When Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters was announced last summer, everyone thought “Eh,
another movie tie-in game with a short development cycle.” Those usually end up
giving us forgettable titles like Sega’s Iron Man
2 and Disney’s Tron:
Evolution. It’s almost become an accepted industry staple that video
games based on movies will be bad. The original announcement of Green
Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters was accompanied by so little
information, that we expected it would follow the same road.
But recently we were able to take a long look
at the game with the developers and get some hands-on time with it, and
surprisingly it is a lot more robust than we expected. Ryan Reynolds provides
the voice of the titular character, and the combat is a lot deeper than you
would expect in a movie title. They’ve even come up with some interesting ways
to represent the willpower-based powers of his ring.
Developed by Double
Helix Games (the Wii, DS, and 3DS versions have been handed off to Griptonite
Games), and written by longtime comic book scribe Marv Wolfman, Green
Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters doesn’t follow the plot of this summer’s
upcoming Green Lantern film. Instead it picks up some time after the events of
the film, and takes place in the same universe of the movie.
You won’t be
spending any time on Earth in this game. Instead, you’ll be taking Hal Jordan
through conflicts and adventure on Oa, the home planet of the Green Lanterns,
and two other planets from the comic books (Zamaron and Biot) in both
ground-based combat and some flight levels.
plot of the game pits the Green Lantern against the Manhunters, a robotic
protection force originally created by the Guardians of the Universe on Oa to
serve as a police force. But the Manhunters were more concerned with punishment
than justice, and the Guardians disbanded them. The remaining Manhunters left
the planet, and the Guardians went on to establish the Green Lantern Corps to
serve the same purpose.
As the game starts out, Hal Jordan is attending a
memorial on Oa for Abin Sur, the alien who passes his Green Lantern ring and
responsibilities on to Jordan in his origin story. During the service the
Manhunters attack, and you’re quickly instructed by your ring on how to use your
powers and abilities in short tutorial fashion.
The basic controls are
fairly simply. Triangle is your strong attack, while Square is your fast attack.
Circle shoots out a green claw that you can use to grapple and carry smaller
enemies, while it will latch on and yank you closer to larger opponents. The X
button jumps, while L1 erects a short-lived shield around Green Lantern, and R1
performs a “Drill Dash” that both attacks and dashes you in the direction you
choose, perfect for continuing to string attacks together.
the heart of Green Lantern are the willpower based attacks, which are meant to
be an extension of his will. Anything he can think of, he can create via the
ring’s power. In the game, these take the form of hard light constructs, and
range from giant baseball bats, to Gatling guns, to mech-styled power armor. You
summon these by pulling on the left or right triggers, which pulls up a
four-button map representing which constructs you have assigned to each of the
buttons for each trigger.
With two triggers and four buttons, you can
have eight constructs available at any given moment, and there are up to 12
constructs total in the game. You can hit select at any moment to pause the
action and re-map the constructs to whatever buttons you want, and these
constructs can also be leveled up as you progress as can your fast and strong
You have a willpower meter in the upper left hand corner, just
below your health bar, that shows how much willpower you have stored up. This
bar can be built up by hitting enemies with your base attacks. But if you use a
construct, say the Gatling Gun for instance, it will deplete the bar. When it’s
empty, that construct will vanish. If you let the meter build to full, you’ll
have Ring Surge available to you.
Enacting Ring Surge puts you into a
brief but powerful mode where your willpower meter is full, and you can use your
Constructs without depleting your willpower. It’s best to save this ability for
when you’re dealing with a group of enemies, or when attacking a boss. It’s
extremely powerful, but also lasts briefly so you need to be judicious about its
usage. While it’s easy enough to build up your willpower to the point where you
can access this, using your Constructs knocks the meter down, and you’ll
definitely need to use those as you get swarmed by enemies.
Construct-based attacks really show off the game’s attention to detail, and the
powers of Green Lantern. For instance, when he’s using the Gatling Gun, you’ll
see depleted shells hit the ground as he fires at enemies. His basic attacks use
an oversized medieval sword, and as you level those up his sword moves become
more advanced. Other constructs include a Piston Blitz, a Warhammer, a giant
Buzz Saw, and even the ability to create and throw a fighter jet towards your
Most Construct power also have a power-up ability where you can
charge and hold the attack for more damage. Since the game offers drop in and
drop out co-op (with your partner playing as Sinestro), the Construct powers
were also built with this in mind. One Lantern can pick up and toss an enemy
towards the other, while you power up the Baseball Bat Construct and whack them
across the level. There are plenty of these in the game, and the development
team hopes that gamers discover them organically.
Double Helix wanted the
game to be something you could easily pick up and play, but they also wanted to
add depth so they wouldn’t get hammered by the hardcore games press as well. To
that end, the team has designed very fluid combat mechanics that has a combo
system at its core. By juggling opponents and chaining attacks together, it’s
not uncommon to reach 40 or 50 hits in the game, and it wasn’t long before we
reached 35. You’ll gain more experience points by doing this, and it definitely
adds the depth of a fighting game and the required focus to this button
There is also the opportunity to play with several different
styles, or settle on a combination of them. For instance, you can put all of
your points into your up close and personal attacks, like the Warhammer, and
play as a tank. Or you can focus on your ranged attacks, like the Gatling Gun or
Missiles, and keep yourself distant from the action. There is a wide range of
possibilities in the ground-based combat, which is definitely the strongest
element in this game.
having said that, the game does have a weak side, and that’s the flight portion.
This is one of the biggest hurdles for games based on superheroes: how do you
handle the flying? Games either separate the flying and ground-based portions
into two different experiences, or they go the route of Marvel
Ultimate Alliance, where the characters can only fly a few feet off the
ground. Green Lantern takes the former route, and splits up Hal’s
experience into ground-based combat, which makes up the bulk of the game, and a
few flying levels.
While flying, Hal’s attacks are basically the same
with strong turning into a blaster (machine guns) and square becoming missiles.
What’s nifty is that he constructs a fighter jet around himself for these
levels, and they usually take place in space (one grazes the surface of a
planet, we’re told), and are not that long or challenging. It’s somewhat
unfortunate, because longtime Green Lantern lovers know about Hal’s test pilot
background and are familiar with the fantastic air-based encounters in the
books. But the ground game seems strong and deep enough to make up for this, for
the most part.
The game features appearances by several other members of
the Green Lantern Corps and some other familiar faces. The developers worked
very closely with the movie team, and they’ve reproduced a geographically
accurate model of Oa based on the same terrain and features used in the film.
With Ryan Reynolds providing both heroic dialogue and comedic one-liners, the
game looks to provide just enough of a movie tie-in without trying to replicate
combat impressed me a lot more than I expected, and fighting gamers will love
the ability to try and string multiple combos together to up their hit count.
With quicktime boss battles finishes available, and wave after wave of enemies
on tap, the game can feel like Green Lantern of War from time to time,
but is that a bad thing? Granted, I’ve only played two levels of the game, but
Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters looks like a lot stronger than I
expected. Look for more from this game when it releases with the movie in early