God Hand Review

If Okami was any indication that the video game industry was more than capable of producing art, then God Hand is undeniable proof that there is still lots of room for mindless entertainment. With that said, it’s great to see that Clover Studio hasn’t let all their success go to their head, because a resurrection of the old school beat ’em up is just what the doctor ordered. With the stench of bombastic failures like Final Fight: Streetwise and Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance still looming, God Hand sounded like just the kind of refreshingly over-the-top brawler that we needed to get the old juices flowing again. Unfortunately, there are some catches that bring this title dangerously close to hit or miss territory. Whether or not you’re bothered by them will ultimately affect your decision to buy, rent, or pass.

On the surface, God Hand might not seem very different from Capcom’s previous attempts to reinvent the beat-em-up genre in three dimensions. In fact, it pretty much repeats every single mistake they’ve ever made in the past, from horrible voice acting to sloppy storytelling. Yet somehow they’ve managed to pull it off in such way that the resulting effect is more hysterical than annoying. To put it simply, it’s a light hearted spoof filled with zany characters, cheesy dialogue, and of course, countless numbers of scantily clad women. A thin yet adequate plot sets up the wacky premise for the game, and it’s as ridiculous as they come. Our main protagonist, a 23 year old roughneck named Gene, gets his arm lopped off after trying to stand up to a rambunctious group of thugs. When he comes to, his arm is back, this time infused with the power of the almighty God Hand. But his situation has not improved by much. Now, he’s being targeted by everything from midget power rangers to puppy kicking dominatrixes. Fortunately for our hero, he’s well armed (get it?) to take on the enemy.

God Hand‘s gameplay is unabashedly straightforward and fast paced; you certainly won’t find any of that free-roaming nonsense here. Practically everything in the game is geared towards action and boy, is there plenty of it. You’ll advance through level upon level, opening cans of whoop-ass on enemies of every creed, size, color, and gender. It may sound a bit shallow in a way, especially since there really isn’t much focus on anything else, but once you experience the combat first hand, you’ll realize that it’s actually much deeper than it lets off. With over 150 different moves to choose from, there’s no doubt that you’ll be spending a lot of time designing combos that match your own unique tastes. Players can link up to five moves at a time and unleash them by repeatedly tapping the square button. This is pretty much your "all purpose" combo. In addition to this, are special maneuvers that you can access by pressing the R1 button. Time will slow down for a few seconds (a la Matrix) and a roulette wheel will come up with the available abilities listed, which are also customizable.

The piece de resistance, however, is the actual power of the God Hand itself, which grants temporary invincibility and super speed. Once the power bar is full, it can be activated by pressing R2. Of course, all this doesn’t mean that you can just simply mash away without a care in the world. You may be blessed with godlike strength, but your mortal flesh is still quite capable of bruising. Unfortunately, blocking won’t fix this problem, because you can’t block at all. Instead, you’ll have to use the right analog stick to dodge all incoming blows. It’s a weird system, but it works well given the game’s frantic nature. Simply tilt back to initiate a flip, forward to dash, and side to side to quickly strafe out of harm’s way.

Despite its simplicity, God Hand is surprisingly difficult to master. If challenging games like Devil May Cry 3 or Ninja Gaiden sent you racing back to your local retailer in hopes of a trade-in offer, then you might just want to skip this one, because it can get downright merciless at times. There is an easy mode available (sort of), but if you choose it you’ll find yourself immediately ridiculed by the main character. Playing skillfully on normal mode won’t get you in any good graces with the game either, because after you do well for a certain amount of time, the game will misleadingly flash the words "leveled up" on the screen and proceed to ramp up the difficulty. This compounds on top of other things that you have to be aware of, such as your back. With no way to change the fixed camera angle, you’ll have to rely on the radar to alert you to potential backstabs.

The game does deserve some leniency due to its obvious budget constraints, but that’s still no excuse for its appallingly poor visual presentation. Even if the Playstation 2 is nearing the stage of obsoletion, it’s obvious that God Hand doesn’t take much advantage of the system’s hardware. The level designs are bland, and the game’s environments are stale. Oftentimes, rooms will consist of nothing more than bare floor and a few pieces of furniture. Clipping issues will occur occasionally, and various parts of the room will vanish if you get too close. On the other hand, the game does do a good job of animating movement due to the usage of motion capture technology. Everything, from a pimp slap to a swift kick in the family jewels comes off quite naturally. The sound quality isn’t bad at all either, although the game’s surfer rock soundtrack won’t be instantly appreciated by everyone; it’s more or less an acquired taste.

God Hand‘s high level of difficulty and disappointing lack of technical innovation places it in the love it or hate it category. Considering how inexpensive it is, it’s really hard not to recommend it-especially given the game’s obvious charm and appeal. One thing’s for sure though: it definitely should not be overlooked.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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