Games Review: Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters

(Tested on PlayStation 3, also available on Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS and 3DS)

IT’S taken for granted from the very start of this superhero slugfest that you’ve either seen the current summer blockbuster, or have a reasonable familiarity with the Green Lantern mythos from the original comic books. Newbies lured into playing without any comprehension of the character and his backstory may be somewhat lost as they are suddenly thrown into the midst of combat between an emerald-clad Earthman wielding some sort of green laser device and hoards of robots focused on destroying the planet Oa.

Our protagonist is test pilot Hal Jordan, chosen by a dying representative of an intergalactic police force to inherit his power ring as a member of the Green Lantern Corps. This incredible device responds to its wearer’s will power to create hard-light forms of green energy which can represent anything from a boxing glove to a chainsaw, with all the associated characteristics of the source object.

Summoned to the Corps’ HQ of Oa by the self-proclaimed Guardians of the Universe at some point after the events of the film, Hal is in the process of honouring his fallen predecessor Abin Sur with fellow Lanterns Sinestro and Kilowog when the planet is attacked by the robotic Manhunters.

These blue-faced giants served as the Guardians’ law-enforcers millennia ago, but were wiped out when they went rogue and replaced by the Green Lanterns. Now they’re back, and vowing revenge…

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Thrown into the midst of clashes with a handful of Manhunters, the first thing you notice about the video game Lantern is that he doesn’t fly around freely in the same way his comics and celluloid counterpart does, being largely restricted to jumping about a few feet off the ground apart from when transporting himself between levels or taking part in limited scrolling flight levels aimed at showing off Hal’s aerial skills.

In the tradition of games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, you initially only have access to a limited range of powers, in this case basic constructs created by your power ring. But as you progress through the game, the sword, whip and fists which you start off with are supplemented by various additional creations, including a baseball bat, gatling gun and mech suit, although you have to monitor your ring’s energy levels when deciding your best forms of attack and defence.

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Like many similar beat ‘em-up action games, you’ll be hitting random buttons more often than carrying out skilfully planned combo attacks, but as long as they get the job done then who cares? The real fun comes from unlocking new ways of killing your opponents, although because there aren’t any huge challenges beyond defeating hoards of foes, solving some basic puzzles and repeating until you reach the end, even the wealth of different ring constructs at your disposal aren’t enough to make this game truly unmissable.

That said, there’s much more to be enjoyed here than found in many movie tie-ins. Film GL Ryan Reynolds lends his voice talents for continuity’s sake, and the relationship between Hal and his fellow Lanterns will prove entertaining for fans of the Corps in any incarnation.

The co-op feature allows a second player to join in the action as Sinestro, but someone forgot to tell one half of the design team this detail, as much of the game involves Sin sending status updates to Hal from elsewhere in the galaxy, which doesn’t quite work as well when he’s standing next to him.

Like the Green Lantern film, the game isn’t a classic, but it is a workmanlike representation of the DC superhero’s world, offering the chance to wield one of comicdom’s most powerful weapons in the cause of universal peace, while hitting big robots with a giant mace while doing so…

PS. Apparently there are 3D glasses available with the Xbox and PS3 versions to add that extra dimension to proceedings, but my review disc didn’t include them so I can’t comment on how that particular feature works out!

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