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The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (GameCube) artwork

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (GameCube) review

"He is the most physically powerful being ever imagined, the living embodiment of mortal strength. Not faster than a speeding bullet, but far more powerful than a locomotive, and capable of leaping miles in a single bound. His enemies are legion; as strong as they are numerous, infinitely persistent. But never enough. Before him, people flee. Behind him, cities crumble. Not a villain, not a hero, not anything in between. He is a force of nature given flesh. Random. Fierce. Unstoppable. Irresistib..."

He is the most physically powerful being ever imagined, the living embodiment of mortal strength. Not faster than a speeding bullet, but far more powerful than a locomotive, and capable of leaping miles in a single bound. His enemies are legion; as strong as they are numerous, infinitely persistent. But never enough. Before him, people flee. Behind him, cities crumble. Not a villain, not a hero, not anything in between. He is a force of nature given flesh. Random. Fierce. Unstoppable. Irresistible force and immovable object. A juggernaut.

He is the Hulk. He’s not about finesse or style or design. There’s no need to have him spit out catchy phrases or carry out stupid little stealth missions. In order for a game about him to succeed, all he has to do is destroy. Only an idiot could mess up a simple concept like that.

Well, the world has more than enough idiots to go around.

Radical Entertainment made a game about two years ago, one that marked the Hulk’s first real jaunt into the third dimension. They gave him power, speed, all the moves you could ask. Plenty of objectives to complete, plenty of enemies to stand in your way. Good story, too; following up the movie in grand style with a fair dose of supervillains thrown in for good measure.

But they made a mistake, something obvious and something crucial: they put the Hulk on rails. Every mission had the Hulk walking down a path, always going in the preset direction. You could never stray, never explore, never go off and do what you wanted to do when you wanted to do. You were a big, green rat in a maze, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they added…dare I say it…stealth missions. Because, you know, when you think about a twelve-foot tall, gamma-irradiated mutant with the ability to lift 100+ tons and a well-known tendency for destroying everything that tries to destroy him, stealth missions are the first things that come to mind. Obviously.

Actually, calling Radical Entertainment idiots might be a bit of stretch. Idiots don’t learn from their mistakes. They did.

The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a game that truly lives up to its name because, ultimately, you can destroy everything. Buildings collapse into dust clouds, cars go flying off like foul balls, explosions abound and the Hulk is at the center of it all, an unstoppable engine of annihilation. The army shoots missile at him. He knocks them away. They go after him with tanks. He throws the tanks right back. They put together mechs. He tears them apart. They come after you, relentless, chasing you through the city and leaving a path of ruin in your wake, the bane of insurance company’s everywhere. And the best part is, the Hulk no longer has to tread down straight roads or barrel down endless tunnels. Anywhere you want to go, you can go. Anyone you meet, you can knock aside. Anything that’s standing, you can knock down. And you can do it anytime you feel like.

You duck between buildings as missiles come streaming towards you, escaping impact by a few mere feet. You run down the street and pick up a city bus without even bothering to slow down, hurling it at the helicopter that was chasing you a second ago and is now vainly trying to fly out of the way. You leap from rooftop to rooftop to rooftop as a gang of mechs race through the sky in hot pursuit, peppering you with bullets and pounding you with missiles. Maybe five mechs, maybe ten…doesn’t matter. Because when you’ve had enough of running, when you decide to turn around and bring the fight back to them, every bit of the Hulk’s strength is brought to bear. No restraint, no regret, no fear, no mercy.

You raise your fists above you head as a green aura illuminates your body, invigorating you, strengthening you, summoning all your power. And then you bring both fists down, one solid slam, sending out a wave of pure force in all directions that hits everything in view. The mechs hurtle into buildings, demolished. People are knocked all the way on the other side of what’s left of the city. Trees fly straight from their roots. The helicopter you didn’t even notice was tailing you crashes down at your feet. In one brutish move, you’ve established total urban dominance.

And this is just a few minutes into the game.

