Over the years, one of the first lessons I learned with video games is that more isn't always better. Many people are under the impression that the more people, time, and money you put into creating a game, the better it will be. This is not always true, and in fact, fails just as much as it succeeds. Another lesson I've learned is that games based around movies tend to suck.
It doesn't take a bachelors degree to figure out the equation here. The idea is to create a blockbuster movie and a game based around the same concept, and release them to the public at the same time. The goal is to build a phenomenon, in this case by resurrecting one of the most beloved comic book heroes of all time and making them fall in love with him all over again. That way, they'll not only pay to see the movie, but also buy the game, the inevitable action figures, and all the other stuff the salesmen can think of.
The hero of choice here is the Hulk, an age old disciple mainstay of Marvel comics. While I can't say I've seen the movie, I can say that I don't plan to. What's on the line here is the PC version of the movie, if you will. The producers of the movie worked with the game designers in the hopes of creating something better than the average fodder normally associated with a video game tie-in. They wanted something that went along with the movie, or fit in some way. What ultimately happened is that the game takes over right where the movie leaves off. From there, a simple tale of betrayal ignites a fire that will require many fights to put out.
The PC version of this game installs off 3 CDs, at just under 2 gb with the full installation option. Once that's accomplished, the game loads up, gives you a few neat cut scenes, and presents you with the average initial screen. You can choose story mode, or a more basic fighting mode. For the purposes of this review, I chose the story mode. In this mode, the game uses cut scenes to set the stage for the mayhem and then gives the player control once the sparks are ready to fly. The game is, for all intensive purposes, a fighting game. You can control the Hulk with the directional pad on your controller and attempt basic moves with the buttons, such as punching, picking up and slamming, and so forth. There are a few neat combos as well. All told, there are over 45 different moves that you can put on your enemies. Several meters on the screen denote how much health Hulk currently has, how much gamma he has stored up for special moves, and a few other statistics as well. Essentially, you go after the bad guys using any of the aforementioned attacks, destroy them, and move on. Enemies range from soldiers of varying skill levels to more specific characters. One of the more appealing aspects of the fight sequences is that the entire environment is largely destructible. Just about anything on the screen can be destroyed, such as garbage disposals, vent covers, and even cars, which can be picked up and used as weapons against your adversaries.
As you defeat the various enemies and move through the current mission, the game bounces in and out with some well-done, if not a little tacky, cut scenes. The scenes are well-done from a technical aspect, as they often left me confused about what was going on, and that's my single biggest hit on this game. Throughout the majority of the story mode, I had little to no clue whatsoever as to what was going on, and rarely did I even know what I was supposed to be doing. The game generally tells you where to go, and what to do next. From there, it was just a matter of fighting through my carpel tunnel pain and pressing the right buttons. I should apply for workers' comp.
Seriously, the game really degenerated quickly for me. In the initial sequence, you take control of the Hulk outside of an obligatory gas station out in the middle of the desert. There are helicopters, tanks, and soldiers all gunning for him. Basically, you just destroy everything on the screen and go from there. The next mission found me playing Bruce Banner himself, the Hulk's crybaby alter ego. In this mission, my job was to use Bruce to covertly infiltrate a science lab and apply a cure to himself that his nemesis, Professor Crawford, has concocted. After basically following along with the computer's prodding, I was able to get to where I needed to be. From there, Crawford essentially betrayed the Hulk by taking some of the Hulk's own gamma and using it on himself, turning into a monster named Ravage. The Hulk chases after Ravage, following his path of destruction, and tries to put an end to this whole charade. I didn't even realize Crawford betrayed the Hulk by taking some of his gamma. I learned that from reading the Xbox review right here at this site. Seriously, the cut scene made the whole thing look like Crawford just made a mistake and got some of the Hulk's gamma by accident. Then the Hulk is running around, bitching about being betrayed, and I'm left wondering, "How? How were you betrayed? I didn't see anything!" That mission then forces you to jump from rooftop to rooftop, fighting soldiers and minions along the way, chasing after this nut Crawford/Ravage. That's basically it: jump from a ledge, punch some soldiers around, slam a few, then jump in the direction the arrows are pointing towards the next rooftop. I'll be honest — after about the eighth rooftop, I paused the whole mess and went outside and smoked a cigarette. Boring.
Graphically, the game is decent. Not great, spectacular, or anything magnificent, but decent. At times, the game did portray that neat comic book effect, vaguely reminiscent of the graphics in Freedom Force, although that's about as close as the Hulk will ever come to that masterpiece. Notice that I did not say the Hulk is similar to Freedom Force so please do not write the editor here complaining that GreyOoze said the Hulk plays like Freedom Force because that's not what I'm saying. The graphics have a slight cartoon like quality to them, and in the end, they work. There are an impressive number of environments in which this hoedown can occur, everything from cities to science labs, deserts, and many other distinct areas.
However, as far as sound goes, it was nice of the designers to keep with the nostalgic trend here and recycle some of the sound effects from Space Invaders, because that's what a lot of it sounds like. Bloop. Bloop. Ping. Grrr. There are some cool rumble effects and a lot of growling, but the majority of the sound, especially in the fights, is just plain sad. The soldiers repeat the same lines over and over again, such as, "There he is!," "Everybody stay together!," and, "We've got him outnumbered." I suppose occasionally, a few neat loops will find their way in there. Breaking glass is kind of cool, and a lot of the sounds do have that massive destructive quality to it, but there are just not enough of them.
All in all though, the Hulk isn't a bad game. From what I've heard, it's about as good as the movie, which that's all I really have to say about that. You get some destructible environments, throw some guys around, there's a neat grab-and-slam move that had me guffawing with pleasure for a while, and some other things to keep you interested until Duke Nukem Forever comes out. With the game boiling down to a sequence of cut scenes, fighting, jumping, following generated computer orders, lather, rinse, and repeat, the game tends to get old fast. There's simply not enough depth and complexity in this game to merit the current $30 price tag.
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