NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 10/17/2013
If, like me, you wanted to like Constantine more than you wanted to that one time you watched it out of curiosity, you probably didn’t realize or simply forgot that there was a game released in tandem with the film. When looking at games to cover this Halloween season, I was reminded of the existence of Constantine on the PS2/Xbox, and to my surprise, it’s actually not that bad.
Constantine hails from developer Bits Studios, those that brought us…Die Hard: Vendetta on the GameCube and loosely follows the plot of the 2005 film. Constantine himself has the look of actor Keanu Reeves, but he does not supply the voice of the character (the only actors providing voice over work from the film are Bush front-man Gavin Rossdale, Tilda Swinton and Max Baker). Tremendous amounts of credit has to be given to the sounndalike hired to play Constantine, William Hope, who manages to capture Reeves’ unique style so much you swear he actually put time in the sound booth. In the voice acting industry there are soundalikes, then there’s excellent Keanu Reeves soundalikes.
Digressing quite a bit from the film in the gameplay department, Constantine on the PS2 is a third person shooter, and a fun one at that. The guns themselves are nothing out of the ordinary: you have access to dual pistols, a shotgun and a nail gun among others, but each have an occult twist in their name. The nail gun, one of my favorite weapons in the game as you can recollect the ammo you spend, goes by the name “the Crucifier”, and instead of hurling grenades you throw vials of holy water.
Supplementing your weapons are magic spells that you’ll develop as you delve into the game. Starting off you only have the ability to cross over into Hell, like in the film, but you’ll eventually gain offensive lightning magic, exorcism powers, as well as a temporary protective shield. The latter is quite useful against some of the bigger enemies later on, as Constantine is not the nimblest of people on their feet. One of the complaints I had with the game is the lack of a dodge function. Late in the game you’ll face large demons with very tiny weak points that likes to charge you for knock down damage. It’s bad enough when your faced with one, but you’ll take on a few in the row and together in the end game.
The transition to Hell is one of the more interesting aspects in the game in the way that it’s used for puzzle solving. You travel to Hell via water portals that normally occur at a dead end, signaling you have to transfer dimensions. Much like in the film, the version of Hell in the Constantine game is a destitute mirror of the place you’re in, so a simple change may allow passage via a broken wall or the manipulation of an item in one area that affects another. This can be something as simple as a moved stepping point you move, or an item that breaks something in the regular dimension to create a new path.
One of Constantine’s other passive abilities that are cleverly used in puzzle solving is the “demonic vision”, activated in the PS2 version by hitting the square button. Once in demon vision mode you can pick out things in the environment invisible to the naked human eye, such as the exit passageway to a level or the answer to one of the game’s manipulation puzzles.
Neither the dimensions shifting or the extra vision are terribly original ideas, in fact you’ve more than likely played much better games that have used similar mechanics to better use, but I appreciate Bits adding something outside of the simple third person shooting gameplay. Bits could have easily just stuck with a generic third-person shooter template and called it a day, but the fact that they added other gameplay elements showed they at least tried to incorporate elements from the source material they were working with.
For a movie based game, Constantine holds up fairly well graphically. The environments don’t get any more advanced than “alley” or “hospital” (I.E every place in a formulaic shooting game ever) but you never feel like your at a loss of where to go in the stages, though this is an extremely linear game and the chances of that are fairly slim. Bits also did a good job of capturing the films version of Hell with the normal city environments looking absolutely destroyed against a burning orange skyline. For the actors who have lent their likeness to the product, they match up well with their silver screen counterparts. Constantine himself, though not modeled after Reeves, is immediately recognizable as well.
Being a tie-in game to a film that didn’t exactly blow up like it did, I will admit my expectations were not through the roof when I placed Constantine in the disc drive of my PS2, and for that reason alone I think I came off pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had running through it. The ideas within are not ground breaking, but are implemented soundly with enough variation to keep you interested in the short playtime. Should you find Constantine in your local game store on sale (hell, I picked it up on Amazon for $0.99), I’d say it’s worth a purchase. Playing and reviewing games based on comic book properties, I’ve come across a heckuva lot worse from better known properties.