Thursday, April 30, 2009

(What the) Hellboy?

I discovered the Hellboy comics a few years ago, probably around 2002. These books are fucking awesome. They have the right amount of pulp adventure, horror, action, and humor. Hellboy is the best thing on two cloven hooves. If you've never read the graphic novels, I recommend them. And chase it down with some BPRD, the spinoff series featuring the organization of supernatural investigators that Hellboy worked for. You'll thank me for it. Now onto what I really want to talk about. Hellboy has seen a resurgence in popularity in the past few years. Due to this, there have been many projects (movies, video games, cartoons) that have tried to replicate the Hellboy experience. All of them are not part of the comic canon, as they make their own interpretation of the story. How do they fare? Well, let's just say you'd be just fine if you stick to the comics for the most part, but here's my impressions of the apocryphal incarnations of Hellboy. First off, there's the movies. In 2004 director Guillermo del Toro decided that he really wanted to bring Big Red to the big screen. He worked with Mike Mignola, the creator/writer/artist of the comic, to bring the first Hellboy picture to life. Very loosely based on the first story arc in the series, Seed of Destruction, It follows Hellboy and his fellow agents in the BPRD (Beureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) as they try to stop a resurrected Grigori Rasputin from summoning a Lovecraftian horror from its prison in deep space. Ron Perlman's portrayal of Hellboy brought him back into the limelight after being gone from it for so long after his iconic role in the Beauty and the Beast TV show. Honestly, he did pretty good. In my opinion, the bad casting choice went to Liz Sherman, played by Selma Blair, as she looked as if she spent the entire filming of this movie heavily sedated. To make things worse, they decided to make Hellboy and Liz an item, which, according to the comics, is bullshit. Everyone knows that Abe Sapien is the real ladies man. Still, this movie is okay. It was good enough for me to buy on DVD. However, let the same not be said about Hellboy II: The Golden Army. While the monsters were stunning, the movie itself mostly bored the crap out of me. And it that weren't enough, Hellboy and Liz are having a lover's spat throughout the entire movie. I really do have to say one thing about Hellboy in these movies. Though Perlman does do good, Hellboy acts like such an emotional big baby, throwing tantrums all the time and always getting his feelings hurt when people are scared of him because he's a demon with a stone right hand. Oh, boo-hoo. In the comics, Hellboy don't give a damn. The internal struggle for Hellboy in the comics is fighting, tooth and nail, his supposed destiny of bringing the world to an end. In the movies, it's this depressio crap about being accepted, even though he's huge, red, and surly. To top it off, we get the bomb dropped on us: Liz is pregnant with Hellboy's baby. Ewwww! Did we really need that? Really? Needless to say, I have not purchased this movie on DVD and outright refuse to. Next, the video games. Konami put out Hellboy: The Science of Evil for the PS3, XBOX 360, and PSP after the release of the second movie. It features the vocal stylings of the actors from the movies as their respective characters, which was good, as Perlman had some good banter going on. At first, I kinda liked the style of this game. It's a straight 3D beat-em-up, which is what any Hellboy game should be. After a while, though, I began to notice a few things that slowly started to piss me off. First off, the controls are sluggish. If you start having Hellboy pummelling enemies and you need to move out of the way of an attack, you have to wait before he's done with his slow-ass attack animations before moving. Needless to say, you're going to take a lot of hits. It seems ridiculous to have attacks available to you and never be able to find a proper time to use them without getting beat up. You can also play as Abe or Liz with multiplayer, but combat with these guys is no better. I played as Abe one time and his combat is retarded. He just quickly moves around, doing all sorts of kicks and flips like a capoeirist on speed. The problem is he moves too fast for you to be able to hit anyone. His kicks just go right past enemies. And playing two player mode on one XBOX is a pain, as the split screen makes the characters look so small, you develop eye strain long before carpal tunnel sets in. Which brings me to my next point: THE CAMERA SUCKS FRIED DONKEY BALLS! This has some of the worst camera work I have ever seen. One point, you're fighting a slew of enemies and the camera is half a mile away. You need an HDTV and a magnifying lens to see anything in some of these scenes. The next moment, you're fighting more enemies, which all happen to end up behind the camera. I tell you, this makes aiming your gun (which is another crappy control issue) an even bigger pain in the ass. What's more, you can't move the camera. You have to run back and go to the enemies that you can't see as they attack you. It's one thing to have a fixed camera system, but to have the cameras fixed in some of the most retarded spots is inexcusable. One more thing, and this really chafes me. There will be times when the game relinquishes control of you and shows you a little in-game cutscene - usually new enemies popping up. The problem is that, while most games stop the action during cutscenes, this game lets the enemies who you are already fighting keep beating the piss out of you. It seems the worst at the first level, where you fight these explosive little imps. Often, they try to leap on you and knaw your face off. When a cutscene starts, they waste no time lynching you, so when you come back from the cutscene, you have to pull of some stupid little munchkin from your back while he's chewing away your health. It's retarded. The worst thing about this game completely contradicts Hellboy. You see, in the comics, he's a fucking tank with a stone fist that smashes the shit out things. He's by no means immortal, but he sure can take a lot of punishment. In the game, however, Hellboy is a fucking pussy. Beating even the most insignificant enemies takes at least six or seven hits as they pile up on you en masse. You'll be taking on, at least, ten at a time, in some cases. On the flipside, Hellboy's health pretty much regenerates after every battle. Why? Because one battle is all it takes to kill him. The basic tactic of this game is to not let a single wave of monsters beat you to death. It doesn't matter how many waves of enemies you get through, if one wave gets lucky, you're dead, which is so retarded. It would make more sense for Hellboy to endure through wave after wave of enemies as they slowly knock away his health. Sadly, a group of five itty-bitty imps could tear you the fuck up, if they're throwing bombs. By the way, you can't block, which is a big no-no in 3D brawlers today. I fully realized how much of a pussy they made out of Hellboy in the second level when you fight a Kriegaffe, a mechanically enhanced gorilla created by an evil Nazi scientist (evil Nazi scientists are all over the place in Hellboy). At first, I was psyched, because I was going to relive an awesome moment in the comics. Then excitement turned to frustration when the damn Kriegaffe just wouldn't go down (Edit: I found out later that attacking the Kriegaffe does absolutely nothing. You have to knock out the pillars to knock him down to the lower floors to beat him, which is bullshit). Not only was the motherfucker too hard to kill, but it kept grabbing onto me and throwing me for a nice chunk of damage. Oddly enough, there are a few moments (like in God of War) where you can push certain buttons while your're grappling an enemy (which, incidentally, I did with the Kriegaffe), but there was no button timing press for when the damn gorilla throws you. If he's got you, you're gonna get hurt. There's no escape. So, I've been pummelling away at this Kriegaffe for 5 minutes and he doesn't even seem winded. Of course, he kills me and I have to start all over again. Now, in the comics, Kriegaffes were tough contenders, but Hellboy could take one out. So getting my ass handed to me by this gorilla over and over again only reinforces my theory: They nerfed Hellboy. With so many flaws, you may think this is a fucking terrible game. It is fucking annoying and broken, that's for sure, but I wouldn't say it's the worst game I've played. It did have it's moments and I genuinely wanted to like it. But there's not enough good to outweigh the bad. I actually bought this at Best Buy for ten bucks, so I'm not too bent out of shape over it. I'll probably trade it in and get my money back on it. All I have to say is that it's a 3D brawler made by a company who have no fucking idea how to make one. Shame on you, Konami. Speaking of cheap Hellboy games I bought at Best Buy, the other Hellboy game, Hellboy: Asylum Seeker, I bought there for only five bucks. Worst five bucks I've ever spent. It was put out by Dreamcatcher Interactive, one of the worst video game companies ever created. Their bread and butter tends to be really shitty point-and-click adventure games inspired by mystery and horror stories (believe it or not, they're still at it). When I first saw it, I knew, deep in my gut, that it was going to suck shit. However, I couldn't pass up a chance to try a Hellboy game (seems I need to learn my lesson: a cheap Hellboy game at Best Buy is a bad omen). I gave Dreamcatcher the benefit of the doubt and picked it up. I told myself, "It's only five bucks. How bad could it be?" Long story short, this game is goddamn unplayable. Everything about this game is from the finest shit mines of Tegucigalpa. Graphics, controls, gameplay, voice acting - they all suck immensely. I warn you, whatever you do, do not buy this game. I don't care if they're giving it away, don't take it. It doesn't even make for a good coaster. Even the great artwork by Mike Mignola on the cover is tainted by this unholy blight. Cast it from your lives and never speak of it again. (If you've noticed on the picture, this actually got an M rating. That's not because of any content contained within. It's actually because playing it will make you see the worst atrocities of humanity when you sleep every night.) Needless to say, the apocryphal Hellboy crap is pretty pathetic, for the most part. But there is one glimmer of hope for our favorite demon. After the first movie, Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola decided to make a Hellboy animated series of films. The straight to DVD movies are just about the best thing outside of the comics. Again, they are voiced by the same cast as the live action films. Oddly enough, I like them better in the animated movies. There's no goofy acting, no vacant stares from the love interest. The voice acting is actually good. It also adheres closer to the comic books, but is still considered outside of canon (Liz and Abe actually have a moment where the sexual tension rises between them, which is weird, since Abe is a fish man, but it's how it's supposed to be.) So far, only two have been released. While Sword of Storms is pretty good, Blood and Iron is the real standout. Blood and Iron tells the story of the BPRD fighting the lusciously beautiful vampire Erzsebet Ondrushko (based on Elizabeth Bathory) during two different time periods: in the present and in 1939 (which is depicted in flashbacks that are interspersed through the movie in backwards order. In my opinion, this is the only Hellboy you should really bother to get outside of the comics. Though the Hellboy animated website hasn't updated in two years, I'm hoping they'll get off their asses and make some more. A sequence after the credits suggested that they were working on one that focused on my favorite Hellboy character, a 1940s pulp hero named Lobster Johnson. Anyway, read the books (by the way, there are some novels published by Dark Horse, as well, written by up and coming fantasy and horror writers), watch the animated series, and don't touch that damn Playstation game. Kaiser out

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