With rumors swirling about creative differences on the set of the upcoming Incredible Hulk film, it's understandable that there are some questions as to how the video game based on the movie is going to turn out. The last Hulk game turned out to be pretty good in spite of the movie being less than stellar, and judging by our first look at the current-gen version of The Incredible Hulk, this game is poised to deliver what Hulk fans want regardless of how the movie turns out.
The Incredible Hulk begins with a brief cutscene showing Bruce Banner standing in the snow with a loaded pistol in his mouth. Just as a shot rings out the screen goes black, and when the picture comes back the Hulk, standing where Banner once stood, spits out the bullet. From there the game jumps ahead five years and shows a cutscene with Bruce being chased by some sort of special-ops unit through the streets of Brazil. Suddenly a helicopter appears, and Banner ducks into a building to get away. But it's too late; the helicopter fires a missile into the building, turning it into rubble.
From here the game is in your hands. You start by mashing the Y button, which performs one of the Hulk's "feats of strength," which in this case involves him digging out from a demolished concrete building. Once he has dusted himself off the Hulk sets off into a factory to exact revenge on the people chasing him. This area acts as a training level, and it's where you'll get acquainted with the Hulk's many moves--conveyor belts will be leveled, puny humans will be thrown, soldiers wearing mechanized suits will be cast aside, and doors will crumble under the weight of his mighty fists. The level ends after an encounter with the game's first boss, Emil Blonsky, who after suffering defeat at the hands of the Hulk discusses what happened with General Ross.
All the major characters in the game are voiced by the actors who portrayed them in the movie. That means you'll be hearing the likes of Tim Roth, William Hurt, Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, and Tim Blake Nelson--not a bad list of talent for a video game. Obviously the game will focus on the events of the movie, but to expand the game into an eight-plus hour experience the developer has worked with Marvel to integrate other characters, storylines, and themes from the Hulk and Marvel universes. You'll follow parts of the movie, but another major storyline takes place in New York City, where a terrorist group called The Enclave is using the city as a training facility.
After Brazil, we skipped ahead a bit to New York City. The developer has re-created 85 percent of Manhattan and the city is yours to explore. Times Square, Central Park--it's all here. A few neat touches that Marvel fans will appreciate were the Baxter Building (home of the Fantastic Four) and ads for Peter Parker's newspaper, the Daily Bugle, on the sides of buses. As in the real city, pedestrians roam the sidewalks and cabs clog the streets. What's more, they all react realistically to the Hulk's intimidating presence. People will run away screaming and cars will come to a screeching halt, throw it in reverse, or sometimes run into other cars at the sight of Banner's alter ego. Of course, there's more to the game than scaring people by walking around. You can pick people up, "help" them get where they're going by scooping up their cars and tossing them, rip up light poles, smash fire hydrants, and climb any building you choose.
Exploring the city and causing mayhem seems like it will be fun for quite some time, but you'll want to be careful because if you cause too much damage, the police, the military, and eventually Iron Man will be deployed to stop you. Once you've had your fill of destruction, it's time to move on to doing some good. Rick Jones, who's not in the movie but is in the game, acts as your guide. He'll give you information on what the bad guys are up to and tell you where in the city you need to go. Speaking of bad guys, there are plenty of them. In addition to the first fight with Blonsky, we saw the Hulk take on a giant robot (you'll encounter this fellow several times and each time he'll be more difficult), Bi-Beast in an encounter that started on a rooftop and ended in bustling Times Square, and even the U-foes, who are kind of like an evil version of the Fantastic Four. Vapor can turn into three different gasses, each of which harm the Hulk in a different way. X-Ray can shoot radiation, Ironclad's super strength gives the Hulk a taste of his own medicine, and Vector uses telekinesis to grab nearby objects and use them as a shield or fling them at the Hulk.
Fighting each U-foe individually would be tough, but Hulk had to take all of them out at the same time. It's a good thing he has so many ways to deal damage. Of course he can use his fists and simply pummel dudes, but he can also pound the ground to cause a concussion blast, pick up nearly everything in his environment and fling it as a projectile weapon, pull up concrete and use it as a shield, and even grab cars, rip them apart, and use them as steel-reinforced boxing gloves. He'll earn new moves by performing feats such as picking a fight, scoring 500 points (you get points for nearly everything you do), destroying 25 buildings, and more. Hulk can fill his rage meter by receiving damage, killing bad guys, smashing buildings, and generally wreaking havoc. Once this meter is full he can unleash ultrapowerful rage attacks, and you can even use this rage to level every single building in the game.
If you need a break from fighting evil you can always roam around and torment random citizens, and you can also play some of the numerous minigames sprinkled about the city. Bullseye places you on top of a building facing a huge target that's hung on another building. Your goal is to pick up light poles and try to get a bullseye by throwing them into the target. Another minigame called Whack-a-Mole has you pounding tank turrets. And in a nod to a classic Sega game, there's a Crazy Taxi minigame where you pick up vehicles and carry them to their destination.
The Incredible Hulk seems to be shaping up nicely, and it appears that the developer is keen to deliver the same fun gameplay of the last game while at the same time integrating a better story and more objectives. We weren't able to get our hands on the game so we can't speak to how the controls handle, and it looked as if the camera could be a bit troublesome, but for the most part the game looks promising. There's no firm release date yet, but look for The Incredible Hulk to hit stores sometime this June, right around time of the movie's release.