In an age where the comic book movie is one of the most bankable commodities on the silver screen, gamers have come to expect the shelves to be lined with movie tie-in videogames - most of which are horribly monotonous adventures that are nothing more than another chance to cash in on the merchandising dollar. But amongst the landscape littered with superhero videogame flops, there is the occasional title which grabs your attention and demands that you play it. One of these such titles was Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, a free roaming game with plenty of action and a solid narrative to boot. Will this generation's Incredible Hulk title be able to smash the memory of its predecessor?
Although The Incredible Hulk is based on the recent Edward Norton movie, it's surprising to note that very little of the film's narrative has been used in the game. In a nutshell, the game's storyline consists of Bruce Banner being chased around Rio. As the military moves in to capture Bruce, he becomes the Hulk and players are tasked with the difficult job of evading the grasp of the Hulk's would-be captors. While this sets up the action nicely, the quality of the narrative seems to fall apart from this point on as the rest of the game seems to abandon the premise of the film, instead concentrating on the Hulk freeing New York from the clutches of the Enclave, an organisation of scientists that are hell bent on taking over the world. While the plot does borrow a few scenes from the film, the majority of the story is a disjointed mismatch that really does nothing to draw players into the story.
It may be light on a story, but The Incredible Hulk more than makes up for it in the action stakes. After bashing around with the Hulk for a few minutes, it's plain to see that The Incredible Hulk has borrowed many aspects from Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Again, the emphasis is on free roaming action with the Hulk having an entire city at his big, green feet. Essentially, the gameplay boils down to exploring the city and clobbering a variety of things that stand in your way. But for all the fun of bashing and crashing your way though New York, the game doesn't seem to have the 'personality' of its predecessor. While Ultimate Destruction emphasised humour and fun as the order of the day (and nothing says 'fun' like crumpling a car into a bowling ball and rolling it into your enemies) The Incredible Hulk goes for a laugh-less, almost sterile approach to gaming as you'll wile away your hours carelessly mashing the buttons to get from point A to point B.
The game's missions run the expected course of the genre, mostly consisting of bland quests that require players to either fetch or protect something. Aside from completing the missions, there are a number of power-ups to collect and mini-games to play. Depending on how much time you spend exploring, The Incredible Hulk will steal the best part of ten hours of your time.
The best thing that this game has going for it is the destructible environments. Whether you're battling in the street or pummeling a building just for kicks, the massive amount of destruction that you can cause gives player's the feeling that the Hulk is a volatile weapon - a force of nature that sweeps in to cause harm even when his best intentions are to keep the population safe.
Like with other free roaming titles such as Grand Theft Auto IV, you aren't able to get away with causing a wave of destruction. In this case, the more damage you cause, the higher your threat level jumps. At the lower scales of the threat level you'll find that a handful of soldiers will be dispatched to take a crack at you, while as you move up the threat scale you'll find yourself up against a veritable army as you come up against tanks, helicopter and soldiers in 'Hulkbuster' armoured suits. In order to counter-attack this level of weaponry the Hulk has a number of special moves on top of his standard move set to help even the score. These special moves can be accessed via the rage meter which once full can unleash an earth-shattering assortment of attacks. Though this adds to the game's fun, some of these special moves are quite cheap in that they completely negate the game's highest threat levels, making it feel like you're playing through the game with 'God mode' on.
If you came to the game expecting a visual masterpiece, you'll find yourself sorely mistaken. The Incredible Hulk may emphasise chaos on destruction, but the environment reeks of stale and bland. Aurally, the voice work from some of the movie's principle cast adds authenticity, yet like in the case of many celebrity voice acting gigs, the actors seem like their job is more of a chore than an enjoyable experience - as displayed by the litany of unenthusiastic performances throughout the game.
While it isn't a wholly terrible game to play, the repetitive nature of the missions and emphasis on button mashing gameplay make The Incredible Hulk a rainy day rental rather than a must-have purchase.