Hands-onThe Hulk

We put Bruce Banner and his angry alter ego through their paces at a Vivendi Universal press event in Berlin. First screens inside.

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At a Vivendi press event in Berlin this week, we were among the first people to get our hands on the PC, PS2, GameCube, and Xbox versions of The Hulk. The game, which is currently in development at Radical Entertainment, is inspired by and scheduled to release alongside the upcoming movie of the same name this summer.

Set around a year after the events of the movie, The Hulk has a unique look with visuals that fall somewhere between cel-shading and realism. This, according to a Vivendi Universal representative on hand to demonstrate the game, is an attempt to ensure that The Hulk remains faithful not only to the upcoming movie, but also to the Marvel comics that inspired it. The end result is pleasing, although it's worth noting that--at this stage at least--the PS2 version of the game is looking a lot rougher around the edges than the other three.

In the game, you get to assume the roles of both troubled scientist Bruce Banner and his angry alter ego, the Hulk. Before playing the game for ourselves today we'd assumed that you would switch between the two characters during gameplay, either voluntarily or perhaps as a result of Banner taking damage. This isn't the case, though, and only around five of the game's 30 or so levels will actually feature Banner, with the remainder seeing you taking on what Radical assumes will be the preferred role of the Hulk.

We initially chose to play a level as Dr. Banner, in which we had to sneak through a large building without being detected by the numerous patrolling enemies. The moves at our disposal amounted to little more than crouching and the ability to push and pull objects, but when we were discovered by an enemy at one point, we found that Banner was also able to throw punches--although not with even a fraction of the force that his alter ego can. This limited ability to fight enemies works well, since without it, discovery would almost certainly have to mean game over for the player. As it is, Banner can probably hope to survive a handful of incidents per level at best, encouraging you to proceed through levels in the stealthy manner intended without being punished too severely for minor mistakes. In addition to sneaking around, Banner is also required to occasionally solve a puzzle against a time limit--normally to get through a locked door.

When the plot sees Bruce Banner get angry and turn into Hulk, the game's level design changes quite dramatically. In fact, in total contrast to the Banner levels, the Hulk levels seem to require you to make as much noise and cause as much damage as possible. Practically everything in the Hulk levels is destructible, and when the giant green fists start flying, it's likely that many objects in a level will not survive intact. In addition to standard punches and a number of lethal combos, Hulk is also able to use special moves, including a projectile attack and a hard punch to the ground that results in a shock wave that hurts all enemies in the immediate vicinity. Crates, barrels, cars, and other heavy objects also make handy weapons for Hulk, who often has the option either to bash enemies with them or to hurl them at targets from a distance. The combat in the game works well, and while it would no doubt be possible to beat some of the levels by mashing the buttons almost at random, there are just enough combos and special moves to make it worthwhile to learn them.

The last level of The Hulk that we got to play involved our chasing one of the boss characters that will appear in the game. After an in-engine cutscene showing the evil Professor Crawford deliberately exposing himself to concentrated gamma rays to transform himself into the Hulk-like character Rampage, we were required to chase Rampage across city rooftops using the trail of destruction left in his wake to navigate. We never caught up with him, unfortunately, but the exterior location threw up some reasonably impressive visuals and afforded us an opportunity to throw troublesome enemies off the top of tall buildings. Other gamma-enhanced bosses in the game will include Flux and Half Life, although we didn't get to see either of these in action.

The Hulk is currently scheduled for release just a couple of weeks before the movie opens in theaters, meaning the end of May in North America and mid-June in Europe. We'll bring you more information on the game as it becomes available.

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