Not So Incredible
With the amount of lackluster Hulk games in the past, many fans felt Marvel had finally done the big guy justice with 2005’s Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. PS2, Xbox, and GameCube owners got to hold the power of The Hulk in their hands, while free-roaming an entire city and playing along in a fun and imaginative storyline. While the new Incredible Hulk game, loosely based on the new film, expands on the same open-world concepts, the storyline is far removed from the movie and the game lacks the same visual appeal that made Ultimate Destruction great.
There are perhaps a couple of estimations as to why this game lacks the same kind of charm. Development team Edge of Reality has taken over duties for Radical Entertainment, who worked on Ultimate Destruction and built the original Hulk-meets-open-world concept. Secondly, while Ultimate Destruction was designed for second-generation consoles, this was obviously designed to run on the PS3 and 360. Therefore, it looks visually horrendous when played on the PS2, as images become blurred and pixelated, and animations become choppy and awkward.
When you load up the game, everything looks fairly decent. The Story Mode begins with Bruce Banner on his knees in icy tundra holding a revolver. As he points it to his own face about to pull the trigger, he then turns into the likeness of The Hulk from the new film. The game then jumps to another cutscene where Bruce, designed to look like Edward Norton, is being chased by Army forces. The chase leads into a building where part of the ceiling falls on top of Bruce. This is when you begin playing the game, as you have to rapidly tap Triangle and Hulk busts through the rubble. It’s in this room where you get to toy around with Hulk’s power, as you walk around and smash various objects at your disposal. Square is your light punch, Triangle is heavy punch, and Circle is grab. You can either smash any object with a punch or grab it to throw it with Square or smash it with Triangle. X makes Hulk jump and holding it for a period of time allows him to build up his power and perform a massive leap into the air. Landing on destructible objects will damage them, and anytime you land on the ground, the foundation around Hulk’s feet cracks under the weight.
Playing as Hulk, you have to make your way out of the building by defeating enemies blasting off rounds at you as well as a few larger robots that are a bit tougher to defeat. After making your way through all the rooms and completing the first mission, you are then free to roam the city of New York. Where Ultimate Destruction took place in a fictional city, this is a replica of NYC, complete with the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, Times Square, and Central Park. While the game has a strong GTA-like feel in its environment, there is no comparison as to the amount of detail in the city. From the buildings to vehicles and pedestrians, The Incredible Hulk is pretty stale. When you first get a feel for the city, you begin to realize this game was obviously designed for current-generation consoles, giving PS2 owners the shaft.
Though you are working with a massive playing field, visually the PS2 version looks incredibly dated. Things look jagged and pixelated, and vehicles look angular. Text along the sides of buildings and billboards look blurred. Pedestrians lack animation and detail. Though you have the ability to free-roam the whole of New York City, something about this game feels very stale. Hulk has the ability to jump along and scale buildings, but when you reach the top there is a foggy haze that seems to blur the skyline, making it impossible to get a clear view of the city. It would be nice to stand on the peak of the Chrysler Building from the view of The Hulk and look over the entire city. Unfortunately, the game allows you to look no further than the few buildings next to it. Even with the amount of freedom you have in the city, at times The Incredible Hulk feels very limiting as to what you can actually see and do while roaming.
Though the city is pretty unattractive from a visual standpoint compared to other games like it, Hulk can smash or pick up any vehicle, light post, bus stop, mailbox, or pedestrian. You can knock over fire hydrants to let water spray into the streets and, what’s more, any building in the city can be completely leveled by repeatedly smashing it. Where Ultimate Destruction let you destroy the odd building, now no structure is safe, as anything can be reduced to rubble either in the midst of battle or if you simply want to bring down your New York landmark of choice. Sadly, while you can break down any building with The Hulk, the animation is extremely cheesy. As you use The Hulk to repeatedly smash the wall, breakaway effects appear until you hear a rumbling and very poor looking bricks start to fall from the sky. In a cloud of smoke, suddenly the building becomes just the foundation, and it’s the same animation no matter which building you smash.
As you roam around the city, you can take part in whatever missions are available. The storyline revolves around the Enclave, a terrorist group that has taken New York City hostage to use it as a training base. As you free-roam, the Enclave commits various acts of terror throughout the city, which usually involve shooting automatic weapons in the streets. When such chaos ensues, you can choose to stop their terror spree or simply continue going about your business. However, Hulk has an infamy rating that must be kept down to keep the Army from stepping in to stop him. Stopping the Enclave training routines helps keep it down in the midst of all his car and building smashing. There are various missions that can be found scattered about the city signified by different, bright-colored beams shining vertically into the sky; completing them progresses you through the story. However, it can be hard to locate the beams with the hazy skyline that limits your view, even from the highest buildings in the city. When you get to the beam, it is marked with an icon and hitting Square accepts it as your new mission. You will have to complete various tasks that include protecting friends such as Rick Jones as well as defeating Enclave attacks and other enemies from The Hulk comics including Ironclad, Vapor, Bi-Beast, and of course, the final Abomination from the film. The missions are simplistic and often involve nothing more than flailing The Hulk about to smash enemies that are blasting various types of weaponry. If it so happens that Hulk keels over and is defeated amidst battle, you have the option to simply restart from the last checkpoint. This game is not difficult by any means (keeping in mind it is rated for teens but will definitely appeal to children).
With the amount of focus this game has on smashing everything in sight, the same physics seem to apply to each and every object you smash. Whether you’re hitting large oil tanks, beams, cars, small barrels, or even just a person, they all seem to fly back about the same distance under Hulk’s power. Also, many of them seem to make the exact, loud banging sound effect when you hit them. Many times when you throw an object or simply send it flying by running into it with the massive Hulk, you will notice it glide through other solid objects, buildings, and walls. While playing The Incredible Hulk, it is impossible to become immersed in the Marvel Universe, as you are constantly reminded that you are indeed playing a video game with extremely noticeable, eye-straining errors.
The game, however, offers lots of things to do with the amount of missions and mini-games found throughout the city. There are 200 power-ups to find as well as other challenges such as timed races and gaps to jump, signified by floating rings in the sky. The inclusion of characters from the Marvel Universe makes this game fun for comic lovers, though gamers will become easily disillusioned by the amount of visual flaws and how even having the ability of The Hulk in your hands becomes boring after less than a few hours playing this game. For those who already own Ultimate Destruction for their PS2 console, purchasing this sequel will only lead to disappointment.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.0 Graphics
The game boasts a large playing field. However, it has been poorly modified for the PS2 version with a visually unappealing cityscape. 2.8 Control
Simplistic controls for smashing and jumping with a few combos added gets repetitive with time. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Smashing various objects results in the same sound effects no matter what it is. The game does a poor job of capturing a true-to-life, city ambience. 2.3 Play Value
For the PS2 console, even Hulk fans will become bored of repeatedly smashing poorly rendered objects while roaming. There are, however, lots of mini-games and missions for those who don’t become tired of the poor visuals. 2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.