As is often the case with movie tie-ins, Green Lantern Rise of the Manhunters is a third person action game. Hal and his "partner" Sinestro spend most of the time walking or hovering through Oa, Zamaron, and the Manhunter Homeworld. A few flight-themed levels are thrown in here and there, but for the most part, the Green Lanterns are grounded and progression is quite linear. The environments are a bit bland as a whole, though the well-rendered space levels and the surface Oa itself stand out from the rest. It's standard action game fare, really, with a few light puzzles and cool boss fights to mix things up a bit.
Adding to the overall sense of blandness is the lack of variety in enemies. In the first level, you are introduced to the Manhunter robots. Some of them have little flying sleds, but most are grounded shock troops that come in large numbers. Periodically, larger robots, or those with energy shields, show up, but they don't really pose a significant challenge. If you like fighting Manhunters, you'll be very pleased, since they are your primary enemies for the earliest and latest levels, taking up well over half the game. The levels based on the Star Sapphires' homeworld, Zamaron, are in the middle, a welcome change of pace.
Despite the repetition of enemies, the game never really feels like it has been stretched out artificially. Each level feels just about right in length, but the total time for a playthrough is fairly short, in the range of six to eight hours, tops. It seems short for a full priced game, especially one without vs. multiplayer or a survival mode to add replayability. Even achievement or trophy hunting won't take you long; all but a handful of these will likely be earned in your first playthrough. Also of note for cheevie lovers is the unfortunate fact that only Player 1, controlling Hal, earns achievements at all.
Three levels of difficulty can be selected when a new campaign begins. But even on the toughest "Emerald Knight" level the game isn't very challenging. When Hal or Sinestro do manage to fall in battle (which is pretty hard to let happen, honestly), they respawn a few seconds later, as long as the other Green Lantern stays alive. Anyone with much video game experience at all will find little challenge in Rise of the Manhunters. Given the target audience, this is probably a good thing.
Thus far, this review has been pretty bleak. The nuts and bolts of the game are fairly vanilla. But there's one area in which Rise of the Manhunters shines, and that is the sheer joy of combat. Green Lanterns can create constructs from their rings for a huge variety of attacks. As the game progresses, experience is earned, which can be spent on new moves. There are no less than twelve special attacks available, which, when used, drain your ring's power (similar to a mana bar in an RPG). Additionally, standard fast and strong attacks, which also use the constructs, can be upgraded. The ring can also be used to grab enemies to throw them off ledges or pound them into the ground.
The sheer imagination on display for these special attacks is a comic fan's dream come true. Giant hammers, spinning swords, huge whirling spiked maces that knock enemies senseless... the list goes on, and using these abilities is quite enjoyable. I particularly liked the giant robot armor, which turns your Lantern into a slow moving but impervious colossus of destruction for a short time. You can even team up for combinations; laying a screen full of mines just before your partner uses a chaingun to blow them all apart is a good time, indeed. But perhaps the most fun is ring-grabbing a Manhunter and pitching him so your teammate can smack him off a ledge with a giant glowing green baseball bat. You really feel as if you are wielding the coolest weapon in the universe.
Adding to the feeling of heroism are some cinematic touches here are there. When Green Lantern leaps from one area to the next, the camera zooms in, time slows, and he shoots out like an emerald arrow. When he lands, the ground and your speakers shake, leaving behind a glowing green crater. When you finish off the last enemy in a group, the effects are quite similar, adding a visceral quality to whichever attack you finished off the poor foe with. Larger enemies can be taken down via short quick time events, similar to God of War. These animations typically feature crowbars, huge pistons, and giant anvils. Are all these little effects cheesy? Probably, but they make you feel like a superhero, that's for sure.
Co-op is limited to two local players. Player two can drop in and out anytime to play as Sinestro. For the most part, the co-op works quite well, but there are a few hiccups. For one, Sinestro's upgrades and experience do not carry over from session to session. Anytime Sinestro pops in, he has the same stats as Hal. Of course, further experience earned can be spent however player two likes. Another minor quibble is the fact that the cut scenes and other story elements ignore the fact that Sinestro is present; it can be disconcerting when Sinestro contacts Hal from across the planet, even though he is standing right next to him. These are really minor nitpicks, though.
Overall, Green Lantern Rise of the Manhunters isn't too far off what you would expect. It's a standard action game movie tie-in. The only things that set it apart from the rest are the inclusion of co-op and the grin-inducing fun of wielding a ring to power all those crazy special attacks. It's also too short for a full-priced game. If you can recite the Green Lantern oath by heart, you might want to pick this one up; everyone else can probably settle for a rental.