The Incredible Hulk is rampaging through theaters with a first place finish this weekend. With any super-hero movie, it seems, comes the accompanying video game. Sega, who recently released the Iron Man tie-in, also handled Hulk’s latest interactive adventure.
The game comes on the heels of one of the best super-hero games ever, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction from developer Radical Games. That game had easy to pick up controls, unstoppable movement, and was just plain fun.
Sega’s new game builds on a lot of things from previous incarnations. First, they definitely made the right call when it comes to building destruction. You can literally destroy every single building in Manhattan, even on the dated PS2. Anytime you’re bored, just go destroy a building, and as it tumbles down around you, you feel a little better. Some of these buildings are landmarks, conveniently marked as such on the map, and give you a token. Collecting these is one of many “feats” in the game; these benchmarks unlock new abilities, costumes, and hidden extras. The other feats provide fun side-missions, with goals such as chain-jumping for 3 miles.
The villain selection is better, too. You have the standard military characters, along with hulkbusters, but then there are the characters associated with various incarnations of para-military and research science organization The Enclave. The boss fights are likewise against much cooler bosses, including a somewhat unexpected guest star from a recently released Sega/Marvel game.
The good, however, largely stops there. The game, while good intentioned, is plagued with problems, misfires, and even some game-stopping errors.
First, there’s the issue of Hulk’s movement and the physics surrounding it. The Havok physics engine is used here, apparently with the “rag-doll” effect turned up to 11. Hulk can’t walk in the near vicinity of any object on the ground, be it a blown up car or a part of a tree, without sending it flying haphazardly off. This is especially frustrating in battles against large groups of enemies, when picking up objects is crucial. Objects must also be destroyed (i.e. lamppost knocked over) before they can be grabbed. Once held, the completely broken targeting and camera system come into play. The camera is on a free-rotate axis, controlled by the second thumbstick. In order to target an enemy, they must be directly in front of you, with the camera aiming at them directly from behind Hulk. That’s a ton of conditions on aiming and targeting, and makes throwing objects or enemies at other enemies nearly impossible in the heat of battle. 9 times out of 10, your object will just go flying off in any old direction, usually far from the field of battle. This is especially frustrating when fighting some of the massive bosses, as targeting them with cars and tanks becomes the hardest part of the fight.
The Hulk is hardly unstoppable in this game, unfortunately. He can’t wall run, and in fact running itself is an unlockable. Anything seen as a basic feature from one successful game should never be an unlockable in a subsequent similar game. It just feels like a step backwords. While destroying every building is cool, there are about 5 rubble patterns that are re-used over and over. Defeated enemies and destroyed objects disappear when more than about 4 are on the ground. The graphically hindered PS2 suffers from ridiculous PS1-era pop-up in the graphics department as well. Good luck seeing more than 100 yards away in this one, despite reaching about the half-mile mark in similar open world games of this and other genres. Enemies, buildings, and cars magically appear down the road. Think the city that never sleeps will be hustling and bustling with people? Not so in this version of the world, as the Hulk can chain-jump for sometimes several miles at a time without seeing a single person or car…down the middle of a road. Finally, on PS2, and on multiple copies of the game, the game simply froze during mundane times. One was while loading the second(!) mission of the game, and a few times while simply battling groups of enemies.
I was really looking forward to this game, and the trailers were so promising. After playing it on multiple platforms, unfortunately, I can only recommend it to the hardest-core of Hulk fans. There are definitely fun points, but they are so few and far between that it’s simply not worth the ever-decreasing dollar. Go play Hulk: Ultimate Destruction again instead, and wait for Radical’s Prototype next year. Once this hits the discount bin, it may be worth a play-through, but until then, this Hulk is better off smashed.
The Incredible Hulk is available now for PS2, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC