Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

Review

posted 9/26/2005 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble

My introduction to the Incredible Hulk was through the TV series in the late 70's, rather than through the Marvel comic books of the 60's.  This is fortunate in a way, in that I'm not a purist and don't really care about "authenticity" in some of the more recent iterations of the character.  That said, I hated the 2003 Ang Lee movie and have never been able to sit through the entire 2 1/2 hours of it.  The primary problem: not enough destruction!

 So, I was leery of accepting the assignment to review The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, although the title itself indicated that this game may deliver what I consider to be the best aspects of the Hulk.  Being somewhat slight of build myself, any story involving the transformation of a relatively small guy into a huge seething mass of organic destruction appeals to me.  But only as long as the focus is on the anger and rampage aspects, not the "normal" state of the little fella.  I get enough of that already, thank you very much.  Between that and my fear that this game would be another typical platformer that wastes the Hulk license like Maurice Clarett wasted a shot at the NFL, I loaded up the game with a fairly low level of expectation.

I was blown away.  Caught completely by surprise.  Dumbfounded.  Flabbergasted.  In a good way, mind you.

Think of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction as Grand Theft Auto: Senseless Destruction and you'll have an idea of what this game is like.  Much like GTA, you can simply meander about the city doing pretty much anything you'd like, although you will eventually incur the wrath of law enforcement.  Or you can accept missions to further the underlying story line.  One of my pet peeves (and granted, I keep pet peeves like a 96 year old widow keeps cats) is being forced into a linear storyline in which I feel more like a passenger than a driver.  I heartily approve of some of the newer paradigm games where the game designers don't insist that they are the only ones that know how to have fun, and insist that it's their way or the highway.  At first, I had a great time simply breaking everything, and I do mean everything, in my path.  Cars, trucks, people, light poles, and just about everything else in the city can be picked up, crushed, or thrown.  Light poles make fantastic over-sized baseball bats for hitting cops and pedestrians great distances.  That’s so fun, in fact, that there’s even a side challenge or two related to that activity. 

As you break things, you earn smash points which can be traded for even stronger powers and moves.  My favorite power is the ability to pick up a car, rip it in half, and use the halves as 1000lb. boxing gloves.  Quite entertaining, that.  There are also some amusing things you can do with pedestrians, such as picking them up and either flicking them away, or putting them gently back down and patting them on their heads.  It’s always fun to play a game designed and developed by people with quirky senses of humor.

Eventually, though, it's time to start playing the missions.  These are a mixed blessing.  Completing the missions allows you to advance the storyline, bringing on more of the excellent animations and voice acting, but at the cost of somewhat repetitive missions.  Many seem to be either of the “go destroy this” variety or the less gratifying “go retrieve and protect this” genre.  Because you can find and destroy anything you want, whenever you want, being tasked to destroy specific things is somewhat redundant.  And playing defense simply isn’t what I’d consider a Hulktastic good time.  Still, there are benefits.  You get to fight some truly awesome bad guys, and continue to amaze yourself with the incredible powers at your fingertips.  There are also side challenges available, so between those and the storyline missions there are over 70 chances to wreak havoc on your opponents.  Because of the open nature of the playing field, there are multiple ways to complete many of the missions.  One of my favorites involved liberating a huge, blue ape from a pole in front of a store and using it as a rudimentary hang glider to float over some stuff I was tasked with destroying.  I timed my jump from the ape perfectly and landed right on top of the equipment I needed to destroy.  That provided another of the many laugh-out-loud moments I’ve had while playing Hulk.



The Hulk is a bit of a loner, though, so there’s no multiplayer.  That’s a bit of a shame.  I think it would be a blast to play Hulk vs. Villian, raining terror and destruction on the battle arena, similar to the mess Godzilla and whatever mutated monster he’s fighting make of Tokyo when they clash.

The environments are pretty cool, although I think Sierra missed a golden win-win opportunity by not getting as much product placement as possible.  The city is very generic, but had Sierra gotten involvement from businesses like Starbucks, McDonalds, etc., they could have really livened up the scenery.  And just think how much vicarious fun you could have by going on a rampage of destroying every Starbucks in the city!  That alone would be worth the purchase price!






B
Gobs of great game play, powers and moves that have to be seen to be believed, and a decent storyline combine to make The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction a very enjoyable experience.