Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: August 23, 2005
When I saw Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction at E3, I thought it looked cool but I wasn’t all that impressed. I got to see no cut-scenes, couldn’t hear anything, and the graphics weren’t by themselves felt a little primitive. Actually getting to sit down and play the game is a whole other story, though. Radical completely did their homework for this game, and have crafted both a great Hulk story and gameplay that delivers an amazing adrenaline rush.
I’ll get this out of the way right at the start: the graphics still aren’t that impressive in this build, but also give the impression of being unfinished. Buildings and vehicles are still very simple, and there’s some clipping issues with distant objects. However, the power effects and the interface are as slick and intuitive as anything a gamer could wish for, and the engine manages to seamlessly move tons of people and vehicles around. Destruction effects are satisfyingly detailed, with the Hulk’s body leaving craters in the ground after powerful leaps and landforms that explode spectacularly. The cut-scenes aren’t much to look at right now, mostly because of very bland textures, but this may very well change before the final build.
What’s interesting about Ultimate Destruction right now is the gameplay. It’s pretty much a take on the GTA sandbox-type game, but don’t think you’re playing a Spider-Man close with this game. The sheer scale of what you can do and the kind of abilities the Hulk has gives Ultimate Destruction a very different feel than other sandbox-type games. For instance, while the Ultimate Destruction storyline is still mission-based in the same basic way that GTA’s is, your missions require you to do things like fight the military and destroy power stations. The game is completely oriented toward action and destroying everything you possibly can, and boy is it just the thing to relax you after a bad day at work.
One of the major mechanics that encourages you to smash open everything in sight is Smash Points. The mechanic sounds a bit silly when first introduced – basically, you get so many bonus points for smashing up enemies in the most spectacular ways possible. You can spend your smash points to unlock new “Weaponizations” techniques that let you turn objects you find into weapons. While it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering the Hulk’s powers, it’s just fun in-game to have Hulk throw missiles at helicopters or turn cars into giant metal gauntlets. These are the only two weaponizations you start with, but you can buy more – lots more – during the course of gameplay.
Hulk’s battle repertoire outside of Weaponizing is limited to punching things, although you can get smash points for scoring multi-hit combos, and hurling objects at things. There’s a targeting system in place to help you with long-distance throws and it works remarkably well, although changing targets (which involves holding down L and using the right analog stick) is a little bit more difficult than it probably should be. While Hulk is immensely more powerful than most of the game’s enemies, at least so far, he is vulnerable and will take damage from enemy attacks. Gunshots are negligible, but watch out when the military sics tanks and other large vehicles on you.
Your only real option for defense, aside from overwhelming offensive power, is Hulk’s super-leaping power. Hulk can leap high enough to scale single story buildings with a single bound, and by charging his leaps (by holding down the A button) you can soar up above skyscrapers. There are some buildings too tall to simply leap to the top of, and for this you’re best off grabbing the side of the building and climbing up. If you need to get there in a hurry, you can hold down the R button and simply dash to the top, but keeping control of Hulk while he’s running can be different. He’s usually a bit of a slow bruiser, but once he’s running he picks up some gigantic momentum.
One of the things that really impressed me about Ultimate Destruction, in a way I was totally unprepared for, was the quality of the storyline and the way the game built up atmosphere. The story is a very traditional comic-book Hulk tale, which begins with Bruce Banner working in a secret hideout in the woods to try and remedy his problem. He’s unexpectedly attacked by the military and has to seek refuge with Doc Samson, another researcher who’s investigating ways to cure or control Bruce’s transformations into the Hulk. Doc Samson gives Bruce a special helmet that lets him transform at will by spikign the anger centers of his brain, and then sends Bruce out on a mission to collect the resources to try and make a curative treatment possible. In the meantime, the authorities – lead by a man named Emil Blonsky - are still seeking the Hulk for their own purposes.
Ultimate Destruction doesn’t offer much in the way of memorable music, but some satisfying crunches and smashes that accompany destruction. The Hulk has a genuinely horrifying roar, and every move he makes is accompanied by thudding sounds that help drive home his sheer mass. Voice acting for the cut-scenes was absolutely top-notch, featuring work by Ron Perlman as the Abomination and Neil McDonough (who voiced the character in his 90’s animated series) as Bruce Banner. There’s also a generous portion of voice-acting during the in-game segments – civilians will panic, military and police officers will shout things at each other, and it all adds a lot to the feeling of being this rampaging, terrifying monster. It also adds a nice dose of black humor to the game, as puny humans you opt to toss around make the most hilarious, satisfying cries before bouncing off some portion of the landscape.
All in all, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is shaping up to be a game that speaks powerfully to the id. If the graphics sharpen up a little before the final release build it’ll be quite nearly flawless, since as it stands the gameplay is great and the atmosphere is perfect. Playing it really feels the way reading an Incredible Hulk comic should but rarely does. We played the Xbox build for this preview, but keep your eyes open for a version on PS2 as well when the game launches at the end of August.
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