reviews\ Jun 7, 2003 at 8:00 pm

The Hulk - XB - Review

“You don’t want to see me when I’m angry,” Doctor Bruce Banner says to General Ryker, the villain of the game and the recent summer blockbuster by Ang Lee, as his anger begins to boil deep inside him.  Banner, having been the victim of accidental exposure to a tremendous amount of gamma radiation, feels the Beast in the back of his mind as it struggles to break free of Doctor Banner and come out.  And when the beast does come, it becomes a force that can’t be stopped.  This is the Hulk and Xbox owners will know what it is like to be Marvel comic’s angriest and greenest hero. 


There have been a number of comic book inspired games that just didn’t capture the thrill of the films they are tied to (such as X2: Wolverine’s Revenge and Blade II) but these recent games have touched on a neat concept.  Instead of taking gamers through a play-the-movie game, they offer up a new story connected to the film itself.  In the Hulk, the story begins where the story in the film ends.  You play Doctor Banner and his dangerous alter ego as they attempts to battle the Leader, an enemy intent on creating an army of gamma-powered beasts to cause chaos all over the globe.  To make things worse, Bruce is betrayed by his former mentor and friend while General Ryker and his soldiers attempt to capture the Hulk.


The game’s other mode of playing is Challenge Mode that offers a few mini-games such as Endurance (fight a slew of enemies and see how long you can last), Time Attack (defeat as many opponents before the time runs out) and Hulk Smash!  The Hulk Smash! feature has you destroying as much of the environment before the time runs out and this is actually pretty enjoyable.   However, Story Mode is the main playing mode and it is also here that you can unlock various surprising cheats for the Special Feature‘s menu.


Control-wise the Hulk uses a straightforward control scheme for the combat.  Our mean, green smashing friend can jump, punch and perform a number of attacks.  He can pick up an enemy and slap him around, slam him into the ground or throw at other opponents.  The Hulk also has a powerful attack that comes in the form of a handclap attack that sends a shock wave that knocks enemies down or a ground-smashing move that does the same trick.  While there are a few combo moves as well, combat begins to seem repetitive.  While this could have spelled disaster, gamers will have way too much fun tossing soldiers or kicking Hulk Dogs around.  Boss fights are also quite challenging and entertaining.


The weakest part of the game comes as playing as Bruce Banner.  His missions generally involve stealth since the good Doctor is neither a fighter or as strong as his alter ego.  While he is able to silently creep his way through military installations or throw a few punches when it’s called for, these missions begin to feel identical.  In fact, they can be a bit boring even with the few door-opening puzzles you might encounter.  And forget picking a fight with a guard because that only leads to you getting a savage beating.  It just goes to show that scientists might be experts in the field of gamma radiation but throwing a punch is too complex a science.


Visually the Hulk uses a slightly altered style of cel-shading that actually works well for a game whose hero is basically a CG character in the film.  Characters such as the Hulk and beasts such as Half-Life or Ravage look amazing during cut scenes and just as equally good during the game’s action sequences.  Your surroundings also look great, although the highlight is the fact that things in the environment can be damaged or even destroyed.  When the Hulk smashed a wall with a pillar, the shattered remains of the pillar can be used as a weapon to swat people with or can be thrown to take down multiple enemies.  Watching the Hulk create a sonic wave by his handclap attack makes for a great visual effect.  The only problem with the visuals is the camera that occasionally keeps you from seeing the exit or who is attacking you.


The score masterfully gives the game a cinematic feel during the animated cut scenes as well as during the action itself.  While the score features an original soundtrack, gamers will find touches of the film’s dramatic score throughout.  While this is great, it’s the good voice acting and spectacular sound effects that win big points here.  There’s nothing quite like hearing the Hulk’s mighty and frightening roar as the giant behemoth smashes walls into crumbling debris or tossing a soldier like a screaming missile off a building rooftop.  It’s also pretty cool to hear Eric Bana--the actor who plays Banner on the film--do the voice of Banner on the game.


The Hulk is, no doubt, one of the best games based on the green monster and although there are some things that could have been done better, the good stuff certainly overshadows that bad stuff.  While the Banner missions and the sometimes awful camera angles can be a hindrance, for instance, the intense destructive action and juicy extras more than make up for these things.  If you are a fan of the Hulk or love smashing things and people, give this game a try.  


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 7.5
Bashing or tossing foes about can be quite amusing during the first few missions, but this action can become very repetitive.  Luckily there are quite a number of combos to learn and implementing them during the action makes for some great enemy smashing.  When the Hulk is really enraged, he really lets loose, sending enemies flying back with his mighty handclap attack or ground-smashing attack.


One of the game’s noticeable flaws comes in the form of the camera that can obscure certain spots that might have enemies you won’t see until they attack you.  The Banner missions, although do add some relief from the Hulk’s smash-and-destroy action, are not as exciting or well done at all.  To quote the comic book version of the mighty green beast: “This part make Hulk cry.”


Graphics: 8.5
Not quite cel-shaded, the graphics are remarkably comic book styled and give the game its own unique charm.  The animated cut scenes fluidly intermingle with the action enough that the game actually feels like one long animated feature gamers can control themselves.  The environments are also nicely detailed, although the main attraction is most definitely the fact that anything can be interacted with and eventually smashed to pieces the Hulk can use against enemies.  It’s fun smashing into walls, tearing out pipes and using it against tanks and waves of soldiers.


The character design is also quite impressive, especially since Bruce Banner looks a lot like the actor that portrays him in the movie.  It’s also a treat seeing Banner suddenly turn green as his body begins to take the form of the hulking beast that is so menacing that--when in full rage--even frightens the troops set on capturing him.  


Sound: 8.5
Sound-wise, the game is filled with original music as well as music from the film itself.  The soundtrack perfectly sets the mood from the very start of the game and picks up during the most intense parts of the game.  Aside from the great score, the game also excels at showcasing some pretty stellar voice acting from many of the main characters, including actor Eric Bana who plays Bruce Banner in the game as well as the film.


Yet while all of these things add up to a great sound experience, it is the sound effects that truly stand out.  The Hulk’s roar is both menacing and loud and listening to him shatter concrete walls and crack the pavement below him make this game worthy of pumping up the volume.  If you have a good sound system hooked up, this one takes full advantage of the Dolby Digital feature.


Difficulty: Medium
While the Hulk is incredibly strong and seemingly indestructible, he can take enough damage to bring him down.  Wave after wave of puny humans can make enough damage (especially those carrying around rocket launchers and electrified force shields) but it is the Hulk Dogs and tanks that can ultimately bring our favorite green hero to his knees.  However, the source of frustration come more in the weak form of Bruce Banner whose stealth missions can lead to a number of retries.  The puzzles are few and thankfully not considerably difficult to complete.


Concept: 8.0
With a new story that basically picks up where the Ang Lee film ends, gamers get to experience an all-new adventure while faithfully keeping familiar characters gamers will instantly recall.  The game also allows gamers to be as destructive as they want, smashing anything and anyone the Hulk encounters throughout the game.  Challenge Mode also has a number of fun challenges that are more than welcome and add more replay value.  And although the Banner missions are more on the boring side and can be occasionally arduous, it is better than not having them at all.


Overall: 8.5
Hulk fans rejoice!  At last there is a game worthy of the green beast and you can count the Hulk as one of the best comic book games available thus far.  While there are a number of things that could have used some improvement, this shouldn’t keep gamers from enjoying this engaging smash-and-bash action game.  I recommend picking this one up, Xbox owners--this is definitely the version to own.


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