It ain't easy being Green -- but that doesn't mean it isn't fun.
I'm not sure how many times I've written about the, now standard, assumption that movie-games suck, but I'd probably peg it at about 6 to 1 for the times when one doesn't. The problems are usually easy enough to trace back to poor development times and a lack of studio support for certain products, which is odd since so many companies go out of their way to ensure a presence on every single platform. Shockingly, Warner Brothers has managed to find a development team that side-steps the stigma of the label and out-runs the limiting condition of movie-game tie-ins by producing a most enjoyably surprise in Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters.
The Hal Jordan Version
Rise of the Manhunters (ROTM) is a third-person action game that follows Hal Jordan, the human Green Lantern, and his battle with the Manhunters, an extraterrestrial race of robots. It's important to note that the game does a dubious job of explaining a single damn thing about the Green Lantern world. As someone that never got into the Green Lantern mythos, but loves comics, I have to admit that this is both frustrating for me personally and a clear misstep in judgment by the developers. By adding more features and gameplay that explains what this world is about and what the rules of the universe are DC Comics and Double Helix could have drawn in a new audience to the comics and the new feature film. Instead ROTM is a game meant primarily for fans and is probably best avoided by anyone that gets lost easily or cares about story.
The initial lack of focus caused by the abrupt start (for a non-fan) sets this game out on the wrong foot, but hopefully players will stick with it. Those that do will be awarded with a rowdy action fest that can be stupid amounts of fun, even if it really is only, to quote an industry favorite, a God of War clone. Combat is built primarily on fast and heavy attacks, quick blocks, dodges, grabs, and a boatload of special abilities. Those abilities are called Constructs, which Hal Jordan conjures from his Power Ring. It's unclear what the set rules of the ring are but the basic principle is that he can create anything the wearer can imagine. The developers have given come up with twelve, which is actually more than enough to keep things exciting.
The constructs can be very simple, like a gun and bullets or a set of large fists, or they can be incredibly complex, like a giant mech-suit or a jet fighter. All of these things are tied to green energy, which the Lanterns use which is adequately balanced by the Manhunters' use of yellow energy. While the elements of strategy are notably thin, the simple struggle of yellow vs. green is plain enough to understand and process. Enemies do a serviceable job being capable of containing or countering Hal's abilities effectively enough so that combat isn't always a straight button-mash. The campaign also features intermittent chapters with Hal flying through the air in on-rails sequences, which work well to keep things fresh. They're over fast but mindlessly enjoyable to play and they never become annoying.
Popping Big Green Bubbles
For obvious reasons (like the fact that the game can be so much fun) it's really disappointing that there just isn't more game here. There's a series of nice extras from the menu that fill you in on little bits of the comic's history, but after that the choices are slim. There's no multiplayer, no hoard mode and only limited replay value in the five hour campaign. The upshot is that the game can be played cooperatively. Though I tend to prefer single player experiences I can't deny that this was really enjoyable as a two player game. One main reason especially was that players respawn when in co-op so they don't need to restart from checkpoints. Bosses can be challenging enough that playing them alone, on harder difficulties, it's nice to have the extra help and respawn safety net.
Green Lantern is kind of a cool looking character and the strong use of color creates a distinct atmosphere that's immediately recognizable. But with that said, ROTM isn't a great looking game. It takes place entirely in space and on unknown planets, but seldom is there an imaginatively impressive local that catches your eye. The voice work is equally average, which is surprising considering Ryan Reynolds is here. This is less to do with bad acting than it is the aimless writing and direction. I'm sure fans will be able to pick up on slight nods here and there, but that's not an excuse to have predictably mundane story and characters.
An All-Powerful Ring and That's All You Came Up With?
If Green Lantern suffers from any stereotypical movie-franchise traits it's in audio and visual production values and game mode depth. There just isn't enough here to warrant an easy recommendation and what is on offer isn't nearly as accessible from a narrative standpoint as it should be. But none of that stops Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters from being a ton of unadulterated fun. Combat is flush with options, enemies are varied and interesting and the pace of the game ensures you're never left waiting for the next bit of action. More time and resources could have turned this game into a special treat, but the game on shelves is over way too quick and lacks enough essentials to make it something anyone can enjoy. If you want mindless fun or you're a fan of the franchise - or want a quick and easy achievement/trophy grab - Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters is worth a look, it just won't be a long one.
Final Score: 70%
70-74% - "Strong" The upper echelon of average, this game has sufficient technical prowess and/or fun, but lacks the depth or polish for it to excel. Some will swear it’s the best, others will say the opposite. Most of us will be perfectly content with it.