The Incredible Hulk Review
Written : Friday, June 27, 2008
By: Alan Pettit (GT: The Pants Party)
Yes, that's right friends, yet another movie tie-in. A comic book movie tie-in to boot! After the disappointment of Iron Man, can SEGA redeem themselves? First signs point to "no" as they have given the job to developers Edge of Reality, whose previous work was released over two years ago: last-gen flops Over the Hedge and Shark Tale.They made the same mistake with Iron Man's developers, Secret Level, who will hopefully turn themselves around for the upcoming Beast Rider remake due out later this year. But, the product must speak for itself so let's see what it has to say.
The plot of the game follows extremely loosely that of the movie. The general idea is there and a few missions resemble scenes from the film, but for the most part there is a lot of extra stuff to make the game longer. Hulk's best friend Rick Jones (not seen in the movie) has a lengthy role in the game, as does his scientist buddy Samuel Sterns (who is seen in the movie). Two villains present themselves in the game.The first was from the movie; General "Thunderbolt" Ross and his army, though this is taken one step further and Major Talbot is presented as an extra villain who goes off on his own to take the Hulk down. The other is the Enclave, a D-list group of scientists bent on world domination from the Marvel comics universe.
The game begins in Brazil where Bruce Banner (the Hulk for the non-comic people out there) is hiding out, trying to keep a calm, collected lifestyle to avoid any "incidents" where he might Hulk out. The U.S. army learns of his whereabouts and sets out to find him. Upon completion of this mission, you are dropped in New York City and can then do whatever you like. A number of missions are available to you (completing these will unlock more) or you can set out to find the many collectibles or work on the various "feats" that will upgrade your powers. It is a very open game until you choose to start a mission. At that point, you are given your objectives and usually a time limit.
Your tax dollars at work!
The map acts as a best friend during your time with this game. Any available missions, mini-games, important buildings and subways will be marked on it, as well as showing your position and the direction you are facing so you can confirm you're heading the right way to whatever destination you're trying to reach. You'll also find yourself checking your "upgrades" tab quite often as this shows what "feats" you need to perform to unlock various improvements to your abilities. Some of these are attained from merely completing story missions, yet others can be quite fun, such as killing enemies with giant donuts ripped from the top of delivery vans.
Controlling the Hulk is quite simple. The generic fighting layout is used (A=jump, X=quick attack, Y=strong attack, B=grab/throw) though you do have "rage" powers that can be selected (once unlocked) by pressing the D-pad and then activated by holding Y+B. Each power takes a different amount of your rage meter, which is filled by taking damage, doling out damage and causing destruction. Aside from general fighting, Hulk can pick up objects like lamp posts or trees to use like baseball bats or pieces of concrete and cars like battering rams. He can also convert vehicles into steel boxing gloves by tearing them in half and smashing the two pieces around his hands. These extra abilities come in handy when fighting armored tanks and the like.
Controlling the camera is another task altogether. The first problem I feel is that it is too close to the Hulk. Pulled back slightly, things would have been easier to deal with. However, during large battles, you will find yourself facing straight into a building or simply looking the wrong way and trying your hardest to fight the enemies off-screen while swinging the camera around at the same time. The camera is also a blessing though when searching for collectibles, allowing you to swing in any direction and check along the sides of buildings and down into crevices.
Please don't make fun of my cheek bones.
One thing the game truly lacked was Banner missions. You are constantly in control of the Hulk and only the Hulk. There are a few missions where you'll need to stand outside a building as Rick or Samuel steal some data or whatever the case may be. I think taking those missions on directly would have been pretty cool. Instead, you're simply tasked with standing outside and fending off the army of the Enclave as they attack the building. Maybe the building wouldn't need protecting, if there were not a giant green monster standing outside drawing attention to it! I'm so smart.
The graphics are a bit sub-par during the open world sections and even more so during the cinematics. One nice thing about the game is very few and very short loading times, but the drawback to that is that your console is going to be scanning the disc quite vigorously, sounding at times like it is having e-sex with another Xbox without your knowledge. I was very aware of the system while I played and due to this process, the game froze multiple times, perhaps simply needing a break from its rigorous online relationship. Along the same lines, frame rate drops and partial freezes were common when unlocking "feats" or achievements, as well as during long falls to the ground from high buildings. The game doesn't save when you gain a collectible, so try to avoid hunting for long periods without saving.
Ok, that was a bit of a tangent. Back on the subject of the graphics, I would have liked a bit more realism. Every building is for some reason cut into large rectangles. Punching the side of a building a few times in the same spot will pop out a rectangle. Repeat this process a dozen or so times and the entire building will fall down. Literally, down. Buildings collapse directly down into themselves and disappear in a cloud of smoke, leaving only a few concrete supports behind. Last time I checked, buildings usually fall a bit sideways and rubble scatters around the streets. I also would have liked the people to actually look like people instead of jagged-faced freaks. Liv Tyler is normally a good looking lady, but she looked more like Rocky Dennis from "Mask." You know, that 80's movie with Cher? Yeah, not a nice image.
Inevitable caption: HULK SMASH!
Ok, wow, another tangent. Back on track, the sound effects for the most part are decent. Smashing, jumping, ray guns, etc. all sound about how you'd expect. However, the voice track from Ed Norton is simply awful. Perhaps it has something to do with the feud he got into with Marvel about the final cut of the movie (though I enjoyed it, so I'm not sure exactly what he was upset about), but he delivers every line with strict monotone and absolutely no emotion whatsoever. Some of the other characters do a better job, but for the most part everything is very poorly done.
One of the high points is surprisingly the achievements. Open world games like this offer a lot of possibilities and Edge of Reality took advantage, both in execution and names. Many of the achievements are for completing the story line and beating the various bosses. Obviously those aren't unique, but the names are sometimes very cool, such as "Stay Classy..." (from the movie Anchorman) when you trick news copters into exposing Major Talbot for the madman he truly is and then "...And Thanks for Stopping By" when you eventually defeat him. The well-executed achievements include climbing the five highest buildings in the city, destroying an entire NYC neighborhood, killing enemies with giant food items ripped from the tops of delivery trucks and throwing cars so hard that they stick into the sides of buildings. There are three collectible achievements, totaling 250 items, but considering the open world section of the game is the best part, they aren't as tedious as you'd expect. You're looking at 15-20 hours for the full 1000 if you use good guides and maps.
Decent sound effects make most of the game bearable, but the awful dialogue will have you skipping every cutscene possible.
I guess the actual graphics get the job done, but the constant frame rate drops and occasional outright freezes truly kill the experience of the game.
Freezing issues aside, the controls are well done. The camera can be tricky at times but after a while it becomes just another part of playing the game and won't bother you much.
The open world aspect is awesome. It reminds me a lot of Crackdown (one of my favorites on this console) and is fun even when searching for collectibles. The story missions are boring, short and tedious and you'll see them as the chore rather than the treasure-hunting.
I love the names and I like the "fun" ones they threw in. I could have used more fun ones than story-based ones, but the achievements definitely give you an extra reason to play the game. A reason you'll need, unfortunately.
The game has major issues. The graphics aren't that great and the realism is non-existent, the voice acting is plain awful and boring and the freezing/frame-rate issues are inexcusable. However, the game can be fun in the Crackdown-esque city romps. But alas, you can't just jump around the city forever and once you're done treasure-hunting, the terrible story and poor missions come calling. Definitely only a rental at best, but for fans of the Hulk I'd still suggest you give it a shot.
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