Back in the early days of the site, way way back when it was still the Page of Death, I wrote an article about a videogame. That game was Hulk. It was a game based on a movie. In an odd twist of fate, the roles of the two were reversed from the norm, and the movie sucked while the game was actually really good. Movie-based games are good only once in a blue moon, and very rarely does one that turned out well happen to feature one of my favourite comic book heroes.
It’s not necessarily public knowledge that I idolize the Hulk. While I fawn over other, slightly more popular, comic heroes like Spider-Man, Batman, the X-Men and Superman just like everyone else, if I could choose to be one – even just to masquerade as one – it would easily be the Hulk (minus the mental issues of course). Why? For one, he’s got the whole 90%-of-total-mass-is-muscle thing going on, not to mention the super-high tolerance to damage and the ability to leap entire city blocks in a single bound. Oh, and he’s green. Bright, limey, Kermit the Frog green. Sure, most superheroes are dressed to stand out pretty well, but riddle me this; which would your eye catch first: a dude in red and blue tights, or a gigantic green monster? Hell, most people would imagine that I got bored of my Hulk Hands not a month after I got them, but in reality, I still put ’em on every once in a while and strut around roaring and pretending I’m the Hulk.
While my Hulk fandom isn’t entirely unrelated to this article, it’s not what I’m here to talk about today. As I was saying before, I reviewed a Hulk videogame some time ago, and the review of the new one is long past overdue.
When I first heard about this new Hulk game, I was simply sitting back reading my latest issue of Nintendo Power. They had a short paragraph about it and what kind of game it would be and whatnot. I was more or less apathetic. Then I heard some more about it. Turns out the game was going to feature the same type of gameplay as Spider-Man 2. I loved Spider-Man 2! (Still unsure why I never bought it…) Maybe this game was gong to be pretty cool after all! Stories of gigantic bosses and destroying entire environments were beginning to circulate, and it didn’t take long for me to get swept up in the hype. It was going to be the holy grail of videogames, and I was going to get this game no matter what.
The months passed, and every time I saw a new tidbit of news about what they were calling The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, I would immediately shift focus onto it and read it over twice, because I was tired of waiting for it. Fast-forward to the ninth of September. I now have the game. Unfortunately, I’m required to attend a day-long garage sale at my aunt’s house. Fark-a-doodle-doo. Fast-forward a little more to that evening. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, I could finally harness the full power of the Hulk and bring down an entire city. Just incase you don’t want to read any further, here’s the short version: The game didn’t let me down. Normally when there’s a lot of hype and the game isn’t made by Nintendo, there’s at least a little letdown. None of that here. It’s by no means a perfect game, but all the pros more than make up for the cons.
You’re going to stay for the whole thing? Well, better strap yourself in. It’s going to be a long ride, so maybe go get some chips or popcorn first. You know, something you can snack on while you sit and read. Don’t forget the soda. When you finish this sentence it’ll be too late.
It’s now too late.
The story of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction starts well before the game starts. In fact, we jump in pretty much in the middle of a heated conflict. It seems that the Hulk’s alter ego, Dr. Bruce Banner, has been working on a device that will cure him of his affliction. That affliction, of course, is his turning into the Hulk whenever someone pisses him off. But just before he’s able to complete this magical device, his secluded cabin is ambushed by the army, which is headed by this total nutjob Emil Blonsky, who apparently has some vendetta against Banner. The Hulk manages to escape the attack, but the device is left in the rubble and zaps Blonsky good. From this come the three main objectives of the game: sort out Banner’s mental issues, collect parts for a new machine, and beat the crap out of Blonsky.
My rendition is a bit on the less-detailed side, but consider it a gesture of goodwill that I’m not going to spoil it all for you. But it’s not like it’s that great a story anyway. You’ll probably be able to guess most of the “twists” if you’ve read your share of Hulk comics. You could probably even guess who the final boss is with the information I’ve given. It’s not like the last game where the Leader just came out of nowhere at the end. Actually, I forgot to actually follow the story in the last game. I was having too much fun smashing people and stuff.
Aaanyhow, the game starts out pretty simple. With a training mission. And after that, it gets to the game, which is still pretty simple. You’re the Hulk. You can go around smashing stuff and having a grand old time, or you can try to complete missions to further the story. Sound familiar? The only real difference is that you can’t drive cars. But later on in the game, you’ll find a good enough replacement for that. The one thing that I noticed is that not all buildings are destructible. Sure, there’s the odd one every couple blocks, but I’ve wailed at buildings for well over a minute straight, and nothing but a huge series of holes. Maybe I’m missing something, or I’m doing something wrong, but I was promised fully destructible environments, not just one building here and there. That’s pretty much the only thing wrong with the game, and it could simply be caused by my idiocy.
