Although Constantine doesn't follow the exact plot of the 2005 movie, there are quite a few things about this third-person action game that will be familiar to those who have seen it. Not only are the characters and environments similar, but also the game is built with the same emphasis on production and style. In spite of everything it has going for it, though, Constantine isn't much fun to play.
You play the role of John Constantine, a dying man who has a knack for exorcism, as well as the rare ability to see through the guises of half-angels and half-demons walking on Earth. These abilities, combined with a slew of holy objects and magic, help him keep these evil spirits from interfering with humans. As luck would have it, it's always Constantine's friends that are most prone to being attacked. Although the movie focused on the relationship between Constantine and the afflicted cop Angela, the game takes a slightly different spin. Angela is nowhere to be seen here; instead there's a brief mention of Constantine's "girlfriend" Ellie, an integral character in the comic book Hellblazer who was removed from the final version of the movie. All the other characters mirror their movie counterparts, so to complete the game, Constantine will require the aid of Hennessey the priest, the angel-demon bar owner, Papa Midnite, and John's chauffeur-turned-protégé, Chaz.
Starting off in Constantine's apartment, you encounter Beeman, who is Constantine's version of James Bond's gadget man, Q. Beeman provides Constantine with different weapons and magic spells throughout the game. In total, you'll receive three types of physical attacks, three magic spells, and one spell that reveals hidden enemies. The combination of these seven maneuvers will help you swiftly defeat any enemy. The standard melee attack, your knuckle-dusters, is useful, but only against one enemy at a time. If you want something that packs a greater punch, you can find pickups to supply you with holy water and shotgun shells throughout the levels. Of the physical weapons, the holy shotgun is the most useful, although enemies have to be directly in front of your shot for you to successfully hit them, which often requires careful adjustment.
Playing with precision is more difficult than it should be, because Constantine's controls are its biggest problem. Constantine is supposed to be a sleek, quick character, but instead he moves slowly and robotically. Fortunately, the stiff controls don't make the game that much more difficult, because, for the most part, the rest of the gameplay is extremely easy. There are a few moments where you're swarmed by a number of demons, but a single use of your magic spell can eliminate all the enemies onscreen. Strangely, defeating the final boss, Balthazar, is more challenging than the rest of the game combined. Some of your magic attacks do nothing against Balthazar, and he will occasionally get stuck during a collision, making it impossible to damage him. Generally speaking, the combat isn't interesting at all, so fighting is relegated to a chore you're forced to complete between plot points.
There are a few different gameplay elements in Constantine, but they aren't prolific enough to really make much of an impact. For instance, there's a Simon-like minigame where you must mimic a demon's movements to exorcise him from a human, but it's over fast. Also, the reveal and invisibility spells are underutilized. They would have been much more compelling if they had been used in more puzzles. The arena mode attempts to provide you with an action-oriented playing experience where you have to kill a number of enemies in an enclosed area. But given that the fighting is the least interesting aspect of the game, arena isn't worth playing as much as the regular game.
On the other hand, Constantine also has a number of neat details, such as how he'll light up a cigarette when idle...an activity that's very in step with the character. He'll also make comments when interacting with certain objects that help to enrich the atmosphere. Overall, the game looks and sounds great on the N-Gage we used for testing. It has a very comic noir feel, which is evident in the dreary environment and the presentation of the menus and level loading screens. The music that plays on the menus is quite good, but the sound effects are not used enough and are pretty generic. The presentation is top-notch, so it's unfortunate the gameplay doesn't follow suit.
If you're a fan of either the comic book property or the movie, you'll derive some enjoyment from Constantine's sleek presentation and occasionally unique gameplay. If not, you should probably steer clear, because the game's simply not good enough to recommend independently.