- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2011

Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters (from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Double Helix Games, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated Teen, $59.99).

Famed DC Comics’ hero Hal Jordan (known as the Green Lantern of Sector 2814) stars in this third-person epic designed with the live-action movie in mind but offering pure comic-book action.

Up to a pair of players control members of the Green Lantern Corps to stop a robotic army threatening to take over the galaxy. The game features a combination of levels mixing furious ground combat and on-rails flight missions.

What’s the story: Paraphrased from the game literature: Even before the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians of the universe created an android race of interstellar police called the Manhunters. When corrupted programming made them punish all life, the Manhunters were exiled. Now, they’ve returned, seeking vengeance. Armed with a power ring charged by will, Hal Jordon, the newest recruit and a gifted but cocky test pilot, must protect peace and preserve justice.

Play the role: A player takes control of Hal Jordan as he goes on search-and-destroy operations around the galaxy to handle the robotic Manhunter menace.

His primary enemies resemble a bit of a Transformer and a bit of an X-Men Sentinel. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes including cybernetic life forms that wield swords, shoot laser, spew yellow energy bands (to shut down a Green Lantern’s power), ride air boards and even king-sized Grand Masters (massive Manhunters towering over the heroes) that release mines and propel their fists long distances.

While defending Oa (the home planet base of the Corps), protecting Zamaron (planet populated by Amazonian-like warriors) and infiltrating the Manhunters’ base of Biot, Hal takes orders from the Guardians and such famed Corps members as Sinestro, Kilowog and Amon Sur (son of famed Green Lantern Abin Sur).

Besides simply engaging the enemy on the planet’s surface or solving the occasional environmental puzzle, players uses missiles and lasers in shooter levels as characters fly through space and corridors at hyper speeds.

Get to the action: Hal’s impressive powers are ripped from the comic pages and virtually recreated as he tales full advantage of his Power Ring.

Using its emerald energy, the Green Lantern can imagine and create an awesome variety of weapons and tools that pop out from the ring in a green, translucent form.

For example, a rotating buzz saw that can rip into a foe, a giant hand created for twisting a handle or a massive mallet that will crush most of the smaller Manhunters.

Even better, how about using a pair of huge tethered maces that can be swung around or an awesome gatling gun, detailed down to the glowing shells falling around the weapon.

Leveling up after battles and collecting Will points, a player can unlock cooler constructs including wearing a massive mech suit or delivering a piston-punching assault.

Players map up to eight special constructs to the controller for easy access to some slick-looking attacks.

And in the finest traditions of Sony’s God of War, players break pots, parts of the environment and kill enemies to release glowing orbs to replenish health, ring energy (those contructs can quickly deplete it) and ring surge (unlimited power for a set time).

Also, contextual attacks (press a sequence of buttons) can eliminate boss-type characters with a green glowing fury as multiple ring contructs come into play.

Memorable moments (in no particular order): Using a pair of ring-powered crow bars to open up a Manhunter like a can of sardines; admiring the violet crystal formation of Zamora; forming a fighter jet around the hero to quickly take out enemy ship; planting a bunch of proximity mines for Manhunters to walk into; and a fight against a multistory-tall stone statue that has come to life.

Violent encounters: Fallen enemies either explode or crumple over and dissolve as they spew glowing orbs. It was a bit distressing to hear the screams of agony from possessed Zamaron warriors, the other, unfortunate enemy the Lanterns must fight. Just for the sheer violent chaos happening on the screen at any one time, it’s worth a Teen rating.

Read all about it: Possibilities from DC abound from a character that has been around since 1940. I’ll offer the recent group of one-shot comics under the title Green Lantern Movie Prequel ($2.99 each) with issues highlighting Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Kilowog, Tomar-Re and Abin Sur. Also, the hard-core collector can revisit 1977 as he seeks out “Justice League of America No. 140” (about $15 in near-mint condition) to read about the first appearance of the Manhunters.

Pixel-popping scale: 7.5 out of 10. I found the action looking better than many of the cut scenes. However, Kilowog really comes to life through computer animation.

The game is also able to render in 3D for either 3D-capable televisions or standard monitors (the packages contains two pairs of those annoying 3D glasses shaped as Green Lantern masks). Players will last about three minutes in the 3D realm before the eyestrain causes a migraine of gargantuan proportions.

Star power: The game features the voice and likeness of actor Ryan Reynolds, the star of the “Green Lantern” live-action movie currently in theaters. That’s not necessarily a bonus as Mr. Reynolds’s vocal performance is underwhelming at best with a real lack of enthusiasm.

Multiplayer: The game does excel in the two-player cooperative mode as one player uses Hal Jordan and the other Sinestro to battle against the Manhunter forces.

Coming up with clever ways to team up on an enemy and arguing over how to solve one of the many puzzles makes for a spirited gaming session.

Perhaps one of the coolest moments finds one Lantern creating a giant bat and another capturing and tossing an enemy, like a baseball, with an obvious, home run producing result.

What’s it worth: “Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters” is a classic beat ‘em up adventure that will appeal most to its target audience, the geeky lover of the DC Comics’ hero. However, the average gamer will choke on the price and find the repetition and brevity of the video game unrewarding — even with the creative use of ring constructs.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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