Everything else is cool. You’re given three options of things to do when playing. I already explained that you can just run rampant through the city or you can take on the missions. So what’s the third? If the real missions aren’t your cup of tea and (God forbid) you’re bored with just causing mayhem, there are plenty of side-missions available as well. Some of them are challenges that you’d expect like races and demolition contests, but some are just plain nutty. One of my favourites puts you out in the badlands, drops a line of cars in front of you, and places a goalpost some 100 yards away. Any guesses? That’s right, a car punting challenge. There are also some other really neat challenges, like “Gamma Golf” and one where you see how far you can smack a soldier into the ocean. The issue is that you’re ranked on all the side-missions, and getting the high-scores can be really, really hard. If you don’t mind bronze, then it’s no big. But me, I’m obsessed with getting all golds. So it’s driving me crazy that they require you to be really damn good. (I’m only respectably good, for reference.)
The regular missions can also be a pain in the ass every once in a while. Most of them are doable after a couple tries, but some are just downright infuriating. In most other games, I’d just give up and go home (or cry myself to sleep if I were already home), but for some reason I’ve never just given up with this game, no matter how frustrating the task. And when you pull through on one of these difficult missions, the sense of accomplishment you get is just about the greatest thing ever. Be warned though, that the hard missions aren’t necessarily saved for the end. No, some of the missions right at the beginning of the game can be pretty tricky if you haven’t yet got the hang of controlling the Hulk. Mind you, that this is also just my experience on the normal difficulty mode (Easy? Who plays easy?). I’m not touching the hard game with a ten-foot pole. At least not until I actually finish the game. To clarify, I’m stuck on the last boss. What can I say? I’m not good with time limits. If it was just a fight to the death, I’d have won weeks ago. But thus is not the case.
While I’m on the topic, the bosses in this game are, well, not exactly up to the hype. Don’t get me wrong, some are gigantic, but they’re not the bosses I’d hoped to see. Previews promised that I’d be squaring off against the Devil Hulk at one point, and that was an awesome battle (he spends a good amount of time trying to eat you), and Hulk fans should be more than aware by now that the Abomination makes an appearance, but that’s about it. Sure, there’s Mercy, but other than those three, the bosses are mostly all just big Hulkbuster robots. The last game had some real sweet boss fights against a cornucopia of villains including Madman, Ravage, Flux, the Leader and Half-life. What do we get here? A big ol’ pile of robots and only a handful of real bosses? Boring. What makes it even more insulting is that they’re all easy except for the last one. Oh well, at least it’s still fun to beat the tar out of ’em.
By now you’re probably wondering a little more about what it’s like to just galavant around town and bust stuff up. Well, it’s exactly that. Of course, like most games of this nature, there is a threat meter, and you will face some opposition once it gets high enough. Near the beginning of the game it’s just cops and helicopters that will take the fight to you, but as you progress further on in the story, the opposing forces will get meaner and bigger. By the very end, you’ll be hurling tanks to try to keep giant mechs off your ass if you fill that threat meter. It’s all very fun, but since the threat meter seems to have frequent mood swings and will sometimes fill very fast and other times very slowly, you might end up facing one battalion after another or try to bring out the authorities to no avail.
While you’re traipsing around town like a bulldozer on steroids, you’ll notice that you earn these things called smash points. They are used in this thing called the Buy Menu. You can trade your smash points here for things called new moves. OK, I’ll cut the crap. There are like a bajillion moves to buy in the game, and each time you complete a chapter (beat a boss) you’ll unlock another set. Some are just run-of-the-mill things like running punches or punt kicks, some are there to help you get around faster like air dashes, and some are not actually moves, but rather life meter upgrades.
Another big category for moves are super moves. Attacks that will kill pretty much anything in a ten-yard radius of the Hulk (I may be off. I’m terrible at measurements). There is a catch though. You can only use super moves in two instances. The first is called Critical Mass. When you’re full on health and pick up a health blob, your HUD will grow a second health bar (insane!), which represents your CM energy. Getting hit will diminish it, and so will using super moves. you can upgrade it good though, and gain enough CM energy to use three supers without dropping out of CM. It’s great against weaker enemies, but you’ll rarely get the opportunity against enemies who are either really strong or in huge groups. Bosses also like to keep you just out of Critical Mass. That’s where your other option comes in, the Adrenaline Rush. Any guesses? Wrong! when your health is just about to run out, Hulk will go nuts and be able to pull off super moves, but he’ll also be one or two hits away from death. Fortunately, the Hulk’s regenerative powers will heal him up good if you can keep him from dying. To make it even better, the time Hulk needs to get out of the critical state is about the same it takes to execute a super move, so you’ve got a pretty good ace-in-the-hole.
