I, for one, actually do like him when he's angry
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Wed, 11 January 2006
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Most of you are probably well aware that this game has already been out for quite a while now. Vivendi Universal Games hadn't yet become one of Buttonhole's treasured support publishers when Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was released, so we didn't get to cover it at that time. I thought it would be a very fitting game for us to review, because it matches well with our content, style and the kind of readers we have. So, when VU joined us, I requested a copy and they were generous enough to oblige. Lovely! I'd also heard and read that Hulk: UD was a great game. I was not disappointed.
Ask any gamer who is also a fan of comics and superheros (there are many of them, believe me) and they will probably tell you the same basic thing: Superheros seem like, and really should be, a readymade winning subject on which to base a videogame. But the majority of them are the drizzling shits. They certainly don't all suck, there have been many gems, but for each one of those you get a dozen stinkers. It is a bemusing thing. I guess one reason for it might be that if the games have popular characters in them, quality be damned, they can probably sell on name alone.
Lately superhero based games have, in general, been a little better (though there were a few awful ones that came out not long ago as well, probably best of me not to name them). For example- there've been some cool Spiderman & X-men games from Activision recently. And, I'm happy to say, VU Games' The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (which I'll be mainly referring to as just "Ultimate Destruction" for the remainder of this review) also belongs on the list of modern beauties.
Those who don't dig the Hulk character will usually say something like, "He's just this big angry dude, who goes around smashing stuff and fighting things, what's so great about that?" Well, that is partially why I think he is a great character- pure rage! I think most us humans have a bit of an angry, dark side lurking in us. But we can control that and find ways to release it. When people lose that control...it can potentially be a very scary thing. Mr. Hulk takes that dangerous side to the extreme.
I find the whole split personality aspect of it cool and interesting. Bruce Banner's always desperately looking for a way to stop his alter-ego from appearing. Plus, the fact that the Hulk is considered a monster by the world around him, when in actual fact (much like Frankenstein's monster, which the Hulk character was partially modelled after) he's just misunderstood (due mostly to fear) & is essentially good. I love that stuff. And being a "hero" who is violent, destructive and far too wild to follow any rules makes him pretty unusual. Metaphors abound in the Hulk's subtext, so there is some depth to it all, if you care to think about any of that. Yet, the initial concept was/is also beautifully simple in its execution. Besides, Hulk has green skin and he wears purple pants; that's enough to make him a pimp straight off the bat, if you ask me.
Ultimate Destruction captures the simplistic charm of the character superbly. At first the game feels fairly shallow, but the further you get the more moves you can execute and it starts to get deeper. Before too long you are hooked and having one hell of a good time, crushing everything in your path.
|Have they stopped to think how many people might be inside the building they're firing those missiles at? |
At the end of the day (perhaps even more so in this game than in the comics), Hulk may still just be a big angry dude who goes around smashing stuff and fighting things. But, damn it all, he sure is great at it! He does it with style galore. Now that Ultimate Destruction allows you to control him and use all his best moves, even non-fans should be able to see just how much fun old Hulky baby can be. And if, like me, you already have a fondness for the big green galoot, you'll be wearing an undeviating shit-eating grin on your face while playing this one.
Ultimate Destruction fully lives up to its title. You run and leap through huge, mostly free-roaming 3D environments (mainly city or desert settings) and you're presented with a wide variety of missions to accomplish, most of which require Hulk to do what he does best; smash the shit out of everything. That's right, as the green goliath himself likes to say, "Hulk Smash!!" Hulk smash indeed. Nearly every building, object, animal, mineral or vegetable in the game is fully destructible. Rarely (if ever) has one game allowed for so much carnage. The outrageously hectic action is unrelenting and exceptionally entertaining.
Just traversing the levels can be good fun, since you can do a bunch of cool things, like running right up the sides of skyscrapers, and there are plenty of hidden nooks and crannies to explore.
To stop it from getting prematurely repetitive or stale, there are an enormous array of different moves and techniques to earn & learn as you progress. Pick up a car, rip it in half and turn it into two metal boxing gloves so Hulk's fists become even more devastating. Rip a parking metre out of the ground and use it to pummel anyone stupid enough to try and stop you. Catch that missile some puny human enemy fired at you and throw it right back at the bastard. Use Hulk's patented super jump to launch him high into the air and he can land with an impact of astronomically destructive proportions. Hulk can also access dozens of close range attacks, with all sorts of punches, kicks, grabs and throws that suggest he's watched many a wrestling match on TV in his day.
