One ring to rule them all—or in this case, one controller putting you in the shoes of a ring bearer, Hal Jordan, in Double Helix Games’ Green Lantern Rise of the Manhunters.
Having just finished Rockstar’s L.A. Noire, where you are put in the role of a venerable gum shoe detective, I was looking forward to taking on the role of another type of sheriff; one in charge of policing the whole galaxy. But any parallel between L.A. Noire ends there because this Green Lantern is no Cole Phelps, being far more in line with Kratos of God of War.
When trying to understand the awesome power that each ring delivers to every Green Lantern, there are of course parallels drawn between the perceived abilities of a God. But how could you accurately illustrate that untapped power in the form of an interactive experience? Looking literally at the question and looking at the God of War franchise, Sony Santa Monica was able to fully represent the power of evolution that Kratos went through as he became a god. That same transformation and representation of power has been used as a template for Green Lantern Rise of the Manhunters with some positive and negative effects.
Hal Jordan, just like Kratos (or any superhero), takes on the role of the tragic hero by surviving through the death of his father and mother as well as the countless others he has attempted to save throughout his life. For any protagonist this is a very important plot point that is used in order for us to feel connected to the seemingly otherworldly characters we see on screen or read in a comic. Through their tragedies we are able to see that despite the upper hand they have been granted, they are still human. Unfortunately, Double Helix decided to skip that whole introductory process, as well as any key story elements that would have helped us identify with our protagonist, leaving a rather skimmed down plot that can be summed up in a sentence, but will be dragged on for hours: Robots are trying to steal the yellow ring of fear. Jordan, just like any Green Lantern, uses the ring he has been granted to channel his willpower into constructs that can be used for limitless possibilities.
Since Hal Jordan has the ability to create anything he can visualize in his mind, Double Helix was faced with a very tough gameplay decision that centered on the fact that their experience had to have a defined list of constructs that they can control while still demonstrating an evolution of the character that would be understood by the player. With the story seriously lacking any imagination, the constructs act as a storytelling device that unravels as the player and Jordan learn what the ring is capable of. Since the constructs are limited to the imagination of the ring bearer we are given an idea of how Hal Jordan’s mind works from what he creates. These constructs start out primal enough with a sword and gun (as represented by the ring), but eventually Jordan’s personality starts to show through as he creates things such as a jet plane, one which symbolizes his father and the origin of his fears. The combat that encompasses the constructs you unlock is also reminiscent of the God of War series and with that being said, it is very satisfying and easy to rack up the hit counts.
Besides the constructs, you also earn experience to unlock other abilities for Hal Jordan’s ring. These abilities will help prolong the meters that dictate how long some of the bigger constructs can be used as well as dealing or taking more damage. Earning the necessary experience points needed to unlock all of the power-ups and bonuses comes relatively quickly—with the exception of one ability that can be summed up as a type of god mode code.
Another welcome addition is the inclusion of co-op. Anyone looking to drag a friend through Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters will be able to off-line in a cooperative mode, taking the role of Sinestro. While this is a very nice inclusion, there were some shortcuts that seemed to be taken. Having Sinestro does break up some of the continuity of the forgettable story, but the most glaring short cut that was taken has to be the lack of imagination surrounding the iconic character. As previously mentioned, Hal Jordan has constructs that seem to speak to both his human side as well as his personal side and this makes the rings important when defining differences in characters from the series. Unfortunately, Double Helix failed to see the importance of this feature (or presumably did not have enough time to implement it before the movie) because all of Sinestro’s constructs run parallel with any that Hal Jordan has unlocked. Sinestro could have been a nice addition, showcasing the vast difference in personality that is represented by his history from being raised on another planet, but instead the excitement dissolves into a disappointment once you realize he is nothing more than a re-skinned version of Hal Jordan.
Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters doesn’t suffer the same fate as some of the Marvel properties that have been controlled by Sega recently, but it is still lacking in many areas. The story mode can be completed in five to six hours (with only 3 level variations) and doesn’t give any reason to go back again. Levels are also broken up with mandatory on-rails flying sections that are forgettable and feel forced. Hardcore fans of the movie or comic will find some undeniable fun in the combat and the constructs that are involved, but anyone else should look elsewhere.