lot stronger than I expected. Look for more from this game when it releases with the movie in early June.