The people that made the 2008 rendition of The Incredible Hulk must have really liked 2005's The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. They've employed the same free-roaming design and have given the Hulk many of the same abilities that he had in that earlier game. But that's totally A-OK, since they've also jazzed up the graphics and given players many more ways to destroy the people and buildings populating the expansive 3D replica of Manhattan that serves as the game's world.
Similar to Grand Theft Auto or Crackdown, you're left to your own devices within the city. As the Hulk, you can go anywhere you like, climb to the tops of buildings, and use your brute strength to smash cars, punch pedestrians, and knock buildings to the ground. When you tire of fighting the generic tanks and helicopters that respond to your destructive rampages, you can play mini-games or visit story markers that will send you out on missions based on events from the comics and the 2008 feature film.
Players get the chance to face off against Thunderbolt Ross and Blonsky's "Abomination" from the recent film, along with familiar comic book adversaries such as the U-Foes, Bi-Beast, and Iron Man in his Hulkbuster armor. Numerous costume choices allow you to ditch the movie-styled look for something comic appropriate, including Gray Hulk, Classic Hulk, and the new Red Hulk that was just recently introduced in the Marvel universe.
Missions typically challenge you to destroy a certain number of enemies, protect someone, or retrieve an item under heavy firepower. Hulk's abilities are equally straightforward: you can leap, you can punch, and you can pick up and throw stuff (people, cars, signs, chunks of buildings). The Hulk's over-the-top moves make the whole thing fun. Cars can be ripped in half and worn as boxing gloves, tanks can be transformed into maces, and rage powers let you literally knock down an entire city block with a vicious ground pound.
The controls initially feel slow-to-respond, but they get better once you build up the Hulkster's speed and jump attributes. Upgrades are doled out constantly as you accomplish feats like sticking 25 cars to buildings or knocking down an entire neighborhood. A checklist gives you hundreds of such feats to work toward, which means you don't feel like you're just aimlessly destroying the city when you're not tracking down mission markers.
Throughout it all, there's no blood or gore. The violence is limited to crazy comic book fisticuffs and explosions, lots of explosions. Comic fans can geek out by visiting the various Marvel buildings sprinkled in among actual NYC landmarks, including the Daily Bugle, Stark Tower, and the Baxter Building. Movie-goers, meanwhile, will appreciate that stars Ed Norton, Tim Roth, and Liv Tyler lent their voices to the numerous scenes that appear between missions.
Hulk and his adversaries are nicely detailed. New York City looks especially great in the PS3 and 360 versions of the game, where the streets are bustling with people and traffic. The insane view distance also lets you sit atop skyscrapers and see forever. Unfortunately (and expectedly), the graphics aren't nearly as impressive in the PS2 and Wii versions. They feature less traffic, weaker explosions, and fog that limits the surrounding view to roughly the end of the street.
One particularly nasty flaw we noticed in every version of the game is that it'll sometimes lock-up, forcing you to power down and restart. There's no rhyme or reason to these freezes: sometimes they happen constantly and sometimes hours will go by between them. The auto-save feature means you won't lose more than a few minutes of progress when you do have to reset the system, but it's still a major buzzkill to have the game stall right in the middle of a mission.
While annoying, the lock-ups don't really do much to dampen how outlandishly fun the game is. If you like the Hulk and you enjoying destroying things, you'll enjoy your time with The Incredible Hulk, even if you have to reset the system from time to time.
Jun 10, 2008