"Don't make me angry Mr MaGee, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry..."
I remember those words as clear as daybreak from when I was a kid, who'd tune in to the Hulk TV show and sit mesmerised by the big green wrecking machine for a good hour. Now it seems that the whole world and his uncle want to bring the heroes and anti-heroes of our childhood onto the silver screen, and where the silver screen ends - the game begins.
Movie tie-in games are often pretty much rubbish, there are only a few that can be considered halfway decent and even these really fail to live up to the hype that often surrounds them. But what we have here with the new Hulk game is a pretty reasonable tie-in with the movie and a game that incorporates locations and scenes from the film into a loose package. There's not much continuity between levels apart from the fact that it's split up between Banner (Stealth) and Hulk (Smash) styles of gameplay.
Gameplay: The game varies between stealth and smashing things to bits, violent pummelling breaking action. I'll say right now that in the gameplay area this game isn't a groundbreaker and the whole experience (hype notwithstanding) stands as a much better game when you ditch Banner and get to play with The Hulk.
Banner: Well Bruce isn't much of a fighter so he's equipped with a few hand-to-hand attacks and the ability to sneak up on his foes and down them with one move, if you can get behind and grab them. He's no Sam Fisher so his particular move list is restricted to being able to crouch and to creep quietly, rolling once in a while. And that's about it for the Bruce sections of the game. Wander around and try not to get spotted, don't get angry and you'll be ok. Occasionally Banner has to input a code into a terminal to get what he wants and it's based on a simple sliding letters and numbers puzzle, not really very taxing. Some boxes can be pushed and shoved to move them to a new location so Bruce can climb higher and avoid detection, but the stealth sections of the game (while being a welcome break) do let it down somewhat.
The Hulk: Let's face it this is where most of us want to be, not running around like wimpy scientist pale Banner. But as the big green wrecking machine, The Hulk and to be honest this is by far the most fun in the game. Smashing things as The Hulk is incredibly satisfying and the whole game changes pace when you're playing as old Greeny. The Hulk takes damage that can be healed by the collection of gamma-orbs (Green powerups) and the more he takes, the angrier he gets until he gets a full rage bar (You can also collect rage orbs from some defeated foes).
When the Mean Green gets enough rage he starts to glow and can then dish out some serious gamma-enhanced punishment in a couple of button presses. When our hero jumps he leaves a massive crack in the floor beneath him, should you miss a foe and hit a wall, you'll dent it or break something. Everything can be broken within reason and often the whole fun of the game comes from the old saying.
And that's what you do, the physics system in the game incorporates a great level of realism, no two objects ever smash the same and depending on what strikes that object depends on how it breaks.
So to summarise on Gameplay: Hulk Smash, Banner Sneak. Couldn't be simpler.
Graphics: The Hulk utilises a very high level of graphical eye candy in the various cut-scenes and the whole feeling is that of gourad-cell shaded textures, very high levels of detailing and nice dynamic lighting. It has a comic book feel and this is where the game shines, it really does look like a comic book adaptation of the movie - which is interesting since the movie is of course from a comic. In game GFX are similarly big, brash and bold. The Hulk himself is a wonderfully textured and shaded model that looks and feels like the movie/comic character.
Not surprising when you realise that the game developers were on the movie set and had the help of the filmmakers to get the look and feel of the game. This now seems to be a trend that is going to continue, as games get more and more complicated. Enter the Matrix had full support from cast, crew and everyone. So did The Hulk pretty much.
Level Design: Every level and then some, is either taken from production designs from the film or designed based on drawings and schematics, created from pouring over countless Hulk comics and paraphernalia. It's good and solid construction and while some sections can seem pretty bland you have to realise that the stark environments for Banner with very little interactivity virtually come apart when you're in the ripped trousers of The Hulk himself.
Physics: I covered this a little bit earlier so I'll go over it again, when you're smashing things as The Hulk you'll notice that the doors that Bruce could open, come apart in a satisfying manner as Hulk pounds his way through them. Things shatter and objects break with a gorgeous crunchy feel. Rip that pipe off the wall and use it to club some enemies to death, ah...and then perhaps throw it at something else to break that. Punch a wall, watch the masonry crack. Jump into the air and watch the floor crumble beneath your massive feet - it feels as though you have the power of The Hulk rather than being a bland and boring WWE Wrestler clone.
The rule with these physics is that everything has a structural damage; everything can either break in parts or come down completely. Pipes roll along the floor along with masonry when Hulk runs into them, you can pick up massive things and use them to pummel or break the opposition as you see fit, then if they break into smaller pieces you can use those too.
If it breaks you can use it.
Combat: The Hulk has a pretty straightforward combat system that allows for the usual combos and strikes, hidden combos and powerful 'Hulk' moves that wreck man, machine and scenery alike. With just a few button presses on the controller, The Hulk is pounding away, sending things flying left right and centre. The control system I found was really intuitive and you'll have no trouble with dishing out pain to everything and anything you encounter. Grabs and throws are context sensitive depending on the button used not to mention the opponent caught. And the moves are big and bold enough to satisfy. Hurling people at people, throwing things at people and people into things can be done a number of different ways - thanks once again to the excellent physics system.
Animations: The developers spent a lot of time on The Hulk himself to get him to look and feel just right, I think they did a great job and the whole thing feels very fluid in a comic-book kind of way. There's a lot of detail in the beasts movements and likewise there's a lot of detail in the game's various characters - from the soldiers and gamma creations to the big bosses that punctuate the game's levels from now and then. There are no major gripes with the game's animations at all.
Camera: Here it looses out a bit as the camera sometimes swings into the wrong place, especially as Bruce, but it's only minor niggles that can be corrected by moving a few steps usually and doesn't often detract from the gameplay.
Sounds: Music is typically up beat (What there is of it) and the game's real strength is in the fact that the developers got Eric Bana to do Bruce while he was also starring in the film. So the feel of Bruce Banner from movie to game is kept. There's nothing overly stunning about the voice acting in the game apart from that and there's nothing that really sounds too bad either.
Overall: There's a good few unlockable gifts and a bunch of secrets to discover that will keep the gamer coming back for more, with the inclusion of mini-games and the dynamic physics system this is a game that's good for relieving stress. When you complete the main game you can then gain access to any level you like, so if you want to relive the first few levels or break things as the Hulk without having to stealth around as Banner you can. It's a good stab at a movie related game and while it doesn't really break any new ground, it breaks the scenery and everything else quite nicely.
"Even now I can feel it. Buried somewhere deep inside. Watching me, waiting. But you know what scares me the most? When I can't fight it anymore, when it takes over, when I totally lose control...
I like it!"