Following the waves of superhero film conversions following the success of Bryan Singer's X-Men, Hellboy was not the most expected comic-book conversion. Nor was it the most successful, despite probably being one of the more interesting superhero offerings. But, like the comics, the 2004 movie gained a niche following and the adventures of a wise-cracking, devil-turned-good fighting hellish monsters unsurprisingly started to draw the gaze of game developers.
Unfortunately Hellboy: Asylum Seeker (PS one, 2004) was a dismal attempt made by Dreamcatcher Interactive alongside the release of the film, and is frankly best forgotten. Although to those who tire of shoddy film to game conversions, for all its sins, this title wasn't based on the film.
Konami has now picked up the Hellboy videogame license, and Krome Studios will be the ones actually working on the game. Krome's track record has been mixed; a lot of average licenses such as Ty the Tasmanian Tiger and a tie-in to Jerry Bruckeimer's King Arthur. Their most recent release, The Legend of Spyro, was supposed to finally bring the magic back to the Spyro series. Hopefully this is an indication of the company finding its feet, and a basis of hope for a solid adaptation of the Hellboy license.
For those of you unfamiliar with comic creator Mike Mignola's big red, 1993 creation, this powerful demon was summoned as an infant by the Nazis during WW2. Rescued by the Allies, Hellboy, as he was now known, was adopted into, and eventually became an active agent of the paranormal investigations unit of the FBI. He sawed off his own devilish horns (to make his appearance less intimidating), smokes like a chimney, has a grim sense of humour, a big stone fist (for obvious clobbering purposes), along with numerous firearms and really, really loves kittens. Plus he fights all manner of demons and Nazis, which in Mignola's imaginings often goes hand in hand more than you’d think, given the contemporary setting.
The new game's plot also features those pesky goosesteppers, doing what they do best - trying to take over the world, under the steely gaze of Hermann Von Klempt.
Judging by the concept art, the design looks very creative; the visuals could have been ripped right from the dark and moody comicbook panels. The enemy design is also refreshingly original for a game drawn from a well-known license. It injects a healthy amount of substance and life into the world, rather than just the lazy, static Polaroid of the licensed world we’re already used to.
So you have your unorthodox anti-hero setting, promising some interesting design, but what about the game play? Superhero licenses, as much as any, have a tendency to be painfully average, just look at the lamentable Superman Returns game for a painful reminder. But with the involvement of the MGS publisher and the rich Hellboy setting, any game fan will be hoping for something even better than Konami's more successful 3D outings such as PS2's Castlevania.
Early movies and screens indicate Hellboy is an adventure/brawler very much in the style of God of War. A similarly varied roster of combos and set patterns is used to take down all manners of enemies, large and small which yield glowing red collectable orbs. Bigger foes seem to provide interesting depth to elevate the combat above simple button bashing. The guns are auto aimed, just another method of attack to string into the combos, it seems. The more unique and ultimately apt twist is that the environments are more interactive, and fairly fully destructible when met with Hellboy’s oversized stone fist.
Early play tests indicate the game is easy to get into, and offers some creative (and plain funny) little tricks up it’s sleeve, such as ripping off enemies heads and throwing them as a weapon at other enemies.
Hellboy is a potentially solid license that ought to at least please the comic fans. Only time will tell if this could be a devilishly worthy next-gen alternative to the divine God of War. Hellboy the game on PS3 (and PSP curiously) is down for a June release for the US, dates for Europe and Japan aren't any more specific than "2007".
We'll bring you more on Hellboy as soon as hell spits it forth (or Konami's PR department as it's more commonly known).