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Constantine

We are over it. Seriously. We are over the fact that one of comicdom's most enduring British characters - Hellblazer's John Constantine, a cynical, trenchcoated scouse mage with a habit of getting his friends killed and the hordes of hell on his tail - has been turned into Keanu Reeves.

The mind boggles, but, y'know, we are over it.

Besides, the film might be brilliant. Might be. Going on what we've played of the game of the film of the comic, this month, it's certainly going to be interesting, at the very least.

Set in LA, the game parallels the plot of the forthcoming film with Constantine's ability to see the demons among us kickstarting an apocalyptic chain of events.

The gimmick is that Constantine, with the aid of magic, can travel to hell (a twisted reflection of LA) which, in game terms, means a dual world mechanic where you flip between them to progress.

It's not played as big a part as we'd thought, reigned in for use in crucial dramatic moments rather than overused and exploited, for which we're thankful. Hell is, however, wonderfully presented; a howling, reddish wasteland, all gutted tower blocks, rusting cars and swirling dust-storms. Top stuff.

The rest of the game, so far, has seen us directing a virtual Keanu around the shadier areas of LA, exploring crumbling tenements, shooting hideous half-headed demons with cruciform-based shotguns and meeting some decidedly odd characters.

The game has a striking resemblance to ancient N64 classic Shadowman, as Constantine channels a very similar adult horror feel and there's a definite voodoo flavouring too.

A good thing, we reckon; and the influence even extends down to a journal that's used to contain info on everything from mission objectives to demon lore and spell descriptions. As such, there's a wealth of background material to delve into and it's all hugely, impressively evocative.

But it's the little touches that succeed too. The use of 'Truesight' - a mystical vision mode used to see in the dark and uncover secret areas - is one, and the secondary weapons, such as holy water bombs used to 'unmask' human-mimicking halfbreed demons, are others.

This is a game that relishes its subject matter and the designer's enthusiasm for all things dark and disturbing shines through. And, as ridiculous as it is having Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, the dangerous and demonic atmosphere is effectively conjured up here.

Constantine has quite a few nice touches and an impressively sustained atmosphere from the outset, while parts of the game look gorgeous. Well-placed cut-scenes aid the narrative and install a cinematic sensitivity too.

But there are worries: combat is a little clumsy and basic in places, and the controls feel gluey and unresponsive at times. If Bits manage to sort these, though, this could be a very interesting proposition.

Constantine is out in March for Xbox, PS2 and PC

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