Now I won't go into the recent string of Batman video games, the last one not faring so well review wise despite the fact Jim Lee assisted with the game in terms of character design (if I remember right)...
I won't even touch the substandard Justice League game that came out (based on the Animated Series)...
I'll start with the game based on last year's Catwoman movie.
Catwoman, starring Halle Berry, just wasn't very good. And as if to prove how poorly it fared it's up for several "Golden Raspberry" awards (given to the worse movies of the year). The game, as if to prove how poorly it fared, won X-Play's 2nd Annual Golden Mullet award for worse superhero game. Yeah. Bad.
What? Don't believe me? Look at the gameplay! It's like an evil substandard version of Prince of Persia, and if I wanted to play a game like Prince of Persia I'd play Prince of Persia and not THIS game!
There are other elements not similar to Prince of Persia... but they're not very good either.
So then, how will this game, based on the Keanu Reeves Constantine film, fare?
I can't review the movie (out now) so I can't say if the movie sucks or not. I can, at least, tell you if the game sucks or not... that's the least I can do.
Based on the Keanu Reeves Constantine character (despite the fact that even an interview in this game admits that the character Constantine was based on Sting who some of my associates have said in the past should have been Constantine over Keanu Reeves)... though I don't know if it's based on the movie since I haven't seen the movie to judge for myself... you find yourself being dragged into a major conflict that has hell breaking the covenant to keep their kind out of Earth, of which said conflict seems to be over the death of a half breed angel who was the keeper of the business end of the spear known as "The Spear of Destiny".
But that's only just a part of a greater darker thing to come.
Briefly, the Spear of Destiny.
If you are a fan of Castle Wolfenstein then you might remember the Spear of Destiny as a weapon your character had to retrieve from the Nazis. In fact it seems the Nazis have had possession of the spear in at least several different continuities across several "universes". For instance, in DC/Marvel continuity, Hitler held the Spear during WWII in order to keep the superheroes of the world from jumping into the war to defeat him, leaving it up to normal heroes like Sgt. Rock and Nick Fury and his Howling Commandoes to pick up the slack.
The spear? It's basically based on a real religious artifact, mainly the weapon that pierced the side of Christ during his cruxification. This spear is supposed to be a mondo powerful religious artifact, and inspired quite a few scenarios with it in it, probably as many as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail... though how it became an anti-super hero weapon in DC/Marvel continuity is something I just don't understand though. Anyway besides those titles I'm sure at least several other titles (comics and games) have used the Spear of Destiny at one point or another, it's just that none of those titles seem to leap to mind at this time.
Anyway to go through the "quest" that spins off from the death of this half breed and the discovery of the spear tip of the Spear of Destiny, Constantine ends up having to cross over between Hell and Earth to battle the forces of darkness... and also solve simple puzzles which require crossing back and forth (if an area is blocked in one world it'll probably be easy to pass through in the other). I guess that's okay since it's not done to "death" (bad pun), so it could have been worse (the crossing over to solve some puzzles).
Oh, then comes the question of the whole hell thing and "If this game constantly goes into hell then why didn't I give this game a "Survival Horror" genre instead of "Shooter"?" Image 1 of 10. Click to enlarge
Sure. It might be considered a survival horror game since the movie seems to be possibly a horror movie from the previews... and being a veteran of two Silent Hills, three Resident Evils and one Shadowman for the N64 (which was actually playable considering the later games Acclaim churned out) I was ready for anything remotely horror related.
As you might already know I don't like horror, but I was ready for another tour in a horror game nevertheless... sheesh, I've been playing lots of horror games lately haven't I...
So I get right down to the first transition to hell, ready for some vicious darkness... and I got something rather quaint and okay... eh? Yeah. It turns out that hell is, in fact, quite pleasant in comparison to the blood drenched rust covered damnation that is Silent Hill. In fact it's nicer than
Image 1 of 10. Click to enlarge
Painted in many shades of red, hell seems to be not very scary at all. It's just... red. And there's some torment and torture of souls going on but you'll stop and say "...hmmm..." rather than be freaked out by it. Yeah, when it comes right down to it a comparison of "hell" to the vicious dark nightmarish decaying "paradise" of Silent Hill fame kind of makes "hell" look rather sedated and quiet next to Silent Hill.
With straight out red all over, as opposed to blood splattered rusting walls and floors like in Silent Hill (or the even more disturbing living hospital walls from Silent Hill 3) this game doesn't seem to convey the horror you should be feeling from the trip downside. Yeah, there's some great visuals and stunning backdrops in your tour of hell (the flying wreckage of vehicles in the first trip and trip down Hell's Highway, not to mention the background of Hell's Highway for example) but for the most part the game just doesn't make you feel as if you dropped into the pit.
Thus why this game has been marked as a straight up shooter as opposed to a Survival Horror video game... mostly because there's no horror to be frightened of. And as if to further spade and neuter the fear the game might generate, a lot of the game is played through "Predator Vision" which further sedates the possible horror the game could have packed.
Predator Vision? That's the term I use to discuss the True Sight mode of this game.
One of the powers of Constantine, besides the fair selections of weapons and magical spells at his disposal (which is a nice selection and one of the plus points), is his ability to "see" the darkness he's fighting even if it's wrapped in human form. This "True Sight" uses no energy and can be used endlessly, which it pretty much is at times since lots of levels seem too... dark. Dark in the annoying you can't see where your going even if your playing in a room with the proper level of lighting for playing video games kind of room.
Since a lot of the rooms are dark you'll need to lean heavily on "True Sight" a lot (especially since quite a few of the "puzzles" of this game requires the use of "True Sight" to solve them)! Thus it's this overuseage of "True Sight" that kind of further mutes the horror that might be generated during gameplay since you are staring at the world through a "Predator Eyesview" of things, and things just don't look very scary when you're looking through the world in the "heat detecting" type of view True Sight offers.
This is just not acceptable, especially since this is the only way to find hidden things (or, again, to solve puzzles in this game), insuring that you'll have to depend of True Sight a lot while playing this game!
That is such a drag!
Another drag is the endless repetitive gameplay of search for specific items or something, shoot anything that gets in your way, and fight the occasional boss battle. There doesn't seem to be enough variety in the gameplay to make it very interesting, add to that that gameplay itself is limited (you don't have a wide amount of options in gameplay) and that's another downer.
Yes, you have weapons and magic but the magic isn't all useable all the time. Some is for specific things so while you pack abit of magic only so much is useable, and you might as well just stick to weapons since they are the best things for killing most demons anyway.
The character, however, moves good. In comparison to Frank Castle (Punisher) Keanu Reeves' Constantine is more agile and capable of getting into areas easier than Castle, plus the fact he can climb over some obstructions like fences or move objects around to gain access to other areas.
But where Constantine is more agile, Castle had more moves to off enemies which kept the gameplay fresh and livelier than Constantine who only has a limited "arsenal" of killing techniques which is a minus for the Constantine game if I ever saw one.
Then there's the sadly placed action which allows you to spin Constantine around 180 degrees to shoot at enemies behind him! Now this is a nice enough idea in theory, and could have actually been a good thing if not for it's placement on the control...which places it in the L3 analog control which, wait for it... also controls Constantine himself! So at times you're moving the L3 stick hard to get your character into position to blast a baddie and suddenly the game starts spinning because you keep triggering the 180 degree spin thing without meaning to! That means you'll suddenly become disoriented, most likely run into a wall or some other obstruction, and get beaten on by the enemies you were trying to outmaneuver in the first place! Yet another pain! And I won't even Image 2 of 10. Click to enlarge
Oh-kay. One. It's good. It's a portable self sustaining "medikit" that keeps your health high and is as easy to replenish as it is to find a source of water (a sink or a water dispenser). So that's a plus.
Image 2 of 10. Click to enlarge
Now back down the "Downer Road", and the fact this game doesn't seem to have certain things.
No auto save (constantly have to save manually to make sure I don't lose any of my progress), no mapping (which means you have to memorize the levels to complete them), no auto locking, and a rather substandard system to manage your stuff. Very substandard! Yes. I praised The Punisher recently despite the fact it had no mapping and no lock-on feature, but then again UNLIKE Constantine there was more than enough compensation with The Punisher to overcome those quirks. Here there is no such things.
While you could go through The Punisher without a map simply by following the body count (and the trail of the living), no such luck here in Constantine... then again getting lost won't exactly be a problem since the game is pretty straight forward with only a few places that require you to pay attention.
For the most part just follow the one path and get to the end, simple... and a tad boring.
And once again while you had tons of ways to off your enemies in The Punisher, which made it worth not having that lock on feature, this game is very limited in terms of offing your nemesis.
Oh, and if you're hoping a title like Constantine will sport creatures that'd rival Resident Evil or Silent Hill in terms of disturbing visages you'd also be wrong! The "creatures" are your garden variety dark things, which again is another downer since most of "Hell" is not very inspired so it's not a good thing if even the creatures of hell don't seem very disturbing to fight against!
Add to that the overuseage of "True Sight" and whatever scares the trips to hell could have drawn on seems to have been watered down to the point of it being ineffectual! Not good!
When it comes right down to it this game just lacks the visual "punch" of the disturbing visages of a good Resident Evil or Silent Hill game! And considering I'm taking quite abit of my time in this game downside in that darkest of dark places I would have thought the disturbing visages should have equaled the darkest things they can throw at us in video games from Japan, and yet it comes nowhere near. Not good.
And if I haven't had enough downer things to say about this game there's still more!
Yet another downer is the way the story seems to be unfolding.
One of the things I praised The Punisher for was it NOT following the movie, and instead being based more on the recent Garth Ennis run on The Punisher over a movie tie-in. This allowed the game to have more freedoms it would probably not have had if it was a direct movie tie-in, and even allowed for great crossovers with MARVEL Universe characters which was just too cool!
This game, however, seems quite straddled with being a tie-in to the Keanu Reeves John Constantine, which probably means it won't have as much freedom to allow crossovers as The Punisher. In fact I don't see any chance for anything that could have made the game more fun, ala what they did for The Punisher!
Now I haven't played the game very far yet, but somehow I don't think I should be holding my breath for any Vertigo series crossovers... or much in the way of originality! It most likely just won't happen!
Even if it's not a direct movie tie-in it's still linked to the Constantine from the movie and thus not open to innovative things like Vertigo crossovers and so forth.
Yes, there are extras, which can be unlocked by finding cards... but since there's NO auto save feature you'll have to manually save often or you'll lose your progress in the game (AND lose the extras you worked hard to uncover), which is yet ANOTHER hassle of the long list of hassles this game suffers from!
Oh-kay. Breakdown time, I said enough already in both the positive and negative.
What's Hot? - There's just something about this game that could have been so much better. But it's not entirely horrible either. For a movie tie-in game it's okay. It's not sucky like Catwoman, and the gameplay is kind of easy... except in parts but I already talked those up.
I haven't heard of the people who made the game, but then again maybe that's why this game is potential waiting for improvements to unlock that potential. Who can say. Oh-kay. To sum it up the game wasn't horrible, but Image 3 of 10. Click to enlarge
There is potential here, but I felt the potential fell short of a good mark and could have been better.
I probably wouldn't own it... yet... but if you could hook me up with an affordably priced (I.e. cheap) "previously played" version I can agree on price wise (below $20) I would consider it. But I'd not spend money for it brand new. No way.
Image 3 of 10. Click to enlarge
What's Not? - Everything I mentioned above seem like more than enough Nots for me. Nuff said.
Yes, I had quite abit of complaints and this game could have been far better than this!
The dark world could have really given me more of a scare, and weirded me out more! The areas like the mortuary and so forth could have also been creepier, and also worked harder to give out more energy in the gameplay with more scares to get the old heart beating hard! The meekness of the worlds was a downer.
Yeah. Compared to Resident Evil or Silent Hill the visuals of the dark areas of the game just weren't all that terrible or horrific. I've seen scarier, and I've seen more disturbing.
Moments to Remember? - The cutscenes are nice, and the gameplay can be fun... not excellent but it's not
too horrible. I don't remember seeing Keanu Reeves name on the credits (however three of the actors from the movie are in this game), but whoever they found to play Constantine in this game seems to have Keanu down pat (if it turns out Keanu didn't do the role himself).
Overall the voice acting is good, so I have no complaints about that which is another memorable thing.
What to Ignore? - Forget about going gung-ho and busting as many caps into as many evil as you can, because you're rampage against darkness is going to be so controlled and structured it'll frustrate you!
Now if you're looking for non-linear gameplay where you can take sidetrips to help the tormented out of their jam in this game? Forget about it. You're stuck on one road, no detours.
So you'll have to ignore the screams of torment you hear the first time you visit hell, and anytime during any possible "rescue" scene afterwards, since while you might see these people being tortured or killed there's very little you can do about it... in fact there doesn't seem to be anything you can do about it.
Once or twice you may be able to do something, but that's about it. The chances to protect the innocence are too few and far between in this game UNLIKE The Punisher which gave you lots of chances to save innocents! This game just doesn't seem to be so accommodating in the innocent saving bit, another minus.
Overall? - If you were hoping this foray into games from DC would turn their luck around then you might be a tad disappointed. It's not Catwoman level playing, but it's not perfect either.
The game is nowhere near the dark survival horror of a Resident Evil or Silent Hill, and it doesn't even serve up the slightest chill (again despite the fact you're taking a trip to the burning lands down under)... not to mention the fact there's some severe issues with the gameplay that I have which also spoils the momentum this game might have had.
It's not horrible, and I might even buy this if I can find it for a good price "preplayed".
I like some of the elements of Constantine, and panned others, and despite the negative aspects I hated the game has a few fair traits. Still I am not a terribly big fan of the newly released Keanu Reeves Constantine movie so maybe that partially colored my judgment against the game.
Oh-kay. To be fair I think this game might be good enough if you are a fan of the Keanu Reeves Constantine movie and can't wait to play the game. And if you're a shooter fan you MIGHT find at least enough merit just to rent it, if only to satisfy your curious streak about it.
HOWEVER if you are a Survival Horror fan then pass this up like the T-Virus and go straight to Resident Evil 4 (GameCube).
In the end I'm middle of the road here with my opinion on the game, but if you are interested (or at the very least Keanu Curious) then I'd recommend renting it first, just to see if you're into it or not.
If you find yourself a fan of the movie and want more of Keanu Reeves as Constantine then this game is going to be your salvation in that dept. Oh, and if you'd rather have a good superhero comic movie game you should get The Punisher (MARVEL) since that's just perfect in so many ways.
Now all I have to do is wait a few months and review Batman Begins' game... hope it doesn't suck.
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