Developer: Edge of Reality
Release Date: June 5, 2008
As I have often observed in the past, it is the way of the video game industry to take movies, ranging from passable excursions to blockbuster hits, and transform them into pitiful excuses for games in a shamelessly blatant attempt to squeeze a few extra dollars out of a potentially successful movie franchise. This begs the question: What if the movie franchise is not particularly successful? Suppose the film itself is something of a dud; if good movies get translated into bad video games, what do bad movies get translated into once the console gaming industry gets a hold of them and wrings out what little potential they have? The answer is clearly found in Incredible Hulk, and, as much as you may have hoped that a bad movie might become a good game in a mirror image of the usual setup, it quickly becomes obvious that such is not the case.
Looking for a plot? I hope you brought a magnifying glass, because it's as inscrutable and user-unfriendly in the Incredible Hulk game as it was in the movie. Cut scenes offer very little insight into the Hulk's motivations, but it gets worse. In what is either a stroke of comic genius on the part of the casting agent or a premium example of high-octane fail, Bruce Banner's voice sounds bored. And I'm not talking about, "This isn't the most fun I've had in my life" bored, but more along the lines of, "I'd rather watch grass grow, somebody please shoot me so that something interesting will happen" bored.
Honestly, if you've got this raging monster living inside you that's always seeking a means to escape and wreak havoc on your life like an angry green wrecking ball, you'd think that it would take a while for it to get dull … or maybe he's just been playing this game a little too long. It's not Banner's fault, though; every single member of the cast is a one-sided caricature, and while that's not necessarily a flaw of the writers — while the Hulk is a fine allegory of man's struggle against himself, his background characters are so shallow that they might as well be cardboard cutouts — gamers have come to expect more than that.
To be brutally blunt, the angry green giant's greatest flaw is that he is boring. Incredible Hulk largely consists of running around, hitting stuff, jumping sometimes, collecting a few optional trinkets and hitting more stuff. Those are fine, time-tested gameplay mechanics that have seen the average gamer through a fairly large percentage of his life, but they're only solid when used as a means to an end. Having tooled around in the city for entirely too much time, I rapidly discovered that trying to find the nearest subway to shake the feds (who mysteriously have an endless supply of manpower, vehicles, and other such sundry items to dash against you until they simply wear you down through a war of attrition) or dragging your human pal to various locations was simply not adequate to add enough variety to this title to keep me from growing bored in a hurry. Even the presence of unlockable feats and such do very little to add value to the title; if anything, they summon forth an image of an 11th-hour meeting in which everyone realized that he forgot to add some fun to the game, and made a desperate attempt to include something, anything to keep the player coming back for a second try.
It's not all toilets and tourniquets, though. It's fair to say that the cityscape is both impressive and expansive, and while the Hulk lacks the ability to see too very far in the distance, he can still pull off some pretty neat jumps and clamber up walls in a way Spiderman only wishes he could manage. Some of his moves are kind of cool to look at, and ideas, such as ripping up some of the sidewalk and using it as a shield, are at least kind of innovative. It's a shame, then, that "pretty" does not a good game make — especially in this day and age, when pretty is the baseline that all games have to use in order to keep up — and the innovation is only used in such a way as to relate back to the basic, gets-old-fast gameplay that will leave the average consumer wondering why he dropped his hard-earned dough on this train wreck. Even the fairly authentic grunts and roars of our protagonist can't save this title; it's like applying a fresh coat of paint to your totaled car.
My final gripe is a bit of a pet peeve, but I'm going to stand by it. In 1988, I could easily forgive glitches. Video games had only just become popular again, and people were still exploring what they could do with some fairly limited hardware. It's 2008 now, and we've been through four or five generations of console systems, each one becoming more and more sophisticated, to the point that the graphical differences are nearly nonexistent. (Look at a Genesis game and a Super NES game side by side, then do the same with an Xbox 360 game and a PlayStation 3 game, and tell me that the gap hasn't narrowed significantly.) So why, in this modern day, do we have clipping bugs? For those not in the know, a clipping bug is a quirk in which the player is actually able to pass through solid objects for no discernable reason. I discovered one such bug in the first five minutes of gameplay, and it really set a precedent, lowering my expectations to a level that caused the lackluster presentation to be more of a disappointment than a surprise. Programmers, you can and should do better than this; we, the gaming public, deserve it.
Incredible Hulk is an embarrassment, one of the worst movie-to-game translations to come out in some time — and that's really saying something. Whether you blame the shoddy voice acting, the mind-meltingly dull gameplay, or the simple failure to program adequately, this title should never sell anywhere but the $20 game bin. No wonder Hulk's mad.
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