E3 '07: Hellboy: Science of Evil Hands-On Preview

We go head-to-head with Dark Horse's comic icon in his first Xbox 360 and PSP appearance.

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It's fair to say that Hellboy has his fair share of passionate fans, and it was fair to say that Guillermo Del Toro's 2004 screen adaptation of the comic book mostly lived up to their expectations. With the sequel currently in production the character's popularity looks set to continue, and it's something that developer Krome is looking to capitalise on with its new game Hellboy: Science of Evil on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable. While it's not technically a tie-in with either of the films, Science of Evil uses the likenesses of the Revolution Studios productions and has the full input of the filmmakers and cast. We caught up with the red devil at Konami's E3 press conference to see if his game is going to be worth playing.

Science of Evil is best described as a 3D action game with an emphasis on destructibility. Hellboy's trademark rock arm is certainly put to good use in this game. The designers claim that they really wanted to replicate the physical nature of the films and comic books, where the protagonist dishes out a fair bit of hurtin' but also gets thrown about a fair bit himself. They refer to these as his "oh damn" moments, and we get to witness one such occasion in our demonstration where a huge monster throws Hellboy around before smashing him deep into a tomb. The idea is that while our antihero might take quite a beating from his larger-than-life foes, he'll always get up, crack a witty retort, and then bring the pain.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

While Science of Evil couldn't really be described as a graphical showcase for the Xbox 360 or PSP, the look and feel of the character has certainly been maintained. The decision was made to use the style of the movie as opposed to the original comic book, so the license held by Revolution Studios was acquired in order to replicate it in full. Talking to the designers it seems that this decision was both and artistic and commercial one, but nonetheless the license gave the team access to film director Guillermo Del Toro, comic book creator Mike Mignola, and actors Ron Perlman and Selma Blair. Hellboy himself looks like he's been very accurately modeled next to Perlman in makeup, while the little effects such as his permanent grimace and long tail have been replicated with loving attention to detail.

As a game, Hellboy: Science of Evil clearly draws influence from other genre stablemate God of War, particularly in its over-the-top bombastic action sequences. There's not quite the same level of quicktime events or random button-pressing, but the kinetic style and huge sense of scale remains intact. Like Kratos, Hellboy is proficient with many weapons and he even has the same side-roll to avoid charging enemies. The developers don't deny the comparisons when asked about them, and, in fact, they're eager to talk about their influences in general. For example, the same regenerating health system from Halo and Call of Duty has made it into this Hellboy game, partly because the developers liked it and partly because the Hellboy character isn't really ever supposed to die.

We played through a couple of levels in the game, one where we were chasing a witch who was able to split up into many different birds, and another in Japan fighting against some rather large sword-wielding warriors. Combat can be as basic or balletic as you choose to make it; simple button combos result in simple punches, but a gun and grapple moves can be used to dispatch enemies quickly and with more style. The enemies give visual clues as to when they can be finished off by flashing a grey color. For example, Hellboy can rip the heads off the smaller enemies and toss them at other foes, while he can also steal the larger weapons off the bigger characters if he dispatches them with a proper finishing move. On the Japan level, we were able to steal a humongous sword off one of the warriors and use it for the rest of the level. The smaller and more lightweight weapons will break after a few uses, however, while Hellboy's famous handgun has an extremely limited supply of bullets.

Approaching the final stages of development before its Q4 2007 release, Hellboy is looking like a very polished action game. It clearly draws inspiration from some of the best games in the genre, and the involvement of the Hollywood talent behind the movies has certainly added a level of authenticity to the game. The combat still feels a little too simple in parts, and Hellboy certainly isn't as extreme as Kratos in his decapitation moves, but it's certainly looking like it will give something for fans to chew on. We hope to bring you more on the game in its run-up to release.

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