Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Game Review: The Incredible Hulk

For a superhero game, 2005's The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was actually very good. Developers Radical Entertainment perfectly captured what a Hulk videogame should be about: destruction, destruction and more destruction.

Since then, Sega have picked up the franchise, which means an ultra-destructive character is now in the hands of the world's premier publisher of fast and furious arcade games. A winning combination, surely?

Well, no.

This game is an absolute mess, a shoddy imitation of the three-year-old Ultimate Destruction.
It looks a shambles. Saying that it looks like a first-generation Xbox game would be a compliment; at times it looks like a PSOne game. The draw-distance is appalling, from the top of any tower, you stare across not across New York's iconic skyline but a murky sea of brown. The partial texture loading is utterly jarring. So bad is it that it's difficult to tell whether the texture isn't fully loaded or if it was just poorly drawn to begin with. The game is also plagued by frame-rate issues that bizarrely seem to occur most often when Hulk is standing around doing nothing.

The Havoc physics engine has never looked dodgier. This, let's not forget, is the engine that powers Halo 3, Super Smash Bros Braw and Bioshock. Here, enemies, cars and other detritus bounce around the screen as if the New York was made of rubber.
The storyline bears little in common with that of the film, which is a shame since the movie, unlike this disgraceful videogame, was actually quite good. The artists, though, clearly struggled to recreate the cast of the film and the models are actually embarrassing. Not wanting to be shown up, the actors have put in just as much effort and Ed Norton's voiceover ranks among the worst in the history of the medium.

The game itself has you stomp around New York City, trying to battle the dodgy camera as much as the Special Ops teams trying to hunt you down. You bolt around the city from point A to B and back again, defeating enemies or defusing bombs and that's basically it. Oh, and there's a series of building escort missions. Yes, really.

As you pelt around the city, you'll quickly realise that The Hulk has no real weight to him. He is halted by cars, can jump nothing like the distance the character should be able to and doesn't even break the concrete when he lands. Compared to the heroes in Crackdown, he's a bit of a pussy.

If the thought of destroying the Empire State Building or Stark Tower appeals, think again. The buildings all collapse in a completely straight line and all the rubble looks the same. There are plenty of baddies to beat up but there's no fun to be had there either. You can punch the enemies with one button or punch them slightly harder using a different button.

There are a few rage moves like the ground smash and thunder clap, which can be used by charging the Fury gauge – by taking damage or being involved in combat – but since few of the enemies actually cause you any bother, it's hardly worth the effort.

Considering how much Ultimate Destruction got right, it's absolutely unfathomable that Sega's development team Edge Of Reality have got this game so very wrong. In doing so, they have actually achieved something quite remarkable: made a game that involves hurtling a huge irradiated green monster around New York dull.

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