It seems Warner Bros. has chosen wisely when it comes to their forthcoming Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters video game. Although this is a companion to the film to be released on June 12, the game itself does not follow along with the movie plot like many tie-in games, something that has usually vexed fans in the past. Instead it extends the theatrical experience.
“The storyline is set in the universe of the film but it’s a completely unique storyline. The basic story is, the Manhunters who were built eons ago by the Guardians of the Universe, but were exiled after they decided they wanted to destroy all living beings, have come back to Oa and are attacking Oa for reasons that we’re not quite sure of in the beginning,” explained Mike Donges, Development Director at Double Helix, the creator of the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 versions of the game.
“Hal starts off as trying to save Oa from the onslaught of the Manhunters. It’s about his discovery about what’s actually going on and getting to the bottom of it, trying to find out who’s behind all of this mayhem,” he said.
The Wii and Nintendo 3DS and DS versions share the same DNA as the other two platforms but go their own path.
“It’s set in the universe of the film but it doesn’t directly correlate to the plot. Hal Jordan’s still a rookie,” said Nathan Whitman, Associate Producer at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, who worked on the game with developer Griptonite Games. “We’re a stylized version of the look and feel of the film. The Nintendo platforms tend to skew younger so we celebrate that and take advantage of that. So it’s a little more of a comic-booky Hal Jordan.”
Newsarama got the chance to play and view demos of both the PS3 and 3DS versions of the game at WonderCon 2011, continuing the flood of new information.
On the 3DS, you start off in a safe room to learn some of your initial moves; melee, flying, binding, blasters, ground pound and of course, hard-light constructs. Create a charged attack by holding down the correlating button.
“We also have a scanning ability so you can find out what the weaknesses are of the Manhunters,” said Whitman. “What you’d know if you scanned somebody, is that their shields are vulnerable to your ring blasters. So they have different weaknesses and different strengths and you can use that to your advantage.”
Near the beginning of the game, a battle with Sinestro is also used to train Hal Jordan, whose voice and likeness are that of actor Ryan Reynolds. “Essentially at the beginning of the game we want to show the player all the abilities that will eventually come to them,” Whitman told Newsarama. “It’s a stylized version of the film visuals. So it’s basically your mentor’s kind of challenging you like, ‘Let’s see what you’ve got kid.’ And he’s going to show off all the moves that you’ll eventually get throughout the course of the game.”
The game utilizes an experience points (XP) system that allows gamers to get additional ring energy as well as points to upgrade their constructs. “And there are a variety of constructs,” said Whitman. “They can use a menu to turn on constructs and turn off others. So for instance, if someone just loves the hotdog construct, they can just use that one. We have some fun ones, we have some silly ones which people get a kick out of, but we have a huge arsenal of different constructs.” While playing, a car, giant weight and a gatling gun were utilized.
The cinematic art and character portraits used in the game were done by WildStorm, some of the same artists who illustrated the character profiles in Arkham Asylum and did designs for DC Universe Online. “They’re a talented bunch, we’re very grateful for their help,” said Whitman.
Whitman mentioned the average gameplay on the 3DS for an experienced player would probably be around six to eight hours but could take longer. “Structurally the game isn’t linear outside of the first level you have to play and the last level you have to play in order, but everything in between you can go through and backtrack and utilize your specific ability here or there or unlock something,” he said “Like a door for instance, we have the grab ability where you can grab or throw. There’s gonna be doors that you have to have that ability to open so if you backtrack, you go find those doors and you reveal what’s behind them.”
Besides Sinestro, four other Green Lanterns help you along the way. “You tag team with four senior Lanterns who each have a specific ability that they teach you and that then is a theme throughout the level that they’re based out of,” said Whitman. “Once you unlock those abilities in those four senior Lanterns they’re there at your beck and call to help you out when you need them.”
You also get a chance to travel through the Vega system which, to Whitman’s knowledge, isn’t in the motion picture. “So you’re going to see different locations, different lanterns. We expand the universe of the film without having to be beholden to the story narrative,” he said. “I think it’s flexibility honestly. We get to do things that aren’t in the film, right? So, if you’ve seen the film, on most movie games, you kind of play the movie again. Which, if you like the movie, great, but you want more, you want to get a broadened experience. Check out the movie and the game and get the whole package. So we chose that so we could do new things and do different things and not need to be a carbon copy of the film.”
