Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: August 23, 2005
Radical Entertainment is sorry about The Hulk, the title that they released two years ago to coincide with the release of Ang Lee's equally lackluster movie adaptation of the infamous comic book juggernaut. To apologize, they've given us The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, an incredibly visceral smash-fest that has completely redeemed them in my eyes.
In Ultimate Destruction, Bruce Banner is already the Hulk and is working feverishly to find a cure before the Hulk takes over his mind completely. Of course, the military has its own cure in mind, and it doesn't involve medical remedies so much as it does heavy ordinance, not to mention Emil Blonsky (also known as The Abomination), an NSA agent with a deep-seated hatred for The Hulk and any other creatures created through exposure to gamma radiation. In fact, it's Blonsky who destroys Banner's hideout at the outset of the game, forcing him to escape to an abandoned church where Doc Samson helps him start over from scratch.
In some ways, Ultimate Destruction has a lot in common with Spiderman 2 gameplay-wise. Both let you roam freely around the city (and in Ultimate Destruction's case, the Badlands, too) choosing to do story missions when you feel like it. Both games also have stores where you can redeem points for new moves and ability upgrades as well.
From that point on, though, the gameplay is as different as the Hulk and Spiderman are. If nothing else, Radical got the title of their game right, because the Hulk really makes a mess of the place when he goes out on the town. Just by running, he plows through everything from police officers to busses, knocking them away as if they were leaves in the wind. Heavier armor like tanks and mechs require a more direct approach, though. As the Hulk, you've got two attacks at your disposal and a grab button, which comes in handy all of the time. Various combos can be unlocked throughout the course of the game. The Hulk can pick up and throw pretty much everything that isn't already nailed down, which amounts to quite a lot. There's nothing better than throwing a charter bus at an attack chopper 50 yards out and watching it crash and burn as if it were a model of the real thing.
Grown sentimentally attached to that mangled truck, car, or tank and don't want to just chuck it at the next squadron of infantry that stands in your way? Weaponizations are the cure for what ails you. Pressing the special attack button while holding an object will weaponize, which is basically the Hulk's way of making it more combat-friendly. For example, Steel Fists will cause the Hulk to turn a car, truck, or whatever into a version of brass knuckles that best suits someone his size. Needless to say, this ups the damage your fist-based attacks deal by a fair margin. Another weaponization will provide you with a shield that, besides its obvious defensive benefits, can be used for smashing and even be thrown at an enemy like a boomerang.
Don't let his size fool you; the Hulk can move with the quickness. Besides running on the ground, he can run up the sides of buildings and even climb up them like a really 'roided up Spiderman. The fastest way to get around is probably the charged jump, though; when maxed out, it'll send you flying across the city in no time at all.
There are two types of missions in Ultimate Destruction: story and challenges. Story mode missions are presented one at a time and often involve a cut scene or two to – you guessed it – advance the story. The best story missions involve, of course, smashing things. Fetch quests and "protect this building for 10 minutes" missions are in there too, but they can be a little frustrating in the later chapters, as the things you're fetching or protecting have a tendency to blow up before you do. Challenge missions are scattered about the game world, and usually have you engaged in some timed events such as a race through checkpoints or destroying a certain number of an object (such as spotlights on rooftops), among other things. These challenges don't advance the story at all, but they're a great way to earn smash points to spend on moves and upgrades and add to the replay value quite a bit.
At first glance, the graphics are passable, but nothing that's going to make you cancel your Xbox 360 preorder. Ultimate Destruction's beauty isn't skin-deep, though. You can see where all of the graphics processing power went when you start smashing stuff and causing incredibly huge explosions. Aside from that, the Hulk himself looks pretty good, and he glows green when he charges up his moves and jumps for that extra touch. The city is neither as big nor as detailed as NYC was in Spiderman 2, but again, the amount of explosions and effects that The Incredible Hulk displays at a time is significantly greater than the web-slinger's sequel.
If you have a surround sound system, you'll love Ultimate Destruction even more. Missile explosions, tank smashing, building climbing … it's a veritable sensory overload! The Los Angeles Orchestra provides the equally pleasing soundtrack akin to what you hear in summer blockbusters these days. Neal McDonough and Ron Perlman provide the voices of Bruce Banner and Emil Blonsky, respectively, and do a good job. Perlman's performance is about in-between his monotone performance in Halo 2 and playing the titular character in Hellboy, one of the best movies that will ever be made, bar none (but I'm not biased about it).
Controls for The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction are spot-on and respond perfectly. This comes as good news, because the game is admittedly a little difficult at its default setting, and even on easy, some of the later missions get chaotic as they throw half of the armed forces your way. Still, the story mode alone will only take about 10 hours at the most to complete, but there's plenty of replay value thanks to the challenge missions. Even when you complete all of the challenge missions, it's still fun just to run around in free-roam mode and just trash everything. Seriously, it's really fun.
You need to buy The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. It's the closest modern science will let us get to actually being the Hulk, plus without the possible side effects of gamma radiation. The only way this may get bumped to the rental zone is if you really dislike the source material, but how could you hate a title that lets you smash everything and anything you see?
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