Version Played: Xbox 360 Current CEX Price: £3 I can’t believe I’m on my 20th Bargain Bin article already; I started out covering Wii games before getting hold of some […]
Version Played: Xbox 360
Current CEX Price: £3
I can’t believe I’m on my 20th Bargain Bin article already; I started out covering Wii games before getting hold of some very cheap Xbox 360 games here and there, with some very loose rules that I set myself in terms of what I’d look to cover.
For me, a game generally has to be in the £2 or less range for the Bargain Bin, as well as being lesser known and often a one-off that deserves to be better known. Of course, as I’ve just mentioned, these rules are loose and I’ve broken them a number of times over the course of the series of articles so far.
Here’s one that breaks both rules: Hellboy: The Science of Evil. Though it is part of a well-known franchise and one that veers close to being outside Bargain Bin territory (though at a still reasonable £3, currently), the game itself didn’t garner much attention upon release and seems to have been all but forgotten.
I’ve been a Hellboy fan for a long time. Mike Mignola’s original comic book series, featuring the eponymous BPRD agent who – despite his demonic look and history – is portrayed as a weary guy who just wants to do his job (if only the goddamn mythical creatures would just let him get on with it!) was an intoxicating mix of a relatable character in fantastical, sometimes creepy settings, all presented in Mignola’s signature style. It was brilliant and refreshing stuff, especially as he first appeared in the 90s – which was a particularly difficult time for mainstream comic fans.
Of course, the first Hellboy live action movie brought more attention to the character, if not quite the mainstream success it deserved. Ron Perlman was an absolutely perfect choice to embody the blue collar, world-weary feel of the character and Guillermo Del Toro demonstrated a clear understanding of the spirit of Mignola’s work, bringing his own distinctive visual flair to the character rather than replicating the blocky darkness of the original art. A second movie, focused more on fairy story style elements of Hellboy’s universe than the occult, Lovecraftian themes of the first film, was a similarly excellent translation of what makes Hellboy such a unique and satisfying series. The movie cast even played their roles in a pair of great animated movies around this time, which are well worth seeking out – Sword of Storms and Blood & Iron.
The movie cast also appear in The Science of Evil, which also borrows the look of its characters from the then-current movie incarnations, rather than the comic books (Hellboy doesn’t have the more goat-like legs and hooves that he has in the comics, for example, with his slightly more humanoid appearance being the same as the one seen in the films). Ron Perlman is, again, superb as Hellboy – it really does seem like a role he was born to play. Or was Hellboy born to be Ron Perlman? Either way, he fits the role as snugly as the Right Hand of Doom fits Hellboy.
The game itself is a third person actioner that often has fixed camera angles, much like Devil May Cry. It’s not entirely successful in terms of the viewpoints, with some awkwardness in the gameplay arising from this. Another point of frustration is the controls, which can be poor – especially with the aiming of thrown objects or even when trying to aim your gun. An early boss encounter is rendered difficult not because the enemy is high on health (she’s not) or has attacks that are particularly difficult to avoid (they’re not), it’s simply the grabbing of objects and properly aiming that proves tough in practice.
The level design can sometimes be an irritation too, with some confusing and unclear layouts causing unnecessary frustration; some of this is due to the camera angles, but the fault can also be attributed to bad signposting in terms of where you need to go next, at certain points in the stages.
However, the writing, style and sense of atmosphere familiar to fans of Del Toro’s excellent adaptations – as well as the acting of the main cast (even if Selma Blair and Doug Jones are relegated to multiplayer modes) – really elevates the game and gives it an appeal that transcends its somewhat shaky foundations.
The commercial failure of the game meant that planned DLC, featuring the brilliant Bruce Campbell as the Hellboy universe’s pulp vigilante/hero Lobster Johnson, never materialised – which is a massive shame.
I can certainly see why the undercooked and sometimes frustrating gameplay would have met a frosty critical and commercial reception upon release, but the beauty of being where we are at this point in time and with the game costing far less than full price means that it’s ripe for re-evaluation. Whether or not this one is worthy of your time, from the Bargain Bin value point of view, is dependent on your interest in Hellboy, I think. I personally think it’s worth persevering with if you’re already a fan – but not so much if the franchise isn’t one you’re already invested in, especially given how it’s priced slightly higher than the games I normally cover.
I’m sure we can all agree that the most recent big screen Hellboy isn’t worth your time though. Given the choice between renting the David Harbour reboot and purchasing The Science of Evil, I’d opt for the latter every time. Sure, you might only get an hour or two of enjoyment out of Konami’s last gen game, but that’s better than no enjoyment at all for a few hours, for roughly the same price, right?
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