This review was originally written for Reset Games, a video game store in the Pacific Northwest.
The summer movie season is in full swing, and with the recent bow of Warner Bros. Pictures first major attempt at a character other than the Dark Knight or the Man of Steel, we get a new video game experience to go along with it. As a comic book video game fan after the...less-than-stellar experience that was Thor: God of Thunder, it was easy to "brace for impact," especially considering that the subject character here is a superhero that I enjoy quite a bit more than many others in the pantheon.
That's what makes the overall pleasantness of this game feel all the more pronounced. While the experience here is far from complex and pretty linear compared with many other games on the market, this offering contains one critical factor that was entirely absent from the last movie-to-game adaptation based on a superhero: fun. Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters is little more than a beat-‘em-up, but with the addition of the Green Lantern ring and the constructs you can create with it, the game moves out of relative obscurity and becomes something that is absolutely worth giving a try.
Design and Story
While clearly tied to this summer's new Green Lantern film, the story on display in the game takes place after the events of the movie. The game begins with newly-minted Earth Green Lantern Hal Jordan (voiced by the movie's star, Ryan Reynolds) alongside notable Corpsmen Sinestro and Kilowog as they prepare to bury Jordan’s predecessor, Abin Sur. From here, you’re thrown right into the action, with the ancient Green Lantern forerunners, the robotic Manhunters, invading the Green Lantern homeworld of Oa.
When preparing to defend your base of operations, Kilowog explains exactly what the Manhunters are, which is pretty much on-par with the comics: they were the first police force dispatched by the Guardians of the Universe before they “went bad” and forced the Guardians into creating the law enforcement unit we know today as the Green Lantern Corps.
The overall design philosophy of the game follows the lead of the new film very, very closely. While there's only one environment from the movie repeating itself here in the form of Green Lantern homeworld Oa, the story makes up a bit for one of the shortcomings of the movie by actually launching into the cosmos: Earth doesn't feature at all in the overarching narrative here, so it's very cool to see Hal Jordan actually doing his job as a space cop in the wild frontiers of the universe. The vastness of the universe is also well-represented, since this is definitely a slick-looking game that looks awesome on an Xbox 360 or PS3.
As for the story itself, it's a relatively simple one, but it definitely gets creative in places. It's full of fan service for those who are a little more learned about the tenets, characters, and situations of DC's Green Lantern comics, but it likely has only one or two real surprises. Even then, those surprises will probably not count for much, and will only count for just a little bit more if you know about certain characters from the comics as you go into playing this game.
By and large, the game represents the film's license very effectively. Ryan Reynolds delivers a solid vocal performance as Hal Jordan, easily adding to a greater feeling of authenticity. Visually, the game is very authentic to the movie. Hal’s costume is constantly pulsating with the emerald energy of willpower, and when his ring is up it looks as if his body is pouring it’s energy into the ring. Character models are great. The Manhunters look very much like their comics-based counterparts, and the models of Sinestro and Kilowog look just like their appearances in the film. A lot of adaptation points here for bringing in Ryan Reynolds to provide both his likeness and voice work. His delivery is great while the other voice work is pretty unremarkable, but having his face attached to this game really adds to the truth of this experience as a game in the world of the Green Lantern film.
But, of course, that's not how this game should primarily be graded. So...how does it play?
The majority of the gameplay involves you taking on the role of Hal Jordan and fighting the Manhunters on foot across the surfaces of a few different worlds. Gameplay is perhaps a little too similar to Kratos' adventures in God of War, but stringing together a cool series of attacks is a pretty fun experience. You start off with some very basic constructs at your disposal, including a grabbing hook that you can use to...well, grab and throw your enemies, in many cases to their deaths. It’s a good “clear out” method to use when you’re in a pinch.
The “war hammer” construct you acquire early on is helpful in destroying the legs of Manhunter towers that permeate the surface of Oa in the first couple of levels, and also makes for a very powerful and high-impact offensive weapon. The construct you’ll probably end up using the most is the simple “ring blast,” which is just plasma energy bolts that you can choose how to fire. If you want, you can use the ring blast in a semi-automatic fashion with a lot of little, less powerful pelts hitting your enemy, or if you hold the firing button, you can charge it up and unleash a more powerful version of the blast. Be careful that no Manhunters are firing at you, though, because one hit during a charge and you lose it and have to recover in other ways.