For the more hardcore gamers, the PS3 (and thus 360) version offers a bit more intensity.
“Well this game is almost completely unique from the game for the Nintendo platforms, it’s an action adventure combat game using Hal Jordan’s will power, his imagination, to create the kind of constructs he uses in comic books,” explained Donges.
“The thing is that there’s so much to tell with the Green Lantern universe, you know, it’s been around forever, it’s been so richly developed that there’s just tons we can do with it so why just take one angle? And to help us out with that we had Marv Wolfman, who wrote the story and the script for the game, so that was a big boon especially as we were expanding into other areas of the comic book fiction.”
Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters for the PS3 and XBOX 360 uses freeform combat with light and heavy attacks which can be used in any direction as well as the hard-light constructs. “A lot of the gameplay is centered around being creative with the constructs,” said Donges. “You know, coming up with your own style, your own way of actually playing with the constructs that you have at your disposal. Obviously you start off with only a few and over the course of the game you unlock new constructs that you can purchase using the experience that you gain by destroying various enemies.”
Since Green Lanterns fight not only on the ground, the developers have split up some of the abilities into ground and flight modes. “You can do not normal human things in ground mode, you can jump up and use some of your constructs and stay elevated, but we wanted to focus on really, really rich depths to the gameplay in the ground mode and in flight, so we decided, let’s split them up,” said Donges. “We have some missions that are focused on ground combat and ground constructs, we have other missions that are devoted just to flying.”
As you destroy enemies along the way, you build up your rings “surge meter” and once you’ve gone into full ring surge mode, you’re in for a treat. Hal gets his own jet plane construct to fly in. “We were very conscious to follow along with Hal Jordon’s personality and his perspective in harnessing these constructs. They’re all very typical of things,” he said. “You saw baseball bats and gatling guns and jet airplanes, stuff that is very typical of what Hal Jordan would use as a Green Lantern. He’s not a really wacky construct guy so we tried to keep him faithful to that.”
What about the Green Lantern’s power ring, will it need to be charged during the course of the game?
“The light of the energy blasts are free, they don’t actually use any willpower and when your willpower depletes you can use those to help it charge back up again. So you always have some way of being able to charge it back up again,” Donges told Newsarama. “You also have the ability to upgrade the length of that bar so you can fill it up more and it can increase your ability, the rapidity with which it will recharges, so as you progress through the game, there’s lots of different options on how you can manage your willpower.”
Much like the forthcoming film, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters can be viewed in 3D. “On both PS3 and XBOX 360, we let you play, if you have a 3D television, we offer the stereoscopic 3D games on both platforms,” said Donges. “If you don’t have a 3D TV, we also offer an anaglyphic 3D mode so you wear the funny looking glasses and you can play the game in 3D that way as well.”
One of the features of the game allows for drop-in, drop-out local co-op with Sinestro which is available in both ground and flight modes. Not being able to play the character solo will ensure the player 2 position is never picked last again. The reason for Hal being the only solo player? “He’s kind of driving the storyline,” said Donges. “Kilowog makes an appearance as well although he’s not a playable character.”
The Guardians will play a role in the game but, much like in the comics, don’t act much. “They basically have the role that they typically have, you know, they’re kind of the semi-omniscient overseers,” said Donges. “They definitely play a role in guiding Hal in his adventures.”Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters takes place entirely on alien planets, allowing for cameos fans will probably enjoy. “We’ve got Oa, we also have the planet of Biot which is the Manhunters homeworld and the planet of Zamaron,” said Donges. “Both of those are taken from the comic book fiction so I think it will be interesting places for fans of the comic book series over the years to see what we’ve done with [them].”
Does that mean the Star Sapphires appear in the game?
“Star Sapphire does not play a role in the game but other Zamaronians do,” Donges told us.
The gameplay time on the PS3 and XBOX 360 versions is likely to be much higher than that of the 3DS but the developers aren’t saying exactly how long at this point. “It’s a respectable size game, I don’t think anyone’s going to be disappointed,” said Donges.Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters ships on June 7.