Hello all! Last week’s game was essentially GoldenEye/Perfect Dark 2, gameplay-wise. We’ll probably never see anything like it again.
This week brings us a game based on a comic, one that actually managed to be great despite licensed games of the day generally sucking—not to mention a stupid title.
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (ugh) is a PS2/GameCube/Xbox game developed by Radical Entertainment. The game casts you as the big green lug himself, and you smash a bunch of stuff as you fight against Hulk’s enemies like General Ross and the Abomination. The plot is standard Hulk fare; Dr. Bruce Banner is trying to cure himself of the Hulk, and is hilariously ineffective (wouldn’t be much of a Hulk game if he succeeded). There’s nothing overtly surprising about the plot, but it’s not bad if you’re into Hulk comics. If you aren’t, there’s nothing really here plot-wise to change your mind.
It doesn’t matter either way, because this one’s all about the gameplay. You smartly play only as The Hulk; there are no Bruce Banner stealth levels (see the 2003 Hulk game), nor does the entire game seem to take place indoors (see the 2003 Hulk game again). Set in both a large city and a desert area, Ultimate Destruction is a wide-open game that lets you run and jump massive distances as the Hulk, before smashing enemies, vehicles, and pretty much everything you can see. Hulk has a massive move set; far bigger than you would think in a game about punching things.
Then there’s weaponizing, which at the touch of a button turns whatever Hulk is holding into...well, a weapon. Grab a wrecking ball and Hulk can turn it into a hilarious oversized ball-and-chain weapon. Or pick up a car and Hulk rips it in half and makes his own pair of novelty Hulk Hands. A personal favorite is yanking a missile launcher off the ground and shooting it—that is, Hulk just grabs the missiles out and hurls them. Weaponization adds a cool wrinkle to the gameplay, which again, is primarily about causing insane amounts of collateral damage in your quest to get the military to stop pestering you.
Most importantly, you feel like you’re The Hulk. It goes a hell of a long way towards making this game a classic. You can feel the power behind every attack thanks to great audiovisual feedback, and there’s so much damage you can cause.
Ultimate Destruction is a somewhat basic game when you look at the entire product, but that’s fine. That’s great, in fact. I mean, for my money, if I’m playing as The Incredible Hulk, I don’t want to spend time in lengthy cutscenes, and I really don’t want to play as non-Hulk Bruce Banner. Radical understood this, and that sense of understanding extends throughout the entire game. You get the feeling that the developers really “got” The Hulk; they both understood and appreciated the character and story, and they knew how best to translate that into video game form.
It’s the same philosophy that drives games like the Batman Arkham series; developers took the time to create a faithful celebration of the character—and publishers understood the need for it, as well. Spider-Man 2 for the PS2/GC/Xbox is another great example; what could have easily been a quick cash-in turned into a game where you really felt like Spidey, thanks to a new swinging mechanic in part, but also because of care. It’s evident that the devs of Ultimate Destruction loved The Hulk, or at the very least, they didn’t hate him. And games/movies based on licensed properties should always be given to people who love and appreciate them, or at least understand them. That makes the difference between a classic like Ultimate Destruction and, say, X-Men Destiny (which is a story for another time). It’s not just budgets and popular developers, after all; by all accounts, the new Ninja Turtles game isn’t good at all, and it’s made by Platinum—a talented developer whom I really love a lot.
Radical would go on to make Prototype, a kind of B-game that I really like. It plays nearly identically to Ultimate Destruction, though with far less destruction and more emphasis on an average plot. But Ultimate Destruction, for me, sits right up there with Arkham as a perfect translation of a character. It’s a bonafide and somewhat unappreciated classic, sadly sandwiched between two pointless, forgettable Hulk video games. Track it down if you’ve not played it.
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Next week brings us a somewhat recent Wii (and 3DS) platformer that I consider to be a master class in game design. No bongo controllers required.