|Vivendi Universal Games|
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Tired of the same, ubiquitous superhero games? Bored of those straight-forward, repetitive enemies that come running at you so you can use the same recurring move to smite them? Perhaps all of the stale movie-to-game rip-offs are bogging you down? If you've been bothered by any of these, then the folks over at Vivendi Universal and Radical Entertainment have good news for you.
Welcome to your own personal play land of mass destruction and relentless rage. In this universe, you, the protagonist, are under attack by the military just for going out on the town. Yes, you may be ten feet tall. Sure, you might be green and scantily clad; perhaps you even destroy a car or tank or even a building here or there, but are these truly reasons to attack someone named "The Incredible Hulk"? The answer to that rhetorical question is unnecessary. What is necessary is coming to the understanding that mass destruction is almost always enjoyable in a videogame environment, but explosions and pretty lights do not make a good game by themselves.
Hulk: Ultimate Destruction delivers a rich gaming experience, as well as game enough for an experienced gamer, but not too difficult for your little brother or sister. Utilizing a Grand Theft Auto mission-based system that has been made quite popular over the past few years, freedom and exploring are highly emphasized factors--plus, it doesn’t hurt to have Eisner Award-winning comic book writer Paul Jenkins and comic book artist Bryan Hitch lending a helping hand.
Most of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction’s visuals are drawn within two different locations: the City and Badlands. Each location possesses unique characteristics and widely varying landscapes with plenty of items for smashing. Both environments feature day-to-night cycles and varied weather conditions, causing the environment to change accordingly. Not all elements within these environments are breakable, but Hulk can still leave his mark after attacks or a fierce battle. If the ground is smashed, the earth takes punishment and becomes damaged. If Hulk is punched by an enemy, he’ll rake his arms and legs on the ground in an attempt to ready himself for the next volley. Overall, there was quite a bit of attention paid to detail, ranging from combusting vehicles to the effect Hulk has on the environment itself.
As you begin your first mission, you find yourself surrounded by countless buildings of varying sizes and shapes. Some of Hulk’s favorites include a fast food restaurant, complete with massive hamburger, and the occasional, highly explosive building placed for your blissful obliteration. Building architecture varies fairly well throughout the city environment. Textures aren’t too complex, but they suit the environment. Further, the city possesses many nooks and alleyways, many of which hide bonuses for the Hulk’s greedy man-hands.
The Badlands are a combination of a small desert town, desert/canyon environment, and a military base. Compared to the City, this location is relatively deserted; however, that is perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of this locale. There are plenty of rock formations to smash, vast areas to jump across, and tanks to dodge. As one would expect, the Badlands' town has no design surprises; there are no skyscrapers, just small buildings. Despite the smaller size of everything, plenty of things can still be destroyed.
Hulk: Ultimate Destruction has its feet strongly planted in the comic universe from which its protagonist was derived. The Hulk himself is muscle-bound, and his attacks reek of overflowing gamma-radiation with a fitting green glow. Enemy design, whether it be a helicopter or massive mechanical boss, is successful in delivering what one might define as the desired Hulk look and feel. It might be seen as evident that the environment was designed with the idea that the Hulk could have full control of its elements. Despite having a slightly shaky camera when fighting becomes close and hectic, framerate and other visual elements remain smooth and well-animated.
Over the past couple years, the gaming industry has become much stronger as a valid form of entertainment in comparison to other mainstream media. Big name actors and actresses are hired to reprise roles in games from movies, or just to star as a character’s voice. In Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Hulk sounds as he should: loud, full of raging grunts, and very ticked off. Voice acting is believable, which is an important factor if a game is to be taken seriously-- even one with a green giant. Finally, there are plenty of potent sounds which detail all the mass destruction Hulk dishes out.
The music score for Hulk: Ultimate Destruction fits the ambience, and seems to understand that strong underlying background music isn’t the primary focus of a game subtitled “Ultimate Destruction”.
Hulk: Ultimate Destruction puts gamers in the driver’s seat of someone who is arguably the most powerful superhero ever created. With around 150 chargeable moves at his disposal, it’s not difficult to see the pure destructive potential Hulk possesses in his latest outing.
As the Hulk, you’re on a series of missions that have been pre-programmed into your subconscious by the Hulk’s alter ego, Bruce Banner; however, Bruce Banner’s character only exists in cut scenes. The Hulk is the main protagonist of the game and the only playable character. Most of Hulk’s missions revolve around item recovery, evasion, and destruction of key items/locations. Over the course of most missions, Hulk has to contend with attacks from increasingly more powerful opponents, ranging from tanks, to missile barrages, or even flying mechs. As the game progresses, these enemies become tougher and more numerous.
Thankfully, our green hero comes equipped with many ways to traverse the landscape. Whether it is through dashing or jumping, Hulk covers ground quite briskly. Despite the quick speed at which he travels, it isn’t totally necessary or even possible to evade all enemy assaults. Instead, the Hulk possesses enough devastating attack moves to bring down even the toughest of foes. Through combos and attacks that can be charged via holding down attack buttons, even the toughest of enemies can be sent packing.
The Hulk is able to enter Critical Mass mode when his energy moves beyond his normal health bar. While in this mode, certain techniques Hulk can acquire become more powerful and allow him to apply extra punishment to his enemies; these are called Devastator Moves. Similarly, when Hulk’s energy has reached its lowest level, he can achieve an Adrenaline Surge which is more or less the same as if he were in Critical Mass.
Many parts of the game's environment can even be used as weaponry. Hulk can grab trees or lampposts and hurl them at foes to stun them, pick up a bus to use as a shield or pseudo surfboard, or make boxing mitts out of a car he has lovingly torn in half. Both the City and Badlands possess a seemingly unlimited supply of pain-producing natural weaponry.
To make for even more destructive entertainment, enemies themselves can be used as weapons; Hulk can pile-drive or hurl an enemy at another for painful, yet amusing results. He can also jump up and grab a helicopter out of the sky just to punt it at an unsuspecting enemy on the downward spiral, or even grab a tank to swing it around in circles damaging all who dare enter the vicinity.
Just like most games in today’s modern action/adventure era, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction has a collection-focused gameplay element. Scattered throughout the environments are bonuses to unlock cheat codes, bonus points, or other goodies. Naturally these items aren’t necessary to collect, but they add to an already good game.
It seems that we’ve reached a golden age of comic-related games. In the past, we’ve received mediocre Batman and Superman titles and given poor movie-to-game titles that leave us wondering what developers were possibly thinking. In recent years, we’ve received a heaping helping of quality titles. Whether it be from Spider-Man, the Hulk, or X-men, gamers have been given treat after treat.
I began playing Hulk: Ultimate Destruction not knowing what to expect. What I came away with was the satisfaction of finding a quality title full of replayability and creativity. Even after completing 30+ story missions and 40+ side missions, plenty remains to explore and destroy in Hulk’s universe. With massive and usually challenging bosses and plenty of destruction to be had, this is a title that will provide much enjoyment to just about anyone.
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