The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a rarity among modern games for the simple fact it actually lives up to its name. This summer, gamers have been treated to few surprises within the stagnant pool of the third-person genre. Amazingly enough, none of these releases turned out to be sequels, but beginnings of what may hopefully lead to successful franchises. Hulk's latest iteration takes place besides such gems as God of War and Pyschonauts, two of the more impressive titles recently released this year. And though Ultimate Destruction doesn't surpass the calibur of either title, the premise to liberally smash and bash everything in sight is just too cool to pass up.
It's hard, nigh impossible not to smile when you first enter Hulk's reality. The Radical development team has given his visceral rage and destruction the proper send up. Leaping throughout the air, landing with earth-shattering thuds is bound to make you shake your head in awe. Other elements like the assorted sounds of vehicles, people screaming about and buildings that go ablaze all seamlessly blend to create a symphony of harmonious chaos. It's safe to say in 5.1, life may actually cease to exist.
I should also mention that Hulk controls wonderfully. Whether leaping over buildings or punting an ambulance, the Hulk will respond quickly to your demands thanks to the tight controls that will ultimately prove beneficial during some of the challenging missions you'll experience.
The actual story-based missions range from strikingly-inspired to passably playable. There's even a few that can be considered downright insipid. Many of these missions will place you in situations you've already played in many other games (look forward to a Metal Gear-inspired sneak mission!), while the majority of the missions have you carrying out the same tasks over and over again. You may be wondering -- where will these missions take place? Well, in two places: the city and the desert. Yup, that's right -- just two. Even though it doesn't sound too great, Radical did a great job keeping you so busy with enemies, destructive objects and mission goals that by the time you reach the end of the game you'll scarcely believe you've only played in these same two places. The city is easily the better of the environments, although it's not nearly as vast as Spiderman 2 or GTA: San Andreas. But what Hulk: UD lacks in scope is compensated with a variety of side-missions. Players can expect everything from army solider baseball to wacky events like sky-surfing with a giant gorilla balloon and man other things in-between. Best of all, these complimentary missions can be accessed at almost any time during the game.
There's no question that Radical went all out designing the city for Hulk to decimate and the attention to detail is clearly visible; another apparent aspect in the game is how little the team actually worked on the story and boss battles. The story isn't just bad; it's an affront to what could have been a perfect game. Although it's supported by a great cast of actors (Ron Perlman, Neal McDonough and Richard Moll), even they can't mask the cringe-worthy dialogue that ensues as Bruce Banner (Hulk) and his friend Emil Bronsky strive to find a cure to Banner's alter ego.
We've talked about how great Hulk controls, which is great because you have what feels like thousands of moves to unlock. Certainly, everyone will want to unlock the area of effect havoc wreaking move, but the javelin throw? What about a move that allows you to soar through the air? Well, be prepared to use your well-earned smash points to purchase four different versions of the Hulk Soar (which I can never really recall putting into any use.) Many of the moves are downright useless, and far too complicated to execute in any practical sense of gameplay.
During the game, you'll find yourself using the same four or five moves over and over again, not because you're a boring sod, but because they are the only attacks that actually serve a purpose (i.e. smash everything). Love boss battles? Me too! In most instances, boss battles are the things we remember most about a game, even the insanely difficult ones. Ultimate Destruction seems to facilitate some sort of God of War trickery, though not as pronounced. Clearly, there's a specific process required for defeating each boss, but I never managed to exploit those methods. Most boss battles involve a continuous rate of jumping and collecting power-ups in the hopes of dealing a devastating blow. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. In short, repetition is king.
Well, not really, but in the end, can't we all find love for the Hulk? Sure we do! Though the game has some low points, the tenacity of the developers has to be admired. As a whole, Ultimate Destruction satisfies your gaming itch and succeeds where thousands of other games have failed. The mini-games are great diversions, and the core system of Hulk proves that there is a great game within just waiting to be unlocked. Although it's a few notches short of perfection, Radical has established some very solid groundwork for what could lead to an amazing series of games. Should another installment ever materialize, they just need need to address those boss issues and offer some varied battle environments.