Incredible Hulk Ultimate Destruction

Despite Hulk being a gamma-radiated green giant of very few words, his signature battle-cry of 'Hulk smash!' is one of the most famous catchphrases in the world of comic books.

In keeping with the laconic icon's favourite verb, developer Radical Entertainment has concentrated on making a Hulk game that epitomises the rampaging Banner beast's penchant for, well, smashing stuff up good and proper.

Rather than seek mission-based progression during our first liaison with Ultimate Destruction, we were instead compelled to exploit the free-roaming structure and embark on a mindless orgy of green-tinted demolition around the island city to bench test Hulk's freakish power.

And we've got to say that the Marvel Comics anti-hero is like a megaton bomb in eye-wateringly tight denim shorts.

Suffice to say pretty much anything within the environment can be pulverised - buildings can be reduced to rubble, cars can be totalled, and puny humans can be stomped. There's little doubt that Ultimate Destruction will live up to its name.

In addition to being immensely satisfying, indulging in wanton annihilation rewards players with smash points, which can be converted into special moves, such as the ability to rip vehicles in half and wear them like heavy metal boxing gloves, or to stomp on a bus and ride the flattened chassis like a surfboard.

Of course, a rampaging behemoth indiscriminately tearing up the town is bound to attract some attention, and we quickly discovered that the more damage Hulk inflicts upon the city and its inhabitants, the more intense the response from the authorities, with strike teams being dispatched to put a stop to Hulk's ruinous activities and effectively cranking up the difficulty.

Smashing stuff up isn't as mindless as it could have been, so while button mashers will still be able to inflict considerable damage, by using combos and special moves Radical have managed to blend both brain and brawn into the combat system.

The developers have also imbued their green beast with a surprising amount of athleticism, allowing him to traverse the city with a nimble briskness that defies his hulking great mass - essential given that car-jacking really isn't an option for the big man.

The 'go anywhere, do anything' aspect certainly feels well implemented, with the city a veritable playground of potential carnage and around 40 side missions, such as the light hearted Hulk Golf, providing plenty to engage the player.

Of course, when you're done wrecking the joint there's always the story mode missions to tackle. These can be triggered whenever the mood takes you and are activated by heading to start locations indicated on the in-game radar.

In terms of storyline, which has been penned by Hulk writer Paul Jenkins, we were surprised to discover that the game retells the origin of the Banner abomination. Exactly how different this version of events will be from original Marvel canon is unclear, although Radical have worked closely with the comics company throughout development, so anything in the game has been given complete Marvel approval.

Despite our first encounter with Ultimate Destruction receiving a big thumbs-up, we do have slight reservations that the novelty of smashing stuff to smithereens will be short-lived if the main story mode lacks sustenance or diversity - we'll be keeping a keen eye on the game's progression over the next few months.

Oh, in case you were wondering, wimpy old Banner isn't a playable character, so no tedious stealth sections. Which really is smashing news.

The Incredible Hulk Ultimate Destruction will be released in winter 2005 for Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox