Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Developer: Universal Studios
Release Date: May 27, 2003
For the past few years, we've seen a number of comic book characters appear on the big screen in surprisingly good films. Last year's Spider-Man was simply stunning, and before it, there was the solid X-Men film. This year continues that tradition, and this time, that comic book is The Hulk. And as with Spider-Man before it, there's a game released alongside the film. Admittedly, I didn't find the Spider-Man game to be all that enthralling, but a super-strong, down-to-earth character like The Hulk could easily translate to a game, and I had high hopes. Did the developers succeed in creating a good game? Read on.
The game's developers had been working very closely with the filmmakers to create the most authentic experience possible. They were able to examine many of the sets used in the film, create a storyline that coincides with that of the film, and even have lead actors such as Eric Bana contribute voice-work to the game. If one thing is for certain, it's that a lot of work went into making this a real Hulk game, not just some average brawler with characters stamped in place.
The game picks up right after the movie finishes. An old friend contacts Bruce Banner - who is, of course, The Hulk in his normal, human form - and says that he'll be able to help out the good doctor. Of course, everything goes awry, and soon enough, our hero is hot on the trail of an evil villain who is trying to create an army of gamma-powered fiends. The story certainly won't blow you away, but it is pretty solid stuff, for the most part.
The gameplay itself is a mixed bag. There are a whole bunch of levels, but only about half of them actually have you playing as The Hulk. The other half, usually spliced in between Hulk stages, give you the opportunity to take control of Dr. Banner. The Dr. Banner levels demand stealth and precision, and usually have you sneaking through evil organizations without setting off an alarm or turning into the Hulk. The problem is, thanks to a lack of abilities and a sometimes crazed camera, you usually do get caught, and thanks to your extremely small health bar and ludicrous fighting ability, you have to start all over again. It doesn't help that these missions can be painstakingly boring. There's usually only one route through a level, and you'll be encountering a lot of trial-and-error until you find that perfect route.
The Hulk missions are where the game shines. Sure, the camera problems are still there, but they aren't as noticeable when you have a gigantic health bar and fists that really do pack a punch. There are dozens of different combos you can utilize, keeping combat from ever feeling too stale. The Hulk can punch, kick, jump, throw a funky gamma wave, or pick up just about anything to use as a weapon. And if there's no weapons around, try punching some nearby pipes or electronics equipment for a quick fix. You can even pick up an enemy and throw him at his comrades, killing two birds with one stone. There is a lot to do.
Levels are continually fresh, putting you in a variety of environments, from sprawling skyscrapers to underground sewers and military bases. You'll encounter lots of obstacles and a never-ending flow of resistance. Some of the bosses are pretty clever, too - one forces you to use your surroundings to attack, because you'll be electrified if you touch him. Thankfully, The Hulk has a gigantic health bar, and he can also get down and dirty with "Rage" when he collects enough of the little red orbs enemies leave behind. This Rage mode gives Hulk even greater strength, causing even more damage than before. If you collect more orbs while Hulk's still in Rage mode, you can keep it going for a pretty long amount of time.
When you've completed the main game, you might find it worthwhile to check out some of the other unlockables. There are a couple of fun modes, such as Time Attack and "Hulk Smash". In Time Attack, you're thrown a never-ending number of baddies and you have to try to take out as many as you can before a timer runs out. Hulk Smash has you busting up the environment as much as you possibly can in a limited amount of time, too. There's also an Endurance mode where you simply keep fighting enemies until you lose all of your health. And if you're sick of the extra modes, you can wander around in the extra content. There's a bunch of neat stuff here, from behind-the-scenes photography, to movie trailers, to videos on game's making. There are also a slew of cheat codes you can try out.
The graphics in the game are pretty solid. The characters tend to look less realistic than they are cartoony, which isn't entire bad. While it's not quite cel-shading, the game takes on a look that is faithful to the comic book. Of course, this sometimes means that some of the textures are pretty tame, but overall, your eyes won't be aching. The animation is pretty darn smooth, and the physics are realistic enough. You can link together The Hulk's moves with some degree of finesse. There's a slight pause, usually, but nothing too distracting. A slight pause is certainly understandable, considering The Hulk's huge size. Environmental damage looks great, too. You can damage practically anything, and lots of stuff falls apart, making weapons pretty easy to find.
Sound-wise, the game is good. Actor Eric Bana, who plays Bruce Banner in the film, adds a lot with his great voice talent. Other characters are played, well, too, from the villains to helpful friends. The sound effects are also reasonably well-done, with a good number of bangs, smacks, pows, zaps, and kabooms. Background music is pretty good most of the time, too. While it's an original soundtrack, it's surprisingly fitting, most of the time.
Overall, The Hulk gets an A for effort and a B for execution. There's a lot of fun to be had as The Hulk, but Dr. Banner's missions are really quite boring and tiresome, and break up the flow of the game. As it is, The Hulk doesn't introduce a whole lot to the genre, but it does do the whole combat thing very well (except, of course, when you're Banner). This game is worth a look if you're a fan, or you enjoyed the film, but I can't entirely reccomend it because of the weak segments when you aren't Hulk. If anything, this game is a sign of good things to come from future comic book-licensed games, and it should entertain you for at least a short period of time.
Score : 7.0/ 10
More articles about The Hulk