The Incredible Hulk Preview
It's one of the superhero concepts that should, by all rights, translate beautifully into the interactive world of video games. "The Incredible Hulk" is a giant, hulking beast of a man, capable of pulling off the most insane feats of strength, and in games, we love tearing stuff up. This is what the Hulk does. And while the first movie wasn't very good and we're hoping for something much better from this next film entry, we're also hoping for something better in the game category. The last game wasn't too bad and was actually quite entertaining, but like most titles based on movies, it was flawed in a variety of areas. The movie is all new - new cast of characters, new CGI, etc. - which means perhaps we can expect an overhaul for the game as well. The good news is that Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt have recorded their voices for the game, which is already a step in the right direction. The more authentic the experience, the better, we always say.
Here's another bit of good news- you'll be lurching around Manhattan as the Incredible Hulk, and believe it or not, the entire island has been reconstructed from a true-to-life scale model, and about 85% of the real locations are in this title. Obviously, you're going to be tearing this city a new one, which means we'll be looking at a highly destructible environment. But they're taking the background interaction to a whole new level this time around, because not only can you tear the landscape to shreds, you can use a lot of the debris you create. For example, you can actually pry up a piece of the roadway and use it as a shield, or rip vehicles in half and use them as boxing gloves. This is the kind of inventive freedom that most any gamer will appreciate, and we sincerely hope the destructible environment doesn't play out as little more than a gimmick that gets old too quickly. What we need is a game that makes us go "wow" with every new Hulk ability we see, although that may be setting the bar too high.
Freedom of movement should be a staple of such a game, and it seems we'll have just that in The Incredible Hulk. Not only can you climb and fall with great control, but you can turn just about any building into rubble (although you may need a very large weapon to make it happen). Essentially, even though you will be following a linear storyline, your ramblings throughout the city should be limited by absolutely nothing. Think about it: a fully destructible Manhattan that is wide open from the start and constantly prompting you to explore. Of course, we're pretty sure you won't be able to go everywhere at all times, but anything close will be more than satisfactory. And besides, the Hulk's raw strength isn't his only option when faced with harrowing situations; he also has four separate powers you unlock during the course of your quest. Two of them are damage and health boosts, though, which really only means there are two actual skills: the Hand Clap and the Ground Smash. Even though these are the only two, we imagine they'll be pretty damn effective.
Now, logically speaking, there is an inherent problem with being able to wreck everything in your path at a moment's notice: before long, there won't be anything left. But the developers have already thought of this, and you'll find that a previously destroyed building will magically resurrect in between story sections. Hence, you can rip down the Empire State Building more than once, although you'll only be able to nab the collectible inside only once. That's right, these little tokens are hidden inside the bowels of very "landmark building" in Manhattan, and they're used to pick up skills and even new Hulk models. The only other way to secure tokens is to complete a mission or other individual challenges; the tokens are, for all intents and purposes, currency for this game. But it'll be up to you how many tokens you acquire, just because it's not all about how well you perform, but whether or not you choose to tackle optional challenges outside of the main quest missions. Big fans will likely want to do everything, though, so it's probably not even a question for those guys.
As for how the game will play out, it's similar to past Hulk titles. There's this big ol' city, see, and you can run around and wreak havoc to your heart's content without actually participating in a plot-advancing mission. There are mini-games to find, but in general, running around in between missions is going to be half the fun; free-roaming with the Hulk is a very appealing thought! When you're ready, head towards a mission icon, and we'll assume the game will tell you which missions will move the storyline along, and which ones are just for fun. But in the end, you will have to face the ultimate bad dude in Abomination, and that's a battle that should be downright earth-shattering. The movie is out soon and the game adaptation for The Incredible Hulk hits store shelves on June 5. Once again, we're hopeful. Please, oh please, gives us a great superhero game that is just oodles of entertainment! We can handle a few minor technical glitches provided we get the requisite thrill of tooling around with the most impressive strength machine ever conceived by man.
So, to Edge of Reality: sounds good; just don't screw it up!
5/20/2008 Ben Dutka