"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. Heís not about finesse or style or design. Thereís 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 Hulkís 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 wasnít bad enough, they addedÖdare I say itÖstealth 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 donít 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 companyís 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 thatís 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 tenÖdoesnít matter. Because when youíve had enough of running, when you decide to turn around and bring the fight back to them, every bit of the Hulkís 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 whatís left of the city. Trees fly straight from their roots. The helicopter you didnít even notice was tailing you crashes down at your feet. In one brutish move, youíve established total urban dominance.
And this is just a few minutes into the game.
Thatís 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 itís own. The Hulkís 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 donít the room? He just gives them an idle slap as he passes by, automatic. Everything can be affected in some way, thereís nothing in the landscape you canít alter, no obstacle that canít be taken out of the way.
Just from taking a glance at some screenshots, the graphics seem stale, average, even a little blandÖthey are. But this is the kind of game that wasnít meant to be seen in glances, no screenshot can show you what itís 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 itís all about.
But donít let the Hulkís power fool you into thinking this is an easy game; The Hulk may be strong, but even heís got to buckle a bit when the weight of the world comes down on his shoulders. Heís public enemy #1 and it shows; the U.S. Army breathes down your neck every step of the way. At first theyíre just a minor annoyance. Theyíll 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 donít even make him itch.
But the more you kick their ass, the less they like it. Theyíll make up for quality with quantity, sending waves of forces, covering land and air. Theyíll 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, youíll 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, youíve got to hit him harder than heís hitting you. Apparently, the developers realize that quite well, because Ultimate Destructionís boss battles are by far the most epic onslaughts Iíve 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 donít require you to hit switches or perfect your timing or even memorize some dinky little attack pattern three times over. All youíve got to do is hit the enemy a lot. Itís 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 thatís 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 donít come off much better. Ultimate Destruction isnít big on music; aside from a few orchestral overtones that play during the cutscenes, the game keeps things to hush. And thatís just the way it should be, really. Even if there was some music, you couldnít hear a note of it; Ultimate Destruction is every bit as loud as youíd 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 citizensÖanother notch to the experience; not the one youíd think to notice while the light showís going full steam, but an important one nonetheless. You can even pick up the militaryís 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 donít think itís all about the bash and smash; all this madness comes along with a fair dose of method. Thereís a story here, and not just some tacked on script to keep things tied. Ultimate Destructionís plot is intricate, full of surprises and twists, chiming in a metaphysical note to match the gameplayís 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. Heís relentless. Mad in every sense of the word. Abominable. Every missile that flies the Hulkís way, every bullet that bounces of his skin, and every tank he smashes to piecesÖEmilís 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 Bannerís 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. Thereís something wild inside him, something primitive, something hiding in the gloomed corners of his heart. And itís not just the Hulk anymore.
The great thing about the story is that you donít 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 youíre 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 gameís 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 upÖstandard stuff, and stuff that wouldnít be worth a mention for other games. But Ultimate Destructionís missions never get boring because they never forget what the Hulkís 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. Youíll always have the choice of fight of flight, and while taking flight might sometimes be the smarter choice, the decisionís yours to make.
And itís not the only decision youíll 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 donít get them all at once, youíve 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. Thatís exactly what is it, too. And it works.
Because youíve got to take in the moves gradually, youíre forced to learn the in and outs of the attacks youíve got while youíre saving up to buy the attacks you donít. Youíll only be required to buy a certain move once and only once; beyond that itís all up to you. Stick to the starting move-set or add a little variety to mix, some style to go with the Hulkís 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 wonít 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 havenít seen anything until youíve seen the Hulk do an elbow drop onto a tank from fifty stories up. ĎAwesomeí just isnít 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 offÖin 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? Itíd be just fine. This game would still be worth playing, worth owning. After youíve played straight through the game and taken in all the sound and fury this game packs, youíll still find yourself taking it down every few days, giving it a quick spin just to work off some bundled tension.
This isnít just a game for Hulk fans, itís a game for anybody whoís ever been stuck in traffic and wished he could just throw the 16-wheeler in front of him clear across the country. Itís for anybody whoís ever gotten their credit card devoured by an ATM. Itís for anybody whoís ever been pissed off about anything for any reason.
Yeah, Kermit was right when he said itís not easy being green. But damn, is it fun.
Community review by lasthero (September 01, 2005)
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