gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

The Incredible Hulk – Xbox 360

The Incredible Hulk Xbox 360 box art

Review by Johnus Maximus

Hot on the heels of the cinematic release of Marvel Studios latest summer blockbuster comes the action packed video game The Incredible Hulk, developed by Edge of Reality and published by Sega, available on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, PS2 and Nintendo DS.

The game sees you take control of the fierce destructive powers of the gamma-radiated wall of green muscle as he smashes, crashes and indiscriminately destroys his way round a sandbox version of Manhattan in this entertaining, yet short game.

As a starting point, if you have yet to see the theatrical release of The Incredible Hulk, I would recommend doing so before playing this game, as the game follows the storyline closely and will spoil most of the plot details for you. The game starts in a warehouse in Brazil, where scientist Bruce Banner is on the run from US military General Thadius Ross, who will stop at nothing to capture the beast lurking beneath Banners skin.

The opening level acts as a tutorial, starting with a quick button bash to free yourself from some rubble, you are provided with the chance to learn how to use Hulks immense power as the game guides you through the various combat moves available to you. Controlling the Hulk is really easy, as well as his brute strength he can also utilise the environment by smashing things and using the debris as a weapon.

After taking down several army troops, some in mechanized armour, a helicopter and Emil Blonsky (who later becomes the experimental super-soldier/mutated monster villain Abomination) the action shifts to New York City, where the rest of the game plays out. Here the game becomes a sandbox where you choose what to do, there are storyline missions to complete that follow the film plot, as well as several side-story missions that involve other characters not present in the film, and also a host of minigames based on the abilities of Hulk.

Having such a large play area provides you with many opportunities to mess about. Rather than pursue any of the story missions, I spent ages at first just enjoying how destructive Hulk can be and how the environment reacts to him. As you run around street corners pedestrians look at you in fear then start running and cars will slam on their brakes and start reversing erratically.

Hulk takes a cab
Hulk takes a cab, literally.

As you stomp about, most small things Hulk comes into contact with burst apart like they were made of paper – things like traffic lights, hot dog stands and trees – and you score points for doing this. Start causing serious damage and the game rewards you with even more points. Punching cars, picking up and throwing pedestrians, whatever you choose to do the game lets you. My favourite way to cause mayhem was to pick up a bus and sprint down the busiest streets, the bus acts like a plough and you make a lot of mess.

While this relentless destruction is possible thanks to the morally ambiguous nature of the Hulk, your actions do not go unpunished. Each thing you destroy slowly increases the military alert level – similar to the cop stars in GTA – as the alert level gets higher the music starts getting louder and more frantic and the army sends out various units to deal with you. Here you have a choice of action, you can fight them and score extra points, or you can try and evade them, over time as you cause less destruction the alert level will decrease.

The way you cause destruction and the methods used to dispatch your foes can count towards earning some of the games rewards, which include unlocking new or enhancing existing abilities, unlocking new characters (mainly alternate versions of Hulk, but also Iron Man if you have save data from the Iron Man game on your console) as well as some neat concept art.

Once you get beyond the initial distractions and start playing the game, it won’t take very long to get through as the missions are rather simple and instantly replayable should you fail, and getting from location to location in New York is simple thanks to both Hulks massive leaping ability and the various subways stations which allow Hulk rapid transit (and at the same time an immediate loss of alert level, because for some reason a 10 foot tall green beast isn’t deemed suspicious on a subway).

Hulk hurts peds
The not-so-jolly green giant dispatches another pesky pedestrian

So the game is a lot of fun to play, but as I mentioned previously it is altogether short and can be completed over the course of a weekend. You can revisit any of the missions and mini games at any time, there are achievements to be earned for getting a gold ranking on the mini games and some missions provide opportunities to fulfil criteria that allow certain unlockables to occur. Beyond that though there isn’t much else to do.

One of the games essential features is the auto-save, which will operate every time you complete a mission or ride the subway. This feature comes in very handy as the game has a tendency to crash the console, more regularly when nearing and after completion, usually when there is a lot of on-screen action occurring at once.

In addition to that major problem, the only other feature that could have used some improvement was the graphics. While the overall representation of New York is good and the major landmarks are instantly recognisable, there is an irritating delay between the loading of the low and high detail of the game objects, so cars/buildings/billboards appear blurry and lacking detail until the extra texture layer “pops” into place.

When viewing the city from the rooftops most of the far away objects seem like they’re just made from big grey cardboard boxes. Jumping or falling from the tall buildings is cool though, the motion gives the impression you are actually falling and can create a strange sensation, reminiscent of Crackdown.

The graphical issues mentioned above don’t really detract from the fun of this game though, and most of the time you’re just going to smash what you see anyway as that’s what Hulk is best at. As far as movie tie-in’s go, this game is definately one of the better ones i’ve played, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a simple game that doesn’t require much mental engagement.

The Incredible Hulk scores a middle of the road three gamma radiated stars out of five.

3 stars

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008, Computer Gaming, Featured, Xbox 360.