Reviewed: October 4, 2005
Released: August 23, 2005
I have to admit that the Hulk has never been one of my favorite super-heroes, but it only took about an hour of playing The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction for it to quickly become one of my top three super-hero video games of the year, perhaps of all-time.
Unlike Radical’s previous attempt at a Hulk video game – you know, the one based on the movie, we don’t have to worry about playing as Dr. Banner or any of those lame stealth missions. This game is all about “ultimate destruction” in a city as big as the one found in Spider-Man 2. And when you combine unlimited destruction with free-roaming environments and a devastating array of attacks and impromptu weapon construction, you have a whole lot of fun just waiting to happen.
You are introduced to the subtle yet violent nuances of controlling the Hulk through an in-depth tutorial set near a military base. Here, you will get to explore your powerful attacks and learn how to jump and run up buildings. You’ll also learn how to “weaponize” objects, perhaps the coolest feature in the game.
Weaponizing objects can be as simple as ripping a jeep in half and making it into a pair of boxing gloves, or even better, ripping the rocket launcher off a chopper and throwing the rockets as your target. Once you get into the city the world becomes your arsenal as you can rip light poles from the curb and bat around your targets or hurl cars down the street. There are even some specialty objects like spherical signs that can be rolled down the street “bowling for cops” style.
The more you destroy the more “smash points” you earn. These are the RPG currency of the game and allow you to purchase new and more powerful moves, but as your repertoire of moves increases, so does the power of number of the enemies you face.
The fighting can get really intense as you do or take damage and build up your rage meter to achieve Critical Mass. Once this level is reached you can perform amazing Devastator moves.
The story is surprisingly good but in the end it merely strings together a substantial number of levels and missions, all centered around your base of operations at the church. You’ll get to explore and trash massive cityscapes or wander the desolate badlands fighting off military tanks, artillery, and air support. The levels are really cool but a bit limited in their environmental options.
Perhaps the highlight of the game are the boss battles which range from powerful villains like Mercy to a giant robot and several cult favorites. These are not only challenging but allow you to exploit your full range of moves and abilities and unleash total destruction on the city.
Given the limitations of the city and desert environments I was still very impressed with the graphics in The Incredible Hulk. The cities were especially breathtaking at night stretching out to the horizon with all the windows and streetlights. In one mission where you have to destroy various power generators around the city it was extremely cool to see large sections undergoing a blackout.
The only downside to the graphics is that since the city isn’t based on any known city there are no familiar landmarks and the buildings can get a bit repetitive. It’s like they took a few key models then change the height and footprint size and created a city.
The animations are awesome, especially for the Hulk who has a real weight and realistic physics about him and some hilarious idle and victory animations. And when he destroys a building and it slowly sinks into the ground in a cloud of dust, it looks just like those images where they really demolish a building.
The lighting is amazing, especially a night and there are excellent particle effects like sparks and debris. The Xbox supports progressive scan for 720p for a true Hi-Def experience and looks just as good as any PC game with a super-smooth framerate.
The camera works well and there is a target-lock to help out when combat gets too confusing or to keep a particular enemy in your sights while pursuing them across the rooftops.
The soundtrack in Ultimate Destruction is minimal at best with only a few key riffs that kick in for moments of suspense and boss battles. There are some good tunes in the menus as well, but for the most part the game is played with a disturbing lack of music.
Thankfully the sound effects are outstanding, both in quality and the 3D Dolby mix that puts you right in the middle of the destruction. There are all sorts of realistic ambient city noises even before you start to trash the place, and once the destruction begins there is a heavy level of communication chatter between military and police forces.
The voice acting it flawless and there are numerous quips that will have you laughing aloud. Neal McDonough of “Band of Brothers” and “Boomtown” fame performs Banner and the rest of the cast turn in equally professional performances.
There are more than 20 story missions and plenty of exciting boss battles to keep you busy for nearly as many hours. But that isn’t even taking into account the challenge missions and hidden items including 60 comic book covers scattered about the game. And then you have the library of unlockable items including alternate costumes, artwork, and movies that go behind the scenes of this game.
While the game can eventually be completed there is no denying the same free-roaming value that you can find in a game like GTA or Spider-Man 2. There is always plenty to do between story-advancing missions and even after you have finished the game.
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction doesn’t break any new ground but he certainly trashes anything built on it. This is certainly one of the best super-hero games of the season and easily the best Hulk game ever, not that we have a huge selection to choose from.
Admittedly, the constant destruction and repeating level design can get a bit tiresome but there are just so many way to destroy things that you can’t help but love this game. If you enjoy action titles and especially if you love the Hulk then Ultimate Destruction is your ultimate option for ultimate fun.