Bored of Devil May Cry 4, God of War 2 and Ninja Gaiden 2? Can't wait for SEGA's Bayonetta? Do you think Konami's Hellboy looks like a good stop-gap game to tide you over? Think again. It seems as though Hellboy: The science of evil has been in development for ages, but that hasn't prevented it from being an utterly generic, dull hack 'n' slash that fails to capitalise on even a tenth of what Hellboy as a character could bring to video games. Consider us very disappointed.
As alluded to in the opening paragraph, Science of Evil is essentially a Devil May Cry clone. You play as Hellboy, smacking around enemies using your big red fist, shooting them with your gun or bashing them with numerous melee weapons. You've got your standard weak and strong attack, air attacks and a rage move, as well as various grab attacks to finish off enemies in spectacular fashion. If the game had managed to take the Hellboy licence and make a game approaching the quality of DMC4 that would have been great. The result, though, is a game so devoid of originality and fun that it's a chore to play.
Somehow developer Krome Studios has managed to take an incredibly strong brick-like, red super hero and make him seem dull. The enemies you fight aren't intrinsically dull, but that's essentially all you do: fight them over and over again as you move from one enclosed section to another. In some cases you can stand in the middle of an area and repeatedly hammer down each attack button, not giving the game an ounce of your concentration.
We know that the game has been released to coincide with the second movie and as such is trying to appeal to a fairly young audience, but it's painfully easy. Even the bosses can be completed without having to think about anything. Without anything in the game putting up a fight, trekking through the levels feels almost completely pointless. There's co-op play, with a second player able to fight alongside Hellboy, but this adds very little to the experience. You can even play co-op online, if you want to depress someone who isn't in the same room as you.
Without anything to get excited about in terms of gameplay a lot of Science of Evil's appeal will come from its presentation. On Xbox 360 and PS3 it's not an ugly game but it's far from the visual splendour we've seen in DMC4 and Ninja Gaiden 2. Hellboy himself is the most detailed character in the game, looking more or less like he does in the films, but detail on enemies and in the environments is far less impressive. You'll move from one familiar looking section to another, only really seeing something new when you complete a whole level. Things aren't helped by what can only be described as a muddy appearance, which makes spotting finer details almost impossible.
On the audio front the game fairs much better. Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones provide their voices for Hellboy, Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien respectively, giving the game a Hollywood feel, but the voice acting isn't entirely convincing. The soundtrack is decent enough, but soon becomes repetitive and there are so many items lying around waiting to be broken that the sound of broken vases and barrels is often all you'll hear.
Hellboy: The Science of Evil didn't need to be triple-A quality - just a competent hack 'n' slash with smart presentation. It sadly failed on both counts. The dull, repetitive gameplay is what hurts it the most, leaving some merely average visuals to pick up the pieces. Even if you're a massive Hellboy fan we simply can't recommend you pick up The Science of Evil.