Lastly, I have to mention the selling point for the game for me: weaponization. The Hulk can pluck pretty much anything reasonably-sized out of the scenery an wield it as a weapon. this is cool, but it gets better. After buying certain moves, you can get Hulk to mangle different objects into new types of weapons. For example, cars can be ripped in half and turned into the fearsome Steel Fists. Trucks, on the other hand, can be flattened and turned into shields that can be thrown as a boomerang, and further increasing their use, you can even learn to use these makeshift shields as a kind of urban surfboard. It’s astounding how many options they give you when it comes to offense, and being able to turn your surroundings (and enemies) into weapons is just icing on the cake.
So then, the game’s obviously pretty damned sweet as far as playing it goes, but how is it to look at? You know, there is a lot of talk about graphics being important again with the new line of consoles on the horizon, but do they really need to get any better? The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction doesn’t have the prettiest graphics that you’ve seen, but they’re way more than good enough to get the job done. The main characters (eg: Hulk, mechs, helicopters, bosses) all look great, and the environments are decent enough, but the FMV cutscenes are more or less just a step up from ReBoot. Like most FMV things, the characters seem stiff and unnatural. It’s something I’ve come to expect since it happens so often, so I don’t really care, I just thought I’d mention it. The only thing I have a problem with is that the time of day is constant. There’s normally no night/day change, it only occurs at the turn of a chapter. Again, no big, but it’s something I thought should be said.
Aurally, the game does a mixed job. Sound effects are excellent. They even did a “making of” featurette exclusively for how they did some of the sound effects. It’s nothing special, but they’re all there and sound like you’d imagine they would. As far as music goes however, the game really lacks. I know there is music in the game, I just don’t remember hearing any of it. The best I can do is say that the menu theme gets annoying quick. As for any in-game music, if it was there, it was so forgettable that I didn’t even notice it in the first place. On the upside however, this is good because I can put on a CD and not feel bad about missing out on great music. It’s always a struggle for me to find a game to play when I’m listening to a CD, because music is a huge part of most games for me, and I just can’t stand to mute something like Metroid Prime or Tales of Symphonia no matter how much I might like whatever I’m listening to.
The controls for the game are pretty solid for the bajillions of moves you can pull off with them, but I do have a bit of an issue. The camera isn’t entirely friendly to the player, and while it doesn’t cause trouble so much on the “seeing things” front, it does mess up movement sometimes. It’s usually only while running up buildings on an angle that it’ll give you trouble, but sometimes it’ll just crap out on you in the heat of battle and leave you to rely on the targeting system alone.
There are plenty of extra stuffed into the game if you care enough to root them all out. There are multiple “making of” movies, an in-game cinema viewer, and art galleries upon art galleries. Unlocking them requires you to hunt down big green coins hidden throughout the city and badlands. There are only 60 in all, so it’s not like it’ll take forever. Some are pretty slyly hidden inside buildings, and those are generally the only ones you can knock down. Doing this will also unlock cheats for you to enter and use at you leisure. On that note, the first cheat you get is possibly the coolest cheat ever: Hulk scores a pair of Canada shorts! After a little research, surely enough, Radical Entertainment is a Canadian company. Further research reveals that they were behind Mario’s Time Machine for the NES, and that they’re making a Scarface game.
And that pretty much wraps up everything I have to say. Obviously, I’m not going to give the game anything less than an A. It isn’t perfect, so I’m gonna hold off on the plus for now, but should I ever find a way to tear down every building in the game, rest assured I’ll come back and kick it up a notch. I’d hate to be anyone who can’t find some kind of entertainment value in this game. It’s got pretty much everything you need from adventuring to brawling to zany mini-games to treasure hunting. If you enjoy the GTA series and not Ultimate Destruction, then the only thing you enjoy about those games is the cussing and shooting, and you’re a terrible person. As I said, nobody who plays video games even casually should have trouble losing themselves in this game for hours on end. There may be more productive ways to spend your time, but I dare you to find me something productive that’s this much fun.
Note: (it’s obvious, but for the sake of good jounalism) all pics stolen from IGN.com