The game Constantine is based upon the recently released motion picture of the same name starring Keanu Reeves. I’ve read very little of the comic book the character John Constantine is based upon (Hellblazer), but I do know the basics. Constantine did bad things involving spellcasting and curses when he was young, was sent to an asylum where he met up with both God and the Devil and double-crossed both of them. Now he roams the earth trying to keep things even between good and evil, or at least that is what I gleam from the game. Constantine has the ability to visit Hell whenever he puts himself into a puddle of water and fires off a Latin-based spell. He seems very tortured, almost as much torture as this game is going to put you through.

There’s nothing really special about the graphics in Constantine. We get the main character that looks a lot like Keanu Reeves and he moves around in a Max Payne kind of way (shimmy to the left and right while still looking straight ahead). The best part about the graphics is when Constantine visits Hell, something you will have to do quite often in this game in order to proceed. Hell is full of fire, things being thrown around and screams of bloody murder everywhere. Unlike the darkness that pervades the “regular world” sections of the game, Hell is nice and bright with fire and easy to traverse.

The darkness of the “regular world” doesn’t lend itself to much in the way of spectacular graphics. Basically all Constantine is doing is getting from point A to point B without dying; blowing away demons, half-breeds and humans who were possessed by demons along the way. Sometimes the framerate in these sections can really slow down, the funny thing is there really aren’t that many textures or animations being pushed, so you would think the game could keep a steady framerate…not so here.

One other plus on the graphics side is those in the cutscenes. They are well done (but horribly acted) and Constantine actually looks a bit like Keanu, which goes a long way in helping people bridge between the movie and the videogame.

Overall the graphics are just too dark and the framerate is too erratic to give this game a good score.

There isn’t a whole lot of music in the Constantine game, so this score suffers a bit. What it really suffers from though is that Keanu Reeves is not voicing Constantine and instead a Keanu sound-a-like is employed. I haven’t seen the film, so I don’t know how lifeless Keanu’s delivery is there, but the voiceover person is just horrendous. He kind of sounds like he is trying to channel Neo from the Matrix films and Ted from the Bill and Ted films. It’s all levels of screwed up.

The rest of the sound is okay at best. Early on in the game while trying to traverse some fire escape ladders outside an apartment there were loud police sirens that were looping again and again as I attempted to get Constantine to climb a simple ledge; it got very annoying very quickly.

There are some good lines here and there when Constantine meets up with bosses and Constantine certainly likes to speak the word “asshole” a lot when describing any demonic presence that goes by him.

The control is okay at best. With the jerky framerate the controls can become quite annoying. Aiming is done like any first-person shooter, except that this game is shown from the third-person. R1 fires while you aim with the right analog stick and move with the left analog stick. In many ways, Constantine borrows a lot of its control from the Max Payne games, although not done as well.

Constantine has some special powers at his disposal as well. Much like Riddick, Constantine has a special sight called “True Sight” which allows him to see in the dark and to see if demons possessed a human (in the True Sight the character in front of Constantine will look like a demon). Constantine also has spellcasting abilities that he picks up during the game. You choose the spell via the d-pad and then you press the buttons in a certain order that are shown on the screen. If you do them before anyone attacks you the spell is unleashed and it usually affects a bunch of enemies at once. It becomes very useful at times when you are going against a number of possessed rats for instance. The spells are cool to see, but they also bring the framerate down quite a bit on the Playstation 2 at least.

The controls are good for a third-person action game, but it certainly isn’t going to win any awards. Think of the game as a cross between Max Payne (movements) and Eternal Darkness (spells), although not nearly as good as either.

The game Constantine felt like a “by the books” type of third-person action game that doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The controls are a bit awkward and very Zelda-like when you take jumping and climbing into account. All Constantine has to do is get close to where he needs to do an action and he will do it (jumping over chasms, climbing up fences/steps, etc.). In many ways it is kind of like playing Max Payne while the computer holds your hand.

The gameplay of Constantine can easily be surmised this way: you go through a dark level trying to reach your objective (fighting off demons and half-breeds as you move along with your guns, holy water and other weapons), you reach a body of water and do your spell to transport to Hell. You then go through Hell in order to get something moved so you can continue past where the puddle was in the regular world. Repeat ad nausea and you have Constantine the game.

This isn’t to say Constantine doesn’t have some nice places here and there, but it is very few and far between.

Since the game isn’t very good you probably aren’t going to spend the time to go through the whole game, so the overall value on this game is pretty low. It certainly isn’t going to sit in the pantheon of third-person action games anytime soon.

If you’re in the mood for a Max Payne style game without any of the Max Payne type coolness, Constantine would probably fit the bill nicely.  It is at a lower price point ($39.99) so it is a bit more enticing than other games out there.  However, for the extra $10 you can probably find a game that is at least two times as enjoyable as this game.

The fact is that Constantine does what it needs to: a serviceable third-person action game to go along with the release of the movie. I’m not sure why developers don’t take a cue from Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and maybe think up an original story that can happen before or after the movie. Constantine falls into the usual pitfalls of not immersing the player in enough to make playing the game worthwhile. This is a rental at best because there are many other quality games that have come out around the same time.