Review by sfcalimari
Tekken meets Final Fight meets Devil May Cry etc etc
What can I say? This game is INTENSE. Basically it is a classic beat-em-up with a modern 3rd-person view. You move through levels, well, beating up enemies. The levels are fairly linear, and hearken back to classic beat-em-ups like Double Dragon or Final Fight where you move through a linear level, with no real free-roam or different paths to choose. Within levels you can move around freely, but there is a finite amount of enemies, and to move to the next level you generally have to fight your way to a door that leads onward.
The combat reminds me of Tekken, since you can attack your enemies with combos, or instead use a more powerful move to juggle an enemy or send them flying across the room. One unique thing about this game is that you can choose what attacks to use for each button, so you really have total control over all your moves.
You also can use special moves, called "roulette" moves, which use up orbs that you can collect. These moves do large amounts of damage, and are best used on tough enemies, groups of enemies, and bosses. You also have a "god hand meter" which fills up as you beat up enemies, and when it is full, you can hit L2 to use god hand mode, where you move and attack quicker and your attacks do more damage than usual.
The challenge in this game comes from the toughness of the enemies--give them a chance and they will really wail on you, killing you pretty quickly before you can respond. Often the enemies will gang up on you, all using their strongest attacks all at once to really hurt you. You can't block, but you can use the right analog stick to duck blows, or instead dash to the side or do a flip backwards.
Just getting through the various hordes of thugs in this game is tough, but the bosses are even more intense. The bosses generally have sadistically huge life gauges, and take many, many hits before they die. Also there are many bosses and mini-bosses that attack you in groups, making for an even more ridiculous challenge.
Also something kind of odd about the game is its leveling up system. You have a level meter, and defeating enemies without taking too much damage yourself will steadily fill up the meter. Fill the meter and you will go to the next level, such as 2 or 3. When you move up a level, nothing changes except that the enemies get a lot more challenging. At the end of the chapter, you will be rewarded money according to how many enemies you defeated at each level, and the higher levels give you a lot more cash. It's a rather strange and unique system, though it does allow skilled players to provide themselves with their own challenge, I suppose.
I can't really explain why this game is so challenging. The action is fast and furious, and never lets up. There is a steep learning curve, and once you get used to the game's intensity, life will be a bit easier, but then the game will throw some giant in a gorilla suit to attack you.
The graphics aren't jaw-dropping, but they are quite decent. Characters are pretty detailed, though they could have been more so. The various cut-scenes look a bit more polished.
Definitely some of the best original music I've heard in a video game in quite a while. Much of the music is of a kind of surf punk style--think "Hawaii Five-O." The tunes are catchy and quite fun to listen to. Some of the music later on in the game is more typical video game music, and not as interesting, but overall the music is well done.
The controls in this game take a bit of getting used to, but once you do they are very good. Moving around is rather reminiscent of moving Leon around in Resident Evil 4--you move your whole body to the side and then move forward in order to change direction--and this does take a bit of getting used to.
Unlike a lot of 3rd-person-view games for the ps2, God Hand doesn't really cause you any camera troubles. When you get near a wall the game makes the wall disappear so it doesn't block your camera. This is a nice feature, and though it looks a bit goofy at first, it helps keep you from being irritated and having your camera constantly blocked.
Something I do have a quibble about is that there is lock-on in this game. Basically you always automatically lock onto whichever enemy is nearest to you, and you face that enemy as you move around. Most of the time the lock-on is fine, but often you will try to attack one enemy, but suddenly swivel around and start attacking another nearby enemy. Another problem is trying to evade attacks--often you will try dashing to the side, but stay locked on to an enemy and instead kind of strafe around them rather than away from them, and the enemy will accordingly turn and hit you anyway.
The plot of the game is kind of a run-of-the mill villains taking over the world kind of thing, but the characters in the game are seriously goofy and fun to watch, and spend more of their time in hilarious, off-the-wall dialogue than boring you with details about the villains' villainous plot. So the story isn't really impressive or important, but the characters are really hilarious and make the cut scenes worth watching.
Overall I give this game a 9, it's definitely the most intense game I've played in a while, and one of the best overall I've ever played. If you like Devil May Cry, Final Fight, Double Dragon, or Tekken, you will like this game. As for rent or buy, I would say rent if you have the possibility of renting it for a week or more, because the game is quite lengthy and will probably take you nearly a week of solid gaming to finish. So you're probably not going to finish it over the course of a weekend, I sure didn't. As for buy, I would say it is a good choice to buy, since it is fairly lengthy and priced somewhat low. However there isn't a whole lot of replay value; once you beat the game you can replay it with all the moves you unlocked the first time around, but this makes the game ridiculously easy and a bit boring. Or if you complete the game on Normal, you can try playing on Hard difficulty, if you are truly insane.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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