The last Incredible Hulk game, which was based on the film by Ang Lee was okay but it suffered the usual pitfalls of a game based on a movie. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is technically a sequel, though it's based on the events in the comic book series, and not the movie. The developers wisely chose to forgo the "2" at the end of the title, seemingly distancing themselves from first game, and stressing that this is an all-new Hulk experience. Ultimate Destruction is a free roaming game where you get to control Hulk and pretty much do whatever you want. You can run anywhere, smash anything in your path, and climb anything you think needs climbing. Yes, you can smash buildings too. There's no denying that playing as the Hulk is a fun experience, and though it does get repetitive after a while, as a whole, the game is surprisingly good.
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction's story is told across eight chapters, and features over 30 story missions, 40+ story side challenges, and six boss battles against foes like Abomination, Devil Hulk, and Mercy. In a nutshell, Bruce Banner is already the Hulk and Emil Blonsky is hell bent on destroying him. As the game progresses, you'll find that there's more to Blonsky than meets the eye, and he's got more on his mind than just taking out Banner. It's a decent enough story and feels like it could have been ripped straight from the comics (which it probably was).
The game has a similar feel to the recent PS2 Spider-Man 2 game from Activision, but the chaos onscreen is reminiscent of War of the Monsters. As you wreak havoc on the city, you become more of a threat and of course, more and more resources, including tanks, helicopters, and flying robots called "Hulkbusters" are brought in to stop you. Helicopters and other flying enemies are a bit of a challenge at first, but once you learn to lock on to them, run up buildings (like in the movie), and launch yourself at them, they are less of a nuisance. The controls are very simple, and there are only a few buttons to learn. There are two buttons to attack, one to grab, and another to jump. In addition, L1 handles targeting, and R1 makes Hulk run.
You start off simply smashing things with your fists, but you quickly realize that cars, buses, rocks, streetlights, and many other objects can be used to maximize the carnage. Not only can you use these things to smash other objects, but you can throw them to hit enemies that are far away or even overhead, and you can rip them apart and wear them on your hands like steel boxing gloves. If you're under heavy fire, you can even use objects as shields. You'll be able to purchase new moves as well as more powerful special moves that can inflict large amounts of damage on anything within a certain radius of Hulk. The manual claims 150 different moves and combos, but many of the moves don't feel a whole lot different from one another, and a lot of them are just powered up versions of other moves. Still, the ease of which moves can be performed and the fact that almost anything can be used as a weapon are two of the game's strengths.
Getting from your home base to the city is done by entering a jump marker, which is essentially a teleportation device. As you progress through the game, more portals open up, allowing you to quickly access different areas of the city. This is a cumbersome way to travel because you don't know what missions are available until you enter an area, and should you teleport to the wrong part of a level; you've got a long run ahead of you. If the game weren't so linear, this would be less of a problem, but there's never more than one mission open at a time, so you must go to a certain place at a certain time. It seems like a game that allows you so much improvisation with weaponry would allow you more flexibility with how you complete the game, but that's simply not the case here.
At first glance, the visuals aren't impressive. The textures are low quality and the draw distance isn't outstanding; but when things start exploding and buildings begin to crumble, it becomes apparent that from a technical standpoint the graphics are very good. Most people would argue that a bland looking building that can be destroyed is better than a pretty one that can't be touched – and it seems the developers feel that way as well. There are tons of explosions, missile trails, dust clouds, smoke, and just about every other type of effect you can think of. In fact, the developer boasts that this game can handle 10 times the amount of effects on screen as the original.
The Hulk has a wide array of moves at his disposal, and some of them are animated quite cleverly. Particularly enjoyable is when you jump from one building to another, grab the side of the building as you fall, and leave a trail of crumbled brick as you slide down, slowly stopping your momentum before climbing again.
The camera can be rotated with the right analog stick and it can be centered by pushing in the right analog stick, but there are plenty of times where it's impossible to see what you need to see. The game is usually pretty forgiving, giving you time to adjust things, but sometimes, like when you are running up a wall at a weird angle, having the camera in the wrong position makes it extremely difficult. It's certainly not a horrible camera, but it's far from perfect.
For widescreen television owners, the game supports both widescreen and progressive scan, and while neither feature is spectacular looking, its inclusion is appreciated. The framerate is usually pretty solid, but like so many other games, when there's a lot happening on screen it does stutter some.
Ultimate Destruction has an impressive voice-over cast. Actors include: Ron Perlman, and Neal McDonough, who provided the voice of Bruce Banner in the late-90's cartoon series, and Richard Moll as Devil Hulk. They do a good job, and are a big reason the story manages to stay interesting.
If you've got surround sound, the game's Pro-Logic II mix will fill your room with the sound of automatic weapons, missiles, and explosions. Since there's so much carnage in the game, there are times when every speaker will be blasting out something – be it the crash of a building falling down, the Hulk yelling, or frightened soldiers screaming for mercy. The soundtrack fits the game quite well and is on-par with what you'd hear in any Hollywood action movie. All of these things combine to make a very immersive gaming experience.
To keep you busy when not on a mission, there are 60 comic book icons that can be collected, and they'll unlock movies, character art, behind the scenes footage, cheat codes and yep, even comic book covers. There's nothing truly groundbreaking in the unlockable area, but the sheer number of things to look at is impressive.
Ultimate Destruction improves upon its predecessor in every way, and it's a very enjoyable experience. Playing the role of such a powerful character and having the ability to do nearly everything you can imagine is entertaining, and for the most part it's enough to let you look past the game's frustrating deaths and limited variety of mission objectives. If you're one of those people that enjoys causing mayhem in Grand Theft Auto more than playing the missions, or you like swinging around New York for hours in Spider-Man 2, then you'll love The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.