Review by Stinger911
"Best superhero game yet"
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a game that I had very low expectations for, considering it's development team was the same one that made disappointing "The Hulk" in 2003. Fortunately, the team learned from it's mistakes and have created a game that does an excellent job at making you feel like you are indeed The Incredible Hulk.
Upon first entering the game's built-in tutorial system, I giggled like a little school girl as I made Hulk run like a freight train through people, trees, and buses. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING stops Hulk, and Radical has done a flawless job at conveying that fact. Initially, you only start out with a few moves, but by completing missions and destroying things, you gradually gain Smash Points that enable you to purchase new moves and abilities similar to Devil May Cry 3. By the end of the game you will be able to do such useful and amusing things as catching missiles and throwing them back at enemies, hammer-throwing tanks, surfing on buses, doing flying pile-drivers, and launching nuclear-equivalent screen-clearing attacks.
Controlling Hulk is a breeze, and thanks to the previously mentioned tutorial, the learning curve is very fast. Hulk is ultra-responsive to button-presses and can interact with nearly everything in his environment. Hulk can "weaponize" almost everything he comes into contact with. When you play as the Hulk, trees become spears, telephone polls become giant baseball bats, cars become boxing gloves... you get the idea.
Hulk is extremely maneuverable. He can run straight up buildings and on walls, as well as leap tremendous distances. The main way to move over large distances is by rhythmically charging up your jumps and getting a steady *bounce* going. It's pretty clever and almost as amusing as swinging through the city was in Spider-Man 2.
Incredible Hulk: UD is a free-roaming "sandbox" style game. This means that if you want, you can just wander the city and cause chaos. Plenty of amusing mini-games can be initiated by walking over stars, in the same vein as the GTA series' minigames. Some of these are run-of-the-mill "race to this destination" games, but others are very amusing, like a home-run derby featuring human enemies as the "baseballs" and a car punting contest with an actual goalpost.
When not accumulating points by going nuts in the city and doing mini-games, Hulk progresses the story by doing missions. The missions are linear and have objectives, and they ultimately can get a bit repetitive, but they are fun none-the-less.
Missions are broken up by both in-game cutscenes and FMV. Both well acted by their Hollywood voice-over talent and well-choreographed. My only complaint with these is that PLAYING the game is so fun, that you'll be hard-pressed to want a break from the action.
When you want to buy moves or save the game, you go to Hulk's hideout, which is a church. Here, you are safe from enemies and can just monkey around and try things out.
Enemies give Hulk "Smash Points" for him to buy new moves and also drop green orbs. These orbs fill your life meter. After your life meter is completely filled, another meter will start to fill up. This meter is Hulk's special attack meter, which allows him to do "Critical" moves. These moves are typically incredibly powerful screen-clearing attacks, such as a ground pound that results in a nuclear shockwave.
The environments in Incredible Hulk: UD are limited to only two: the city and the badlands, which is a desert environment. To the game's credit each environment is big and entertaining and feature changing weather and daylight as missions change, but it's not dynamic, and the game could have used more variety in the environments.
As mentioned, controlling Hulk is very intuitive and easy to learn. Left analog controls Hulk, right analog controls the camera, square is light attacks, triangle is strong attacks, circle is grapples, X is jumps, R1 and R2 are used in conjunction with the left analog to run, L1 and L2 lock-on to targets which can be switched in conjunction with the right analog stick, and select taunts. The jumps, light, and strong attacks can be charged for more powerful strikes or jumps and can be varied to create both ground and air combos.
The game's graphics won't jump out at you at first. They're not so much graphics to gawk at, but graphics to assist the game's personality. Hulk and all his enemies are detailed and by no means look bad, but the environments and objects are somewhat plain to look at. But the game has a very good framerate and the animation for everything is top-notch. Watching Hulk execute the new moves you buy for him is immensely entertaining. Explosions and particle effects are very satisfying and give the player a visceral sense of destruction.
Details of all sorts are paid attention. The height of Hulk's jump affects how much concrete cracks when he lands. Catching and throwing a rocket by tapping the attack button will result Hulk throwing the rocket unguided, and the rocket will flip several times before it meets its target. Throwing the rocket by holding the attack button will result in Hulk throwing the rocket guided, and the rocket will stay straight as it spirals towards its target.
Destroyed vehicles don't just fade away. They leave behind charred parts that can be used as weapons.
Critical Attacks cause the camera to temporarily unzoom to give the player a wider sense of the destruction about to be wreaked. The game then goes slow-mo while everything is obliterated.
After playing the game for a few hours, you will be left with the impression that the game is very goodlooking, though a passerby may not get the same impression without watching it for a few minutes.
Even though I played with the volume down, I had relatives come into my room and tell me to turn down the volume. This is a very NOISY game, as it should be. Plowing through cities results in satisfying thuds, screeches, and booms. Enemies say appropriate things for the respective situations in the game. Hulk doesn't say anything during gameplay unless you include growling and grunting. His enemies will both try to coordinate attacks and also let out blood-curdling screams as they meet their untimely demises. What you end up with is a game filled with sounds of huge explosions, crashing metal, thuds from Hulk jumping 50 feet and landing, Hulk growling, enemies trying to coordinate attacks, and the Hulk growling more while his enemies scream for their lives. :)
The game's accompanied by a symphony score that serves its purpose and gives the game an epic feel. I think a few heavy-metal songs would have gone well with all the destruction, but that's just a matter of taste.
The game is very fun and thrilling, and beating it unlocks a challenging hard mode as well as new skins/costumes for the Hulk. The AI on normal is already very intelligent. But the game can be beaten in a few days with diligence. It is still a very hefty game, but not nearly as big as some big-budget games like GTA: San Andreas or RPGs. But for what it is, which is an all-out balls-to-the-wall action game, it satisfies.
While everything in-game is extremely slick, there are semi-frequent and lengthy load times to contend with. Also, many missions are preceded by text briefings with audio commentary. Some don't even have audio. I can't totally fault the developer for this though, as most people won't bother to read any further than the objectives since the game is so fun to actually play.
RENT OR BUY:
I always recommend renting games first, and this one is no exception. If you're a fan of the Hulk, definitely buy it. However, you don't need to be a fan of the Hulk to enjoy the game. Action fans will love the game, too. The only thing that's slightly off-putting is the game's length. This is a game that should be played, whatever you do. If you don't, you will be missing out on one of the best action games in recent memory.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/30/05
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