The “Gatling gun” construct is ripped straight out of the film, and allows you to create said weapon out of thin air and use it against a slew of Manhunters. It’s pretty powerful, but also manages to take up a lot of your ring energy if you pour it on for too long. Not to keep you out in the cold, the environments are littered with power ups and boss battles allow you to, at least once, grab your power battery and overcharge your ring while reciting part of the famous Green Lantern oath (“In brightest day, in blackest night…”).
The “overcharge” mode allows you to save up lots of ring energy and, at times when pressing the left and right bumpers on the Xbox 360, explode with emerald energy and supercharge all of your constructs with no loss of mana for a short while. This is a great tool for dealing lots of damage very quickly, and can be a great secret weapon if confronted and cornered by a slew of Manhunters. When in this mode, it seems like all you have to do to clear out your enemies is a charged blast and a hammer strike, and the game does a good job of making you feel as if the Manhunters will “beware your power.”
The power up system makes the gameplay more interesting as you’re playing through for the first time, and lets you unlock new constructs when you reach certain levels. Sometimes it came off as a little frustrating when I had to stop in mid-game to remember to power myself up, but overall it added a decent dynamic to the game and allowed you to progress further against more powerful bosses. Speaking of which, the boss battles kind of remind me of the process for last year's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. After beating up on them for a while in a variety of ways, the game breaks to a button combination you can use to spectacularly finish off the big boss, be it a giant Manhunter or an alien beast.
Unfortunately, this can get as repetitive as it did in both Force Unleashed games, with only one outcome possible with each type of boss. If you only encounter that type of boss once, as was the case with the first in this game, then that’s fine. Later, though, certain bosses show up as regular enemies and you can only finish them off one way. That can get boring by the ninth or tenth time you have to do it.
One awesome thing that helps break up the monotony, though? Hal Jordan’s first passion: flying. There are a handful of levels requiring you to use your ring and fly through space and destroy mines and Manhunters as they rain down upon you. Flying is surprisingly fun and fluid, and the maneuvers you can do make avoiding fire and danger both fast and pretty fun. While flying, your “overcharge” makes you turn into a construct of a fighter jet briefly, giving you machine guns and missiles at your disposal to forge a devastating path through Manhunter pieces to your prime objective. For me, the flying portions were the highlight of the overall game, and really made the whole thing feel like a pretty genuine Green Lantern experience.
If you’re tired of destroying Manhunters on your own as Hal Jordan, the game also features a drop-in co-op system allowing another player to pick up a controller, press start, and jump right into the action with you. The second player takes on the role of Sinestro, the greatest destined enemy of the Green Lantern Corps who for now and in the film, serves as the shining example of what an officer of the Corps should be. Unfortunately, Sinestro doesn’t feature any new or additional constructs and handles virtually identically to Hal, but the fun part isn’t so much in the diversity of the experience among the characters as much as it is just getting in there with a buddy and cleaning house on Oa. That’s where the fun in this mode lies, and it definitely adds some fun to the overall game by having the capability.
The main discernible problem with Rise of the Manhunters, as previously alluded to, is that there’s just not very much game here (which was also my main issue with the movie, not enough of it!). The entire experience on the hardest difficulty may take between 4-5 hours to complete, and that time may move faster if you play in co-op mode. The whole mode of operation can tend to be repetitive, so if you’re looking for a highly diverse gameplay experience, Rise of the Manhunters will probably not be what you’re looking for.
What the game does have going for it, however, is that it’s simple, unadulterated fun that puts the power of the Green Lantern ring at your disposal in this character’s first solo game outing. As a movie tie-in game, this thing is triumphant when compared to the vast majority of other movie cash grabs, and when looked at from that particular standpoint, the game is pretty good. Unfortunately it’s hampered by a lack of replayability and a little too much repetition. The extent of unlockable or add-on material is an alternate skin for Hal that’s inspired by his appearance in the comics. So, while the game is good, it’s not great, but I would say that it’s definitely worth playing if you’re thinking of at least giving it a shot.
All in all, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters is a better-than-average movie/game tie-in and is definitely good for a weekend of guilty, cosmic fun. While its replay value is relatively limited, the game stands as something of a triumph when compared with how it could've gone (ahem, Thor!), which makes this an easy game to recommend. Especially if you're a fan of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, be sure not to let this game "Escape Your Sight."