Ever since smashing his way onto the comic scene back in 1962, Marvel Comics’ Incredible Hulk has been carving a path of destruction straight into the world of mainstream entertainment, much to the delight of comic fans around the world. Over the years, the Hulk has popped up in television shows, cartoons, and even big budget motion pictures. Of course, the Hulk is no stranger to the video game industry either, having starred in more than a half dozen games of his own, and making appearances in countless others. Still, despite numerous attempts, none of these Hulk-based video games has ever seemed to truly capture the power of the Gamma powered behemoth… until now.
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is the latest video game to take advantage of the Hulk license. This time around, the developers at Radical Entertainment decided to forego the material from the Hulk movie and instead took the character back to his comic book roots. To help out with this endeavor, the developers enlisted the help of the modern comic industry’s big guns: writer Paul Jenkins and artist Bryan Hitch. Hitch, best known for his work on Marvel Comic’s top selling Ultimates comic series, provides character designs for the game and helps to give Ultimate Destruction its unique look. Jenkins, whose dramatic run on the Hulk comic helped to put the character back in the spotlight, went even further by providing the game’s story, scripting, and even helping out with the game’s design. For comic fans, this means that Ultimate Destruction could easily be one of the best comic book based video games ever.
The game opens with Bruce Banner, the Hulk’s mild-mannered alter ego, still working to find a way to cure himself of the Hulk’s ever-looming presence. However, curing Banner is the furthest thing from the minds of the military. On orders from General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, the military executes a vicious air strike on Banner’s location, hoping to neutralize the Hulk once and for all. Unfortunately for them, the air strike succeeds only in making Banner angry. And as comic fans everywhere know, they won’t like it when he’s angry. What follows is a surprisingly deep plot, filled with drama, intrigue, betrayal, conspiracies, and oh yeah… lots and lots of destruction.
It would be easy to label The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction as just another Grand Theft Auto rip-off. It would be easy, but it would also be completely wrong. Sure, both games have a non-linear style of gameplay, as well as a lot of interaction with the environment and NPC characters. Both games even have a meter that increases the law enforcement response based on your threat level. However, Ultimate Destruction has something that Tommy Vercetti, CJ, and the rest of the GTA crew never could: off-the-charts Gamma fueled rage. One major problem plaguing Hulk games in the past has been that no developer ever truly seemed to grasp the extent of the Hulk’s strength. Ultimate Destruction, on the other hand, hits the nail square on the head with a great big green hammer.
The first thing that makes Ultimate Destruction such a unique experience is just how easy it is to pick up and play. If you’ve never played a video game before in your life, it’s still a snap to pick up the controller and start smashing everything in sight. Experienced gamers haven’t been left out of the mix though, as the game also contains a surprising amount of depth, courtesy of the Hulk’s more advanced library of moves and combos. So while the beginning gamer will enjoy simply punching everything in sight, veteran gamers will relish in racking up destruction points by chaining moves together and blasting entire city blocks with one of the Hulk’s uber-powerful Devastator moves. And if that isn’t enough, players can also use elements of the environment itself to cause even more damage. This includes catching fighter jets in midair and using them as giant lawn darts, surfing the streets on the top of a crushed passenger bus, and using cars as metal boxing gloves.
Although the game gives the player the freedom to advance the plot via specific story related missions, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you skip any of the Ultimate Destruction’s various side missions. These missions earn you extra Destruction Points, with which you can unlock more of the game’s bonus content, but the real reason to try them out is simply because most of them are just plain fun. In one particularly hilarious side mission, the Hulk is on top of a nearby skyscraper being ambushed by wave after wave of soldiers dropped from a hovering chopper. The goal of the mission is to use a steel beam as a baseball bat and simply knock these guys as far out into the ocean as possible. Another mission challenged me to see how many times I could hit one poor soul into the air before he touched the ground. Each of these side missions was unique in its own way, and was almost as much fun to play as the actual plot based missions. In many ways, it’s like playing a Hulk based party game.
It goes without saying that the comic industry relies heavily on visual presentation. Thankfully, the guys at Radical realized this when coming up with the look of Ultimate Destruction. The game’s graphics are all crisp, clean, and well-defined. The animations are fluid for the most part, with very little stutter in the framerate. One thing that makes the game though is its attention to detail. Run up the side of a building and the Hulk leaves behind footprints embedded in the walls. Land from a leap, and the road buckles slightly from the impact. Use a Devastator move, and the shockwave will shatter windows for blocks. It’s the details like this which add the extra depth that draws the player in.
It’s hard to find much to fault in Ultimate Destruction, however the game still falls just shy of perfect. There is a small drop in the framerate when the screen fills with enemies. It’s never enough to take away from the action, but it is still a minor noticeable hitch. The only other real fault to be found is the occasional repetitive gameplay. As much fun as it is to smash everything in sight, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Still, the developers seemed to realize this, and tried to make a point of mixing things up somewhat over the course of the game. If you try to play through the game in one sitting though, be prepared for that feeling of deja vu all over again in some of the missions.
Even with these minor gripes, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction easily ranks as one of the best comic based video games of all time. Comic book fans will love how the game faithfully adapts the experience of being the Hulk, and people who have never even picked up a comic will enjoy the wanton destruction the players are capable of wreaking. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a non-stop adrenaline buffet that reaches out, grabs the player’s attention, and never lets go.
Sound: 7.8, the constant hulk groan when he jumps gets old quickly
Graphics: 8.6, best graphics for a comic book game ever.
Gameplay: 9.2, Fun game, Nuff Said
Should you buy it: YES, now it is around 20$ and it is definetly worth it