If there's one lesson to be learned from Sega's The Incredible Hulk movie-based game, it's that Hulk is a big bully. When tasked with containing a radioactive outbreak that could potentially eliminate all life within his city, he is just as likely to take a detour to destroy the Empire State Building or bat pedestrians into the Hudson River. It's far more enticing to see how many taxicabs you can blow up with one swing from a lamppost than to protect your pal Rick from a swarm of angry robots. The Incredible Hulk is at its best when you unleash the full destructive power of this terrifying giant to fulfill your own twisted desires. Ultimately, though, the repetition of mission structures, severe graphical glitches, and game-halting bugs wrestle this 1,000-pound monster to the ground. The sheer destructive joy of rampaging through New York is hard to ignore, but it's even harder to ignore the problems plaguing your every step.
The lifeless story is told through either static screens displaying a tape recorder or poorly conceived cutscenes in which every character looks like they were recently attacked by a hive of killer bees. Your job is to save Manhattan, but who will save Manhattan from you as you inevitably cause far more damage than you could ever hope to prevent? Edward Norton and other stars from the upcoming Hulk movie lend their voices, but their lack of enthusiasm only further cements how boring this tale of chemically created monsters truly is.
The Incredible Hulk plays in much the same way as Radical's The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, released three years ago. You are set loose in a re-creation of New York City--complete with landmarks from both real life and the Marvel universe--and you can choose exactly how you want to level this fine city you’re supposed to protect. You can turn any object you see lying around into a weapon of mass destruction, or unleash an array of charge-based super moves by metabolizing your rage. Though there isn't a lot of variety in either your combat moves or techniques to cause general chaos, being the biggest jerk in all of New York provides simple, though brutal fun. The Incredible Hulk does a good job of making you feel like a very angry monstrosity and, more importantly, it's quite satisfying to imitate Hulk on a very bad day.
Aside from being a general nuisance, the most enjoyable element of Hulk is simply lumbering around the city. You can walk casually down the sidewalk if you choose, but you're also given three Hulk-specific maneuvers to make endlessly traveling from one neighborhood to another a joy. You can sprint down streets, running over cars with impunity and taking corners like a cartoon armadillo. Or you can bound from building to building. Here, you hold down A to charge up your jump while falling so you can keep your massive frame in the air. Though jumping is great for long-distance travel, the charge-up mechanic makes precision difficult. The last way to roam this world is by wall-climbing; just thrust your meaty paws into buildings and hoist yourself to the top. This is slower than the wall-run skill you had in Ultimate Destruction, but it does mirror the way Hulk chooses to climb buildings in the comics.
While it is certainly fun to exist in this world, everything not directly related to jumping around or causing devastating harm to the city either lacks imagination or feels unfinished. The multilayered missions apply different names to the proceedings, but they all boil down to destroying or protecting something important. Oftentimes, Hulk is little more than a giant bodyguard, forced to endure an endless assault by helicopters and empty-headed soldiers while some puny human demands your protection. A smattering of escort missions would have been fine to break up the flow of angry destruction, but when half the tasks require you to risk life and limb to save some random person or object, the game becomes tiresome.
The last three missions in Hulk each play out the same way, and they're in complete contrast to the rest of the game. The fun of Hulk stems from the unrestrained freedom you have; from deciding which mission to tackle to how you want to get there and, finally, what moves to use during said mission, it's a blast utilizing your full repertoire to take down foes. But in these late battles, you're matched up against opponents who can be harmed only by a handful of attacks. They aren't particularly difficult, but it's tedious to have to perform the same few moves over and over again--for three straight battles!--when the rest of your destructive tour had little to no restrictions.
The graphics are startlingly incomplete. The character models outside of cutscenes are properly detailed, but the city itself is overflowing with texture pop-in and severe draw-in. You can see only a little way in front of you before buildings become hazy and dark blue. When you climb to the top of the Chrysler Building, you are treated with a foggy view more reminiscent of a posteruption Pompeii than modern-day New York City. This may be a clever homage to an unknown issue of Hulk in which he visited the eye doctor, but it makes for a suffocating video game. Even the lighting effects suffer from draw-in. You can almost outrun the sun if you're quick enough. The wildly uneven frame rate and obvious clipping issues complete the list of graphical travesties. And when the action gets extremely hectic, Hulk is prone to crash. The game froze on us a number of times, when the engine was overtaxed by a particularly aggressive bombardment of missiles.
It's never a good sign when the majority of a game's fun can be experienced within the first hour of playtime. Though tearing through New York City like an angry bull makes for some satisfying destruction, the overarching package is uneven and incomplete. The Incredible Hulk is a good idea forced into a gameworld that simply cannot keep up with Hulk's aggressive nature. For comic book completionists, there are plenty of unlockable comic book covers and playable Hulk variants. Everyone else will find nothing more then a short afternoon of mindless fun.