The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is my favorite superhero game ever. It’s one of my favorite games ever, and I had some extremely high expectations going into this new Incredible Hulk.
They were mostly unmet, yet I can’t seem to stop playing, nor can I stop comparing it to the first.
The Incredible Hulk is a movie tie-in, though a fairly loose one. There’s movie plot elements, and the rest is going about Manhattan, smashing things up. And that it does well, there’s a very clear bias toward collateral damage in everything. Punching soldiers out of the way, for example, quite often results in them careening into nearby cars, tables, benches, or stands. Glass, planks, and hot dogs fly everywhere; there’s a real sense of how destructive it is to even exist as the Hulk. Coupled with the fact merely walking(much less running, jumping, or punching) can destroy scenery, it’s easy to understand why the army isn’t so keen on you being around, especially when cars start chain explosions.
Yet with all this destruction, it’s clear something is very much missing, which makes me sad. Actually, lots of things are missing, and the new additions don’t make up for it, but the game is far from ruined.
The game’s pace is dramatically slower than the last one, and even the movie. Honestly, I was worried about the movie based off the game, I expected slow, boring combat (thank god the movie didn’t end up that way). Sega excels at plodding fights these days. Yakuza, Viking, and Hulk all share the same sense of “meh, whatever, do it tomorrow” pace that leads to serious disappointment and a lack of interest. Hulk is cumbersome, slow. Blocking is far more important than one would think in a Hulk game, even, and some enemies easily stay away from Hulk’s slow attacks, which becomes amazingly irritating. The most fun, dynamic attacks from before are gone. Most of the air attacks are out, there aren’t any more running grabs, or tank throws. Hulk can’t run up buildings now. While the new climbing method is a very primal, ape-like way of hurling himself up the side of a building, the lack of running is a real issue in missions where one carries a big object the whole way. And by the time Hulk’s jumping ability is really enough to get you over the rooftops, the game is over.
The frenetic pacing of the first game’s combat is so sadly missing. You stay firmly on the ground for the most part, picking enemies up on occasion and chucking them, but mostly punching and using a reasonable weapon selection to batter them. All the while you build up rage (the special power meter, basically), which is used for instant regeneration, or special attacks (thunderclaps and ground slams). The thunderclap is shockingly underpowered against most enemies, and the ground slam is extremely strong but has a limited attack range, which powerful enemies easily move from, particularly bosses. And they tend to be tough to damage anyway.
A significant portion of the game’s enemies require charged attacks, even rage attacks, to damage. Though often you do less damage, and more stun, forcing you to expend rage which takes a while to build, and then hope you get your attacks off if your stun even lands. Frustration is go, and my real life rage meter rises sharply with every fight. There’s an idea of risk vs. reward which really doesn’t seem to do much, and the rage powers are often saved for “there’s lots of slow things around me”, “oh, it’s a boss I have to hit with a rage attack” or “this building sure takes a lot of damage to wreck.” Rather than becoming a part of the combat, they just become something you remember to do when you have to. It’s a shame, because with the last game, big special attacks were commonly used and highly effective and served essentially as a bonus power for skill, unlike rage powers which essentially build constantly in a fight.
There’s also a sense of constantly being under fire, which really results in some serious player fatigue. Previously one could just take out a strike team, and get a respite. Now enemy levels just get stronger and stronger, never disappearing unless one jumps in the subway, which is an instant nullification of the Hulk’s threat level.
A lot of attacks come too little, too late, like using maces effectively, or picking up enemy vehicles. For some arbitrary reason only damaged enemy vehicles can be lifted anyway, and only after earning the special ability, despite much larger vehicles being lifted at any time. Some of the most insanely fun things from the first game are sorely missing, as is the rapid pace.
There are quite a few bugs, and a big “seen it” factor. Most commonly, enemies will be grabbed by Hulk, and the model freezes in mid-air, despite Hulk behaves (and attacks) as if he’s holding onto them. Sometimes they’ll unstick and reappear in his hands, or reappear in mid-air when Hulk throws them.
At first, taking out a building is spectacular, watching it collapse and walking through the rubble, but it’s quickly apparent every building collapses the same way and the joy tends to disappear.
Missions, both story and side, get repetitive. Story features some variety, thanks to being tied to movies occasionally, but side missions end up almost invariably as “kill this many soldiers” or “Run this course.” The absolute variety of pure fun from UD is gone. No floating, no golf, just checkpoint chases.
Bosses too get quite repetitive too, which is a shame because some are quite creative, particularly a two headed robot and a fight against the U-Foes. But fights often come down to selecting a super move (you don’t just hit x+y or y+b anymore, you have to select the power THEN use the attack), waiting for enemies to be in a reasonable position, and using it to stun then. Then it’s a rapid attack to do the most damage you can, and repeat once they’re attacking again.
No enemies ever seem big enough sadly, despite the fact cars and tanks are bigger. Nothing ever seems THAT big or terribly threatening. In fact, the largest size enemy in the game is actually among the easiest to dispatch. It’s probably just an unfair comparison due to Ultimate Destruction, but it’s a major thing to people coming from the last one.
And yet, I have to admit with all this I’ve finished the game, happily. I kept playing the game and I’m still hunting down achievements to get every unlock for some damn reason, despite the jump challenges and comic markers being so…misplaced overall, not to mention so few.
There’s a lot of fun to be had if you can get past the bad pacing, and the bugs, and the sameyness. It’s not a particularly good game, but damn it, it’s fun. It’s The Incredible Hulk’s Bogus Journey, and that’s okay, it seems, and at least it’s a great rental, despite a slow, unfun first hour or so.
The Incredible Hulk gets 2.5 out of 5 stars-It’s pretty alright, but it could have been so much more, and should have been. If you dig for it, there’s a lot of fun to be had anyway.