Tag Archives: grand theft auto

FGC #421 Saints Row 4

Saints!Saints Row 4 is an over-the-top videogame about a world beset by aliens, destroyed, and then rebuilt in a Matrix-esque virtual reality wherein your player avatar, The President of the United States, is granted amazing super powers in an effort to eventually conquer the alien threat and conquer all of time so as to save the human race.

So let’s spend this article talking about urban planning.

Wait, sorry, I have been informed that it is moderately possible to stay on topic while addressing this blatantly boring matter, so we may as well give that a try. Take two…

Saints Row 2 was an amazing little chunk of a game. After Saints Row was reviewed as “like Grand Theft Auto, but we forgot to figure out the ‘but’”, Saints Row 2 shook the gaming world by being the most Grand Theft Auto-est Grand Theft Auto to ever Grand Theft Auto. That is to say, the Grand Theft Auto from before Rockstar decided to smother any fun in the franchise by sticking its head so far up its own butt that no excitement could ever escape this airtight asszone. And it wasn’t just about a completely bonkers plot that may or may not have contained covering sections of the city in raw sewage! No, Saints Row 2 took the customization features of San Andreas and dialed them up to eleven. So many options! So much clothing! Hell, they had to build an entire mall to house all those shopping choices!

And, in my humble opinion, that mall might be the best part of Saints Row 2.

WeeeeeYes, it’s just one silly area. Yes, it’s an area that probably ultimately only exists for one set piece mission that involves a shootout in a mall (that seems less funny in 2018). And, yes, I might just like it because I have a weird inclination toward hanging out at any mall, virtual ones included. But whatever the original reason for that lil’ shopping center, it is one of my favorite spots, and a significant reason for this is simple: it’s a place. It is somewhere in the Saints Row 2 city that you can actually go. It’s not just another empty, set-dressing building. It’s a real location, and, even if there is an obvious “now loading” parking garage or elevator, it still feels like an organic piece of the city. It’s not just a place to customize your trench coat, it’s a place, and it makes the world of Saints Row 2 feel that much more real.

And, like in our blighted present, you can never go to the mall again. Saints Row 3 dropped not only the mall, but seemingly the entire concept of going inside a big, open building.

And, let’s not kid ourselves, people noticed. I noticed. Saints Row 3 was an amazing game, but almost everyone seemed to recognize that its base city was somehow… less. There were more exciting cutscenes, set pieces, and the occasional reason to deploy a parachute after leaping from your hover-bike, but there weren’t any malls. There weren’t any places that made the SR3 city feel like a real place; simply stores that were singular rooms, and the occasional “level area” that felt very much like a Hyrulian dungeon. The Saints Row 3 city was a shell of the former glory of the series, particularly at a time when other franchises seemed to be moving forward with more immersive worlds.

And then Saints Row 4 effectively told the world that that was good enough, and outright reused the “old” city of Saints Row 3. New game, old city. Party foul, Volition, directors of Saints Row 4. You destroyed half the fun of an open world game before I even opened the box.

Tanks for the memoriesOf course, anyone familiar with the franchise or its producers knows the truth of the matter. In short, without reusing assets to an absurd degree, there literally would be no Saints Row 4. And that would be a major loss for the universe! Saints Row 4 is an irrational amount of fun, predominantly because it takes the typical, mundane world of Saints Row 3 (well, as mundane as any world with Mayor Burt Reynolds could be) and adds super powers. Run like The Flash, fly like Superman, and telekinetically whip some cars around like Matthew Malloy (like you can’t use Wikipedia). When you were previously tethered to finding a conveniently unlocked car every seventeen seconds, being able to Hulk jump straight out of a lake and onto a building is a bit of a game changer, and truly makes Saints Row 4 its own experience. The wisdom of Solomon is telling me you don’t need a new city when you’ve got the speed of Mercury.

But you know what? Let’s stop trying to justify the loss of a new city, and acknowledge that Steelport, the official city of Saints Row 3 & 4, is actually pretty great.

Consider the number one complaint about modern open world games: there’s nothing to do. From Breath of the Wild to Skyrim to Dragon’s… Dogma? Age? Something like that… For all of those worlds, it seems the number one complaint is that there’s a crazy, humungous world to explore, but nothing to do. And that makes perfect sense, as any neighborhood where every dungeon and dragon is squished together is going to feel a bit claustrophobic. If your horse doesn’t have anywhere to run around, everywhere is going to feel like Hyrule Field, and then you may as well just be playing an N64 game. A big world needs the option to feel boring, because wide open spaces are practically a requirement.

WeeeeeeeBut all of the open world games named a moment ago are fantasy-based worlds. An empty field feels natural in Final Fantasy or Elder Scrolls because “the wilds of the frontier” are practically built into the genre. That’s not going to fly in an urban environment, because, come on, when was the last time you saw seven inches of a city uninhabited by anything. In New York City, I saw a landlord-tenant dispute over a sleeping bag. This means that, assuming you want your sandbox city to be remotely realistic, it’s time to populate every millimeter of the place with something. There are no nice rocks or fields of tumbleweed in Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row; no, every bit of the city has to have a building or fountain or maybe just a spot where some dude carrying a dildo spawns. You need something, otherwise the world is going to look unfinished.

And then there’s the form and function factor. This is a proper videogame, not some manner of Endless Ocean nonsense, so there are missions. Missions require venues, so of course robbing the bank or destroying the alien antennae needs a spot to be marked on the map. So that means you have to build a bank or an antennae. And they can’t be next to each other! No! There must be some space between them. And there’s a car chase at the tail end of the mission? Wow, better design the streets around that for some interesting twists and turns. Don’t forget to add a fruit cart! Now multiply that kind of thinking by about, what, twenty? To account for all the story missions? And how many optional missions are there? How many street races, ragdoll showcases, and gang fights have to be included? And what do you do when missions start running into missions? It’s not like every section of the city is walled off entirely; you need to account for jobs that will use the same highways and byways. Everything has to fit together, and I don’t have to remind any artists out there how difficult it can be when you have to change just one thing, and are then forced to change every damn thing around it. Smoothing out one road might change the entire shape of the city!

Just thinking about it gets me exhausted.

Take a lookBut this is the strength of Steelport. With a limited number of changes, the same city was used for two different games brimming with content. And that’s amazing! Considering that Saints Row 3 and Saints Row 4 have dramatically different movement options available (a tank is not the same as Supergirl speed), the fact that the same city can be used at all is a minor miracle. And once you factor in all the missions across both games, well, it seems a little silly to be worried about the loss of a few open buildings. Yes, you might not have the same “lived-in” feeling of Saints Row 2, but SR3 and SR4 both use their shared city to do their jobs incredibly well. If you can use the same city to stage a noir-ish gang war story of betrayal and luchadores in the same place as a sci-fi epic featuring aliens and Agent Smith, then you’re clearly doing something right.

There’s nothing lazy about building something to last, and there’s nothing indolent about Steelport. This is how you reuse assets: by building something amazing and adaptable right from the beginning, and showcasing that remarkