Publisher: VU Games
Developer: VU Games
Release Date: May 27, 2003
With the fresh release of Hollywood Hulk’s Ang Lee directed big-screen debut (and rounding up about $60 million in its first 3 days), VU Games has seen fit to bring the Green Goliath to the small-screen via every major console platform. The result is a straightforward smash-fest that perfectly captures the essence of what it is to be The Hulk. Taking place a couple years after the events depicted in the film, The Hulk continues the gamma-oriented saga in fine form, though it must be said that it is a bit strange the game is essentially the sequel to a movie that isn’t even out yet. Nevertheless, fans of The Hulk comics and gamers with a penchant for satisfying smashing will undoubtedly find a whole lot to like here.
The decision to make a videogame spin-off of The Hulk movie instead of capitalizing on the pre-made existing story of the film was a bit of a risk for developer VU Games, mostly because it meant that they’d have to start from scratch and create an original plot all their own. Luckily, this hasn’t turned out to be a problem, and in the end the storyline shines thanks to its inherent originality and open-endedness which leaves room for lots of interesting cameos that wouldn’t otherwise have made the cut had it been based on the film. Basically the story revolves around the Gamma Orb, a device which replicates The Hulk’s powers for anyone who possesses it. You’ll smash your way through dozens of different environments in an attempt to retrieve the Gamma Orb from the clutches of an evil scientist who is hell-bent on misusing its powers. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds.
The Hulk’s arsenal of fighting moves is impressive, over three dozen attacks can be performed. Obligatory moves like left and right hooks, gut punches, overhead smashes, punt kicks, dashing punches, and the Sonic Clap can be executed by simply pushing a combination of different buttons. But as you progress and begin to experiment with the controls you’ll inevitably discover some of his more exciting moves like the Gamma Crusher, jumping throws, the Backbreaker – and the destructible environments lend themselves nicely to a slew of other attacks such as picking up slabs of concrete and chucking them at a horde of enemies, or using a 20-foot pole to bat away groups of smaller opponents. There is just so many ways to kick butt in The Hulk that the beat-em-up action never gets old.
And while watching The Hulk perform all sorts of devastating attacks is plenty of fun, the entertainment gets kicked up another notch thanks to the way the environment reacts to your every move. Pillars will gradually crumble away as the battle ensues around them, the ground will crack and fissure as you jump upon it – basically everything in your immediate surroundings will realistically deform and eventually explode in the wake of The Hulk’s tangents of fury. And if the environments suffer this much destruction at your hands you can imagine how the host of enemies will feel. Throngs of opponents will constantly bum-rush you and shoot at you with their measly automatic weapons and missile launchers, but power in numbers is a concept that is lost on The Hulk and the feeling you get from ripping a giant pillar out of its foundation and killing multiple enemies with each swing is extremely satisfying. Aside from your run-of-the-mill human opponents, you’ll also get to put the smash down on mechanized Hulk-like robots, giant gamma dogs, helicopters, gamma-enhanced soldiers, and a host of boss characters. Each enemy has their own life bar which diminishes as you kick their ass, giving the game a sort of 3D Final Fight feel.
But it isn’t all about the “smashy smashy” in The Hulk, and that is unfortunate because the included stealth sequences that allow you to control Bruce Banner in human form, which were included to change up the pace of the game and keep things feeling fresh, are a total snooze-fest. Luckily there are only a few stealth levels to plod through and as much as they pale in comparison to the more visceral smash-tastic fighting elements of the game, they really aren’t all that bad in comparison to other stealth-oriented games. They’re easy too, so at least you won’t get hung up on’em if you don’t like’em.
Once you finish with the game’s story mode (which will take the average gamer around five hours) there is a whole bunch of unlockable goodies to be had. You can check out a couple trailers for the upcoming film, or watch a making-of featurette for the game, or a few other similar video clips. All sorts of other stuff can be unlocked by playing the game’s survival mode, which throws waves of enemies at you and challenges you to last for as long as possible, or inflict as much damage on your surroundings as possible in the allotted time. But it won’t take long for this mode of play to get old, even considering the intricate and entertaining fighting system.
Visually, The Hulk looks great and animates in an assortment of different ways. The actual character model used for the Mean Green Machine is so over-the-top and bustling with muscles that you can’t help but be excited by his unprecedented sense of machismo. A unique cel-shading effect was used to spit-shine the visuals and the result is akin to comic book style and the live-action movie in equal parts, an accomplishment that is difficult to aptly describe unless you’ve seen the game in action. But what will really bake your noodle is the game’s focus on environmental destruction; the way walls crumble to the ground, or the way objects in your immediate vicinity go through different levels of demolition. The cut-scenes, which I think are rendered in real-time, are also quite impressive and feature some of the best facial animation I’ve ever seen. There is occasional slowdown though, nothing to be worried about but it is there when things get hectic (and they will) onscreen.
The sound design is up to par but nothing to get too excited about. The constant onscreen destruction is adequately represented with lots of crunching and smashing sound effects and the musical score has a certain theatrical quality to it. But the most notable addition in terms of sound is the professionally voice-acted dialogue which features talent straight from the movie like Eric Bana who does the voice of The Hulk in both the game and film.
In the end, The Hulk proves to be a highly entertaining, albeit somewhat brief and simplistic, take on the movie-to-game genre. The story mode is great fun and the additional unlockables provide some incentive to keep playing even after you’ve beaten it but it’s hard to justify a 50 dollar purchase on a game that can be completed in less than five hours. Which makes The Hulk a perfect contender for rental of the year.
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