Ultimate Destruction has all of that and much, much more. I'd say that these are some of the coolest attacks ever seen in a game of this kind (or any kind really). The control scheme is very straightforward and the moves are all pretty simple to get to grips with, there are even tutorials to help you learn the trickier ones. It isn't rocket science or anything, just good old fashioned violent fun.
Your opponents aren't all a bunch of pushovers. The military comes at you with tanks, helicopters and those other vehicles of mass destruction so loved by the Americans. But you also face off against many more imposing foes and some of them are absolutely massive, making Hulk look like a midget by comparison. The boss fights are especially excellent.
|Hulk gives one heck of a great foot massage |
The difficulty level is very well balanced. I did have the odd moment of frustration, but generally I found it was enough of a challenge to make progression feel gratifying, without ever getting stupidly tough. Just the way I like it, for the most part.
There's a fairly basic plot to the game, which I didn't really pay all that much attention to. I think the story is mainly just there as a way to link the missions together and it serves its purpose well enough. That reminds me, I probably should make it clear that this game is solely based on the Hulk comic books, rather than the much maligned Hulk movie, directed by Ang Lee. Mind you, I am one of the few people who actually likes that flick. I remember I reviewed it for some other website...I wonder if they're still around. Whoops, sorry, my mind wanders some times. Anyway, as I was saying, Ultimate Destruction's story isn't especially gripping, but it does the job sufficiently and comic fans will get a kick out of seeing all the different characters making an appearance in the game.
To go along with the story missions, there's an abundance of bonus ones you can work through, in order to unlock extra goodies and that sort of deal. Basically, it is the same kind of thing that every second game seems to do now, ever since Grand Theft Auto became such a blockbuster hit. That's cool with me though, including bonus content and providing an entertaining way to extend a game's lifespan never hurts. Some of the unlockable pictures in the art gallery are pretty sweet too and the "making of" movies are worth a look.
So, Ultimate plays really well and does an excellent job of capturing the spirit and atmosphere of the source material. But how does she look and sound? The answer is, not too shabby.
Graphically, the characters all look like who they're meant to resemble which is probably the main thing. This isn't the greatest looking comic based game around; it is certainly not as impressive as Ultimate Spiderman. The environments don't appear all that detailed and some of the textures are just a touch blurry. However, when you consider how much is going on, in that practically every single object in the game can be busted up or interacted with in some way, it is pretty hard to fault the job they've done of things.
There are also many little graphical effects going on most of the time - they are quite subtle, yet nonetheless effectual. Ultimate Destruction probably won't make your jaw drop (because, let's face it, us hardcore gamers are a bunch of jaded pricks at times), but this is far from being a bad looking title. In fact, it is really quite a technical achievement for this generation of consoles. Come to think of it, I'd love to see a sequel on Xbox 360 or PS3. Destructible environments are all the rage with games for those upcoming systems, so you could say that Ultimate Destruction was/is somewhat ahead of its time.
I played the Xbox version for this review, which I'd assume is the best looking one. I checked a couple of screenshots of the PS2 and Gamecube ports though and, as far as I could tell from that, they all look pretty well the same. If you have the option of choosing between the different platforms, just get whichever you can find cheapest I say.
The quality of Ultimate Destruction's audio is definitely above average. The orchestral music is just dead on fitting, no complaints from me about that whatsoever. The same goes for the voice work and (especially) the sound effects. You want big bangs and crashes to go along with all the destruction and that is exactly what you get here. Every time Hulk moves he makes some sort of banging noise, just as you'd imagine. The buildings turning to rubble, missiles exploding, cows being thrown (I'm not making that up) etc. are all represented well by the utterly satisfying auditory delights.
If you had your eye on The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction when it first hit the shelves, but for some reason never got around to purchasing a copy, I say go get it now. It is particularly recommend to those of you who like your comic books and (obviously)all Hulk fans. For the time being it has taken pole position on my list of favourite comic book based videogames. But, even if you don't give two shits about Hulky baby, I think most gamers could enjoy this beast of a game. It is just a really well made action title and flat-out fun to play.
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I like the Hulk. I like senseless destruction & violence. I like playing fun games. I like this! Go grab a copy (if you haven't already) & make those puny humans pay for making you angry!