Once upon a time, Satan and his minions arrived on Earth and attempted to annihilate humanity. Using his supernatural abilities and unimaginably sadistic tendencies, the dark lord had almost all of mankind wiped out. But as everyone on the planet cowered and let themselves be subjugated into this new Hell on Earth, a lone man stepped forward. He didn’t have any friends, family, or even a name. What he did have, however, was the ability to kick a serious amount of demonic ass. This hero was armed with the power of God himself, a brilliant light that shined forth from his manly arms and blinded all evil that stood before it. With such divine power (and a whole lot of moxie) backing him up, the hero wasted no time in wiping out Satan’s forces and sending him back to Hell with his forked tail drooping between his legs. Grateful for being saved from eternal torment, the survivors gave the hero the title “God Hand.” As the epic struggle between mankind and the underworld passed from fact into legend, a small clan of warriors was bestowed the secrets of the God Hand. Fearing that another generation of demons would return to finish off humanity, the clan protected the powerful weapon for countless years…
At least, until they screwed up.
Somewhere along the line, someone must have tipped the demons off as to where the God Hand followers were hiding. In a brief and decisive stroke, the entire clan was wiped out. In an act of desperation, the lone survivor of the massacre gave the sacred weapon to the most unlikely hero imaginable: a young and arrogant drifter named Gene. Though this guy looks like a reject from a Western-themed Matrix movie, Gene has a passion for brawling against anything willing to fight him, lusting after promiscuous women, and partying with little regard for responsibility. He constantly whines about having to do the God Hand clan’s dirty work, often giving off a lazy and chauvinistic attitude. Unfortunately, his laid-back lifestyle has been put on hold ever since the God Hand was attached to his right arm. He’s being chased by hordes of hellish underlings and their demonic lords, each vying for a piece of the weapon in hopes of dominating mankind again. With so many bad guys cramping his style, Gene has no choice but to venture forth into the world and started kicking ass.
Despite his character flaws, the new God Hand isn’t the kind of guy you’d want to mess with. Underneath the goofy antics and machismo, Gene is an incredibly talented warrior. Over the course of his travels, he’ll be able to buy or acquire over a hundred attacks and maneuvers for his arsenal. These range from standard straight punches, hooks, and uppercuts to more exotic moves like guard breakers, elbow thrusts, mule kicks, Drunken Fists, and even the Pimp Slap. Any of these attacks can be mapped to your controller’s buttons, allowing you to flow from one punch into the next karate chop, juggle an opponent midair, then into a reverse roundhouse kick with a Haymaker to finish it off. However, creating your own moveset can prove tricky; since all of the maneuvers vary in speed and attack power, you’ll have to figure out which attacks can flow better into the next and balance out their potency. Considering that many of the enemies can block and counter several of your moves, learning an attack’s strengths and weakness are key to your success.
That’s assuming, of course, that you completely forget the cause of all this ruckus: the God Hand. As Gene fights his way through the game’s various stages, he’ll collect items that add energy to the legendary weapon on his arm. Once the situation calls for it (or if you’re in the need for a good laugh), you can summon the God Hand’s power. At that point, everything will slow down a la Matrix style, and a Roulette menu will pop up and allow you to cycle through a handful of attacks. Should you choose the Home Run God move, you’ll summon a baseball bat made of pure energy and smash the nearest enemy into the stratosphere. If you make a Wild Pitch, you’ll gather all the energy available to you, turn it into a glowing baseball, and pitch it like a World Series pro. If you regretted not picking up Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the Chain Jerk attack will snag your enemies just like Scorpion. But once you’ve exhausted the Roulette, you’ll also be able to apply the God Hand’s powers directly to your basic attacks. If you’ve charged up enough power, you can use the divine weapon to become invincible, increase your speed a hundred fold, and start ravaging anything that gets in your way. Once you’ve managed to dish out enough punishment, your foes will get dizzy, leaving them open for a few more specialized attacks. You’ll be able to pummel enemies with punches and kicks, administer a few knees to the face, perform a skull-shattering suplex, and give the femme fatales barehanded spankings.
That’s right, all you perverted guys out there, you can spank the female enemies to death.
However, not everything in God Hand should be taken so lightly. If you look past the over-the-top humor and zany action sequences, you’ll find that the game is brutally difficult. With combat reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, you’ll find yourself being swarmed with groups of enemies at a time. If everyone gangs up on you at one, you’ll see Gene’s tiny health bar get emptied by a constant barrage of punches, kicks, tasers, whips, throwing knives, or whatever else the demonic hooligans may be packing. In order to save yourself from certain death, you’ll have to watch an enemy, learn what attack patterns and gimmicks they have, then use the to your advantage. Some of your foes will always perform a three-hit combo, others have better range, and some can prove to be incredibly durable. It doesn’t help that the game follows right behind Gene and cannot be freely maneuvered, which can prove fatal if your enemies are coming up from behind. But in case you don’t like playing defensively, your controller’s right analog stick can be flicked in all directions, allowing our hero to flip backwards, slide to the left or right, or even duck under an oncoming punch. But if you manage to serve up enough destruction without getting hit, the game will automatically ‘level up’ and make the enemies much harder to kill, but drop better items. Should you get thrashed by these higher-skilled foes, the game will level back down to normal. All of this mixes together for a blend of aggravatingly difficult challenge with intuitive gameplay.
But as you’re tearing your hair out over getting your ass kicked by the same baddies for the twentieth time, at least you’ll enjoy the game’s offbeat entertainment. In a world where epic brawlers like Devil May Cry 3 and Final Fight: Streetwise try to take themselves seriously, it’s obvious that God Hand makes no effort whatsoever. Aside from Gene’s hilarious super moves and catchphrases, his enemies range from everything from guys dressed as gorilla luchadors, poisonous chihuahuas, Mini Me-sized Power Rangers, a cigar-smoking fat man with a flair for Spanish curse words, and even a coldhearted witch that can turn you into a puppy and kick you around the battleground. Most of the minor enemies are simply clones with slightly different costumes and maybe a new trick or two. The levels are even worse; they’re all comprised of incredibly bland and linear sections of Western towns, amusement parks, and Venetian ports. Since the camera follows Gene so closely, you can see his cloak flapping with his every movement, his fancy footwork as he dances to the game’s awesome surf-rock music, and the gaping mouth and bulging eyes of the opponent he just smacked. That’s on top of all the B-Movie quality dialogue, pop culture references, and other humor that are entwined with the game’s various cutscenes. This may not be the most epic game ever conceived, but it’s still comedy gold.
God Hand is one of those games that will either leave you shaking your head in disappointment or practically drooling for more. It functions superbly as a beat’em up game, and it possesses the some of the charm that games like Final Fight and River City Ransom used to enjoy. It’s got a huge array of moves that can be mapped to your controls, allowing for an unprecedented amount of options for your assault. That’s on top of awesome power that you can wield with the God Hand. Its frequently brutal difficulty, challenging leveling system, and wonderful control should be enough give veteran gamers a run for their money. On the other hand, the basic level designs, repetitive enemies, and occasionally frustrating camera are far below the standards of what you’d expect of a PS2 game. But hey, you’ve been given a hero that doesn’t really give a damn, a hilarious spoof humanity’s near descent into Hell, and a divine weapon that gives you a slew of crazy moves to use.
Oh, and by the way, you can kick a man in the nuts. How many games allow you to do that?