Hellboy: Web of Wyrd review - an endless loop

Hellboy shooting a gun in Hellboy: Web of Wyrd.

Hellboy shooting a gun in Hellboy: Web of Wyrd.

I really wanted to like Hellboy: Web of Wyrd. Mike Mignola's beloved comic anti-hero is practically perfect for an action-packed game, in no small part thanks to his hulking power fist, capable of turning any enemies into mush.

As such, when Web of Wyrd was announced back at the 2022 Game Awards, it instantly sprang onto my radar. With a stunning cel-shaded graphical style and meaty melee combat, it seemed like my prayers had been answered.

Unfortunately, Hellboy: Web of Wyrd isn't able to match those expectations, making for a roguelike that feels frustrating instead of gratifying. There are glimmers of something brilliant in here, but it's bogged down by far too many problems.

Hellboy swinging a punch at a demon in Hellboy: Web of Wyrd.
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It's that roguelike formula that is, to me, the fatal error in Hellboy: Web of Wyrd. This would've worked perfectly as a shorter but more concise brawler akin to the Arkham games, but instead the length is artificially expanded by forcing you to start a multi-level stage all over again once you die. There are some nifty ways to mitigate this, with upgrades letting you respawn once, or increasing your Toughness: the only part of your health bar that regenerates.

That said, it ultimately grows frustrating to have to tackle a level all from the beginning, especially when a lot of my deaths in Hellboy: Web of Wyrd felt cheap. He moves incredibly slowly due to the game's clunky controls and cumbersome camera, meaning it's easy to get blindsided. His block is also nowhere near as snappy as other combat-heavy games like Thymesia, rendering him open to attack if you accidentally block when meaning to dodge, for example.

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It's a shame, because the combat in Hellboy: Web of Wyrd can be quite fun when it clicks. You've got a pistol and Hellboy's signature fists at your disposal, and the chunky melee combat is some of the best I've seen in a game this year. It's immensely satisfying to pummel a demon in the mythical Wyrd realm, before landing a heavy finisher to send them catapulting into a brick wall. The game shines when you feel as unstoppable as Hellboy, but that feeling just doesn't come around too often.

Hellboy about to punch a demon in Hellboy: Web of Wyrd.
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Despite this, the game's design is one of its absolute strong points. The cel-shaded presentation perfectly apes Mike Mignola's original Hellboy design, with charming cutscenes framed as comic book panels, and a fittingly gruff vocal performance from the late, great Lance Reddick. It's a joy to look at on a purely aesthetic level, but some inconsistencies in performance during the review period definitely put me off. Loading screens often stuttered to the point of turning static, and the frame rate occasionally makes Hellboy's movement look incredibly choppy, especially when he's clambering up onto a platform.

But I truly don't think the game's problems would be half as glaring if it was laid out as a more linear action game, rather than the loopy roguelike formula that just doesn't gel here. There aren't enough meaningful upgrades or level variations to make you want to plough through a stage once more, despite how rewarding the combat can feel. Instead, I often found myself running through those samey gauntlets again, desperate to actually feel some progress instead of being sent back to square one.

Hellboy smashing the ground in Hellboy: Web of Wyrd.
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It makes Hellboy: Web of Wyrd a game full of contradictions. It's in the same breath very enjoyable when fighting demons, but equally frustrating when the mechanics and game design seem to work against you. The game's lack of general polish doesn't do anything to mitigate these issues, instead leaving it with some serious missed potential. There's a great Hellboy game nestled in here somewhere, but the finished product doesn't reflect that.

Hellboy: Web of Wyrd
Hellboy: Web of Wyrd has great combat and some stunning visuals, but it's bogged down by frustrating mechanics and a progression system that rarely feels rewarding.
PlayStation 5
4 out of 10

Reviewed on PlayStation 5. A code was provided by the publisher.

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