Hellboy: The Science of Evil Updated Hands-On

We take everyone's favourite big red demon and a couple of his friends for a spin in this updated hands-on.

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Dehorned demon Hellboy is no stranger to games, with his latest outing an all-out fighting game being developed by the team at Aussie-based developer Krome Studios. We recently had a chance to get some more hands-on time with the latest Xbox 360 build for Hellboy: Science of Evil, which allowed us to check out a few more levels of single-player, as well as give multiplayer a test drive.

Hellboy dukes it out in Japan.
Hellboy dukes it out in Japan.

Hellboy: Science of Evil straddles a line between capturing the artistic style of Mike Mignola's Hellboy animated series and Guillermo del Toro's 2004 film adaptation. The game is built on classic brawler foundations, with Hellboy having to smash his way through level after level, dishing out damage to enemies with his oversized fist. We recently had a look at the first level: a zone set in a suitably dark cemetery that requires players to fight Oompa-Loompa looking minions called bambinis as they spawned out of corrupted graves. When you encounter a locked gate being guarded by a skull and giving you some lip (so to speak), you begin a quest to find the gatekeeper to grant you access. Once located, he'll instruct you to free his bride from her coffin prison to win his favour. Opening magically sealed coffins is as simple as picking up bambinis using the left trigger and throwing them with the right trigger. The right thumbstick is used to aim your reticle. You'll also need to use Hellboy's arsenal of various bullet types to shoot evil auras right off coffins--the resulting smoke and dust effects look a treat.

The second level we played was set 25 years earlier in an ornate Japanese setting made up of lush environments. While the first level nailed the grimy, barren landscape of a stylized haunted graveyard, this locale was much brighter and featured rigid but breakable bamboo. There were also ponds ripe for splashing around in and gorgeously rendered waterfalls. Verdant trees and short grasses swayed in the breeze, becoming displaced but returning to their original position as we trudged through them. It's not just superficial looks here, though, with Hellboy able to punch through clumps of flora and use them as makeshift weapons to club foes. The objective of the zone was to progress by lighting stone braziers to open locked areas. Attacking enemies used lit torches as staves; then once dispatched, the still burning lanterns could be picked up and used to complete the task. Fighting one-on-one provided little challenge, but moving into a room with a seemingly steroid-pumped enemy spawn rate found us fighting multiple targets at once, and it was tough to avoid being knocked to the ground.

Hellboy uses an unusual health system. Rather than pick up scattered med kits or energy dropped by those you defeat, enemies themselves instead become your replenisher. When you've pounded your target into a flashing gray state--provided you're within melee range--you'll be able to use the left trigger to pick them up. From here, you can throw them in the air using the A button, and hitting the Y button at the appropriate time will unleash a powerful air attack. Successfully completing this act restores you health. In our demo, we only needed to perform the move correctly twice to bring Hellboy back from the brink of death to a full life bar. The dev team also confirmed the PlayStation 3 version of the game will include Sixaxis motion support to shake attackers off your character's back in combat.

While we were at Krome's offices, we also had a chance to give the multiplayer component of Hellboy a thrash. Cooperative multiplayer will be available in either horizontal split-screen offline, with a second controller or full-screen over Xbox Live and the PSN with a friend. The cooperative mode features the same single-player campaign but requires both players to work together to complete objectives, as well as punch and shoot. The second player will take control of fellow Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) members Abe Sapien or Liz Sherman. You'll still need Hellboy to smash his fist through destructible objects, while your sidekick keeps attackers off the demon's back. Both supporting characters have their own unique abilities, with Abe packing a faster firing, more powerful gun than Hellboy and Liz able to deal pyrokinetic damage during melee, as well as an area of effect to stun groups of attackers. Drop-in/out co-op play will not be supported.

This approach to action becomes particularly important in co-op around plinths, which are small glowing mounds that need to be destroyed as enemies continue to spawn and wail on you. Because there are no health packs to be found, the player controlling Hellboy will need to make sure his buddy is well taken care of, and performing midair attacks will help replenish his buddy's life bar by performing the aforementioned health move. We tag teamed our way back through the graveyard level before getting a taste of an upcoming level with an Area 51 theme. We were told it wouldn't ship with the game but was planned for after DLC after launch. Multiplayer retains the hectic action brawler feel of the single-player campaign but also adds the need to approach smash-and-grab scenarios with slightly more finesse and communication with your partner to survive.

Hellboy: Science of Evil will be punching its way onto the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PSP platforms late in June in North America. Closer to the end of August, it will be released in the dev team's home region of Australia. Check back soon for our full GameSpot review.

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