God Hand PlayStation 2
Published by Capcom
Developed by Clover Studios
Release Date: Out Now
You have to hand it to Clover Studio. Last week we reviewed the superb Ōkami, which is arguably one of the best games we've ever seen and this week we're looking at another game that they developed which is about as different as it could be to the excellent Ōkami. God Hand is a 3D fighting game with the emphasis firmly being placed on over the top brawls. There's no rich storyline here or fantastic artwork but it's one heck of an addictive experience that should appeal to anyone who enjoys fighting games on any level.
In God Hand you'll play as Gene, a rambler who ends up having his right arm cut off by a group of hooligans known as the God Hand Hunters. Gene almost dies as a result of his injuries but when he comes to in a strange hotel room he notices he has a right arm once more. It's not his original arm but the legendary God Hand. This new right arm proves to be both a blessing and a curse as it has not only given Gene supernatural strength but also made him a target for those that seek the God Hand. You'll fight demons, a lot of crazy thugs, a poisoned Chihuahua and many other weird enemies before the game's through. In fact it's fair to say the game is rather wacky in more than a few ways but the combat is very good and combat is what this game is essentially about.
Many 3D brawlers have failed to live up to expectations and we've certainly seen our fair share of disappointing ones. God Hand certainly isn't one of them however and it's as satisfying as it is weird (and believe me when I say that in places it's very weird). There are two main aspects to the combat and these are called Techniques and Roulette. Techniques are your normal combo moves that you'll find in most games of this nature. There are over 100 Techniques in total and you can customise your combos using these to create your own fighting style. You'll acquire Techniques during play and you can also purchase additional ones from the shop when you're between stages. As well as visiting the shop between stages you can also visit the casino and attempt to win more money to spend on upgrades. When you have sufficient Roulette Orbs (collecting special cards replenishes the orbs) you can choose a special attack from the God Hand Roulette Wheel. Pressing the R1 button will freeze the action and give you a limited amount of time to select a move from the revolving list. These moves are super powerful (and rather unusual to say the least) and can deal a lot of damage to your opponents. As with the Techniques you'll acquire more Roulette moves as the game progresses and additional moves can be bought from the shop. Once Gene has gained enough energy from defeating enemies he'll be able to unleash the God Hand on his enemies for a short time. There are also some context sensitive actions and attacks that are carried out by using the circle button. There are times when you'll need to use evasive moves and these are handled rather nicely with the right analogue stick.
So the combat's rather good then but what about the AI? Is God Hand a difficult game? Well in truth the game can be quite difficult. Initially there are only two difficulty levels available (Easy and Normal) although there is a Hard difficulty level to unlock once you've played the game through. In addition to the different difficulty levels you also have a system whereby the AI will adjust itself to match your performance. By default the AI will be at level one but as you become too skilled for the AI this will increase to two, three and finally four (called DIE). Should you struggle on one of these higher levels the AI will level down to your previous level. On the higher levels the enemies deal more damage, the end of stage rewards are greater and more enemies will appear amongst other things. It's a nice game mechanic that always ensures you have a real challenge on your hands and at no time is the game ever a predictable walkover. In short the AI couldn't have really been much better.
For a 3D brawler God Hand actually looks quite good. The character models are absolutely fine and the various environments all look quite good. The level design is a pretty basic affair though but as the focus is simply on going from one battle to another it's not too much of a problem. Each stage is split into smaller areas, none of which are particularly inspiring in their design. A fair amount of the environmental objects are destructible and quite a few objects can be used against your enemy in battle. Downed enemies simply disappear, which does look kind of rough although it is in keeping with the arcade nature of the game. The camera in the game is generally well behaved and there are no problems with the frame rate.
So far so good but it's when we look at support for deaf gamers that things begin to get disappointing. There are no subtitles in the game and whilst there isn't much of a storyline in the game it's still a little unfair that deaf gamers will miss out on all that's said during the game's cutscenes. Comments are made when selecting the difficulty level prior to starting a new game and these are not subtitled. Comments made during the combat are also not subtitled, which is a little disappointing as some are actually quite humorous. Basic tutorial messages are shown in text and the context sensitive controls are shown in text too. The radar displayed in the top right corner shows the position of your enemies and the enemies are colour-coded to show what kinds of enemies are in the vicinity. In truth the game doesn't really put any obstacles in the path of deaf gamers but it is disappointing that none of the dialogue is subtitled.
Whilst fighting games have in some ways become technical and to some degree more 'realistic' since the change from 2D to 3D, the old fashion brawler games have generally been poor. Games such as Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance and Spikeout: Battle Street are just two of the many that failed to make the transition. God Hand definitely succeeds though and is a fast paced and very addictive brawler that can keep you playing until your thumbs can't take anymore. Not only is it very addictive, it's very challenging and as a result it's very satisfying when you manage to complete the stages in the game. The rather bland level design is disappointing and the decision not to subtitle the game is also rather unfortunate but even with those two disappointments it's still a game well worth your time if you're a fan of the classic brawlers.
Those looking for a 3D brawler that has all the addictiveness of the classic 2D brawlers should put God Hand on their wish list. It's not perfect but on the whole it's one of the best brawlers to have come out in a long, long while.