Hellboy First Look

We get an exclusive look at the first playable version of Konami's upcoming game starring Dark Horse Comics' posterboy of the weird.

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Though Konami's Hellboy was announced at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, the Krome Studios-developed title hasn't seen the light of day since its initial unveiling. To date, all that has been known is that the game will feature an original story and that it's being developed by the Australian developer for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PSP. The ensuing months since its debut have found Krome hard at work on the game, which is now ready for some time in the spotlight. We had a chance to get an early hands-on of the game for the PSP.

Who better to save the day than everyone's favorite surly hellspawn?
Who better to save the day than everyone's favorite surly hellspawn?

The PSP title is a cousin to the 360 and shares many aspects, but it isn't a carbon copy, as the experience is being tailored to the platform. The game will follow the storyline seen in the console version and has Hellboy uncovering a Nazi plot to take over the world and then attempting to thwart the plans of the evil Hermann von Klempt. The adventure will feature plenty of familiar faces for fans of the comics. Two characters, Abe Sapein and Liz Sherman, will even be playable characters in the game's cooperative mode which we weren't able to see.

The brief demo level had us checking out a desert oasis and facing off against a massive worm boss inside a temple. In keeping with the PSP's portable nature, the game is laid out in manageable chunks of play in case you need to pause. The overall gameplay system is similar to its console cousin and falls into the brawler category. Your main focus will be on going through and dealing with enemies to get to the end of each level. Along the way, you'll find helpful items and do some puzzle solving to advance. The game's combat system is pretty straightforward and seems to be treading the line between being a deliberate fighting system that requires some thought and being the more hectic action experience you'll find in most 3D brawlers.

While it might seem like a natural thing for the game to follow Devil May Cry's gold standard of over-the-top action and crazy combos, the reality is that Hellboy is an old-school kind of demon who's not quite as limber as DMC's pretty boy, Dante. Therefore, you'll be able to take advantage of Hellboy's inherent demon abilities, such as his superstrength and his demonically charged arm that collects rage as you defeat enemies. Though in the comic books Hellboy's not a huge fan of using his gun , you'll be able to use that as well in the game, and it can be enhanced with different types of bullets. In addition, the game's fighting system offers a two button combo system that lets you chain and charge moves for max damage and features an inventory system that will let you slot useful items in as you come across them. An onscreen combo meter will track your performance and reward you at the end of each level. Though the game is still a work in progress, the action was coming along fine and felt good.

The game sports a decidedly different look on the PSP, which works to the platform's strengths. The visuals feature a brighter color palette to help keep the fast action from ghosting as you play. Hellboy looks good and sports his trench coat. The style of the game leans more toward the comic and less toward the film. The basic demonic enemies you face off against in the beginning are appropriately demonlike, albeit a touch generic. The environments sport simple detail, and the outdoor desert environment had a rather bright color palette. The cave interior offered a darker palette that was atmospheric but still kept the action easy to follow. The boss was impressively massive and filled up the cave. There were some nice effects used during the battle to highlight the action. The camera was generally good, but it hit an odd angle as we made our way around the massive creature, though it wasn't too disruptive. Though still unfinished, the game's frame rate was actually quite stable, which made dealing with the mass of tentacles easier.

Hellboy prepares to lay waste as only he can.
Hellboy prepares to lay waste as only he can.

Though the audio was nascent in our build, representatives were on hand to help us fill in the blanks. The game will feature voice in places where it makes sense, though given that Hellboy isn't the chattiest demon on the planet, that won't be too often. However, Ron Perlman will be the one to bring him to life, which is good news. The soundtrack will also be worked in. Finally, the effects you'll hear during battle are still being worked on but will hip you to all the destruction you're doing with smashes, crashes, and the like.

Based on what we've played, Hellboy is showing some promise. It's hard to gauge exactly how much promise from the brief demo, but we like what we've seen so far. The combat is coming along--it just needs a bit of tightening up--and the visuals need a bit more polish in the camera and performance departments. We're curious to see how the multiplayer winds up panning out and how long the adventure ends up being. Hellboy is slated to ship later this year for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PSP. Look for more on the game soon, and be sure to check out our impressions of the Xbox 360 version too.

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