That’s the beauty of Ultimate Destruction; the biggest thing that lets it stand above the Spider-Man 2s and the Godzillas and even the Grand Theft Autos of the gaming world and etch in a place all it’s own. The Hulk’s staggering power takes the forefront with every move; when he runs, the ground trembles, cars bounce, people scream as you near them. The cars that have enough space veer out of the way. The cars that don’t the room? He just gives them an idle slap as he passes by, automatic. Everything can be affected in some way, there’s nothing in the landscape you can’t alter, no obstacle that can’t be taken out of the way.

Just from taking a glance at some screenshots, the graphics seem stale, average, even a little bland…they are. But this is the kind of game that wasn’t meant to be seen in glances, no screenshot can show you what it’s all about. You have to see it in action, you have to see the Hulk moving and jumping and tearing apart everything around him to truly appreciate what it’s all about.

But don’t let the Hulk’s power fool you into thinking this is an easy game; The Hulk may be strong, but even he’s got to buckle a bit when the weight of the world comes down on his shoulders. He’s public enemy #1 and it shows; the U.S. Army breathes down your neck every step of the way. At first they’re just a minor annoyance. They’ll send out some soldiers, maybe some battle choppers, maybe even some tanks if things get too out of hand. Tank blasts just knock the wind out of the Hulk and bullets don’t even make him itch.

But the more you kick their ass, the less they like it. They’ll make up for quality with quantity, sending waves of forces, covering land and air. They’ll get harder to outrun, more adept at staying one step ahead of you, boxing you in with sheer numbers and forcing you to take them on or get taken down. And then, just when you master their rhythm and learn just what it takes to shut them down and make them keep their distance, they send in the Hulkbusters.

Humanoid in shape, armor harder than any tank, faster than any helicopter, and capable of throwing punches strong enough to even stagger the Hulk. They start out small and come in small numbers; a challenge if ignored but just a one-minute delay if you give them some attention. But with every mission they show up more often and more frequently, and not just the same model. They get upgraded, become bigger, and when I say bigger, I mean bigger. Before the game is over, you’ll have to face off with Hulkbusters big enough and powerful enough to level skyscrapers in a single blow, and really, those are some of the easier enemies.

You see, if you want to stop the Hulk, you’ve got to hit him harder than he’s hitting you. Apparently, the developers realize that quite well, because Ultimate Destruction’s boss battles are by far the most epic onslaughts I’ve ever seen this side of a Godzilla movie.`

Each boss comes loaded with enough power to go toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow with the Hulk in even combat, even enough to surpass him. They don’t require you to hit switches or perfect your timing or even memorize some dinky little attack pattern three times over. All you’ve got to do is hit the enemy a lot. It’s a brawl, a free-for-all with enough force being slung around to reshape mountains. Most of the fights feel more like a two player mode; fighting an opponent that’s on the same keel as you are, evenly matched. Everything feels so unscripted, a fluid experience that leaves your blood racing and your palms sweaty.

And your ears don’t come off much better. Ultimate Destruction isn’t big on music; aside from a few orchestral overtones that play during the cutscenes, the game keeps things to hush. And that’s just the way it should be, really. Even if there was some music, you couldn’t hear a note of it; Ultimate Destruction is every bit as loud as you’d expect it to be, and a little more besides.

The piercing screech of incoming missile fire, the thunderous rumble of a falling building, and, of course, the soothing sound of screaming citizens…another notch to the experience; not the one you’d think to notice while the light show’s going full steam, but an important one nonetheless. You can even pick up the military’s transmissions, listening in on them as they construct trap after trap and fail time after time, making the payoff for planting them into the ground all the sweeter.

But don’t think it’s all about the bash and smash; all this madness comes along with a fair dose of method. There’s a story here, and not just some tacked on script to keep things tied. Ultimate Destruction’s plot is intricate, full of surprises and twists, chiming in a metaphysical note to match the gameplay’s rocking crescendo.

It starts out simple enough; the army is chasing after the Hulk and getting their asses handed back to them in short order. But things slowly become curiouser and curiouser, as Emil Blonsky takes the spotlight, a man who insists on making the fight against the Hulk a personal affair. Heading up a shadow division in the military, his interest in the Gamma Goliath is three-fold; not just to study him, not just to destroy him. He has a darker purpose, a secret intent that drives everything he does and pushes him to the brink of insanity and far, far beyond. He’s relentless. Mad in every sense of the word. Abominable. Every missile that flies the Hulk’s way, every bullet that bounces of his skin, and every tank he smashes to pieces…Emil’s behind it all, pulling the strings with tightened hands.

And as wild as Emil makes the outer conflicts, the true battle lies on the inner; the fight for Bruce Banner’s soul rages on fiercer than ever before. His human side decays by the second, and every try he makes for a cure is turned down by circumstance; fate constantly conspires against him. And to make things worse, a darker, devilish presence is starting to emerge, another fraction of his fractured mind. There’s something wild inside him, something primitive, something hiding in the gloomed corners of his heart. And it’s not just the Hulk anymore.

The great thing about the story is that you don’t have to be a fan of the comics to really understand any of it; everything is revamped; old characters, new origins. Long time lovers of the Not-So-Jolly Green Giant can see the characters they know and like and maybe even hate, all in a new light, forced with choices and situations they never came across in the hallowed pages. If you’re totally green to the Man Whose Pants Can Never Be Destroyed, you still get a full experience, a story with depth and intrigue and even a few righteous fight scenes. Satisfying in all the ways you could ask.

The game’s story gets progressed through missions, little stints that usually add up to the Hulk playing errand boy. He has to get somewhere at a certain time, he to find something and bring it back, he has to keep someone from getting blown up…standard stuff, and stuff that wouldn’t be worth a mention for other games. But Ultimate Destruction’s missions never get boring because they never forget what the Hulk’s about; each foray is guaranteed to bring the military out in full force, making every situation a case of destroy or be destroyed, no room for subtlety. You’ll always have the choice of fight of flight, and while taking flight might sometimes be the smarter choice, the decision’s yours to make.

And it’s not the only decision you’ll have to make, either. The game boasts a huge repertoire of attacks and moves, nearing fifty in total, some more for flair, some more for function. You don’t get them all at once, you’ve got to work for them, save up the points you rack up from mission completion and then choose from the list. It might sound like a complete hassle, just some cheap way to eek out an extra pint of reply value. That’s exactly what is it, too. And it works.

Because you’ve got to take in the moves gradually, you’re forced to learn the in and outs of the attacks you’ve got while you’re saving up to buy the attacks you don’t. You’ll only be required to buy a certain move once and only once; beyond that it’s all up to you. Stick to the starting move-set or add a little variety to mix, some style to go with the Hulk’s substance. The more attacks you get, the more fluid the game becomes, the more minutes you can go without ever having use the same move twice. Play things right and by the time you hit the final levels it won’t even look like your playing a game anymore; more like a movie with a health bar at the top. Hear me now and believe me later: You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen the Hulk do an elbow drop onto a tank from fifty stories up. ‘Awesome’ just isn’t a strong enough word.

But as nice as all the subtle touches in the game are, as smooth as the controls come off, as deep as the story line gets, as fluid as the whole experience comes off…in the end, none of it matters. You could take away all the fluff, all the trappings and the missions and the storyline and strip it right down to the core; just leave it as a game where a big green guy goes around wrecking stuff. And you know what? It’d be just fine. This game would still be worth playing, worth owning. After you’ve played straight through the game and taken in all the sound and fury this game packs, you’ll still find yourself taking it down every few days, giving it a quick spin just to work off some bundled tension.

This isn’t just a game for Hulk fans, it’s a game for anybody who’s ever been stuck in traffic and wished he could just throw the 16-wheeler in front of him clear across the country. It’s for anybody who’s ever gotten their credit card devoured by an ATM. It’s for anybody who’s ever been pissed off about anything for any reason.

Yeah, Kermit was right when he said it’s not easy being green. But damn, is it fun.

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Community review by lasthero (September 01, 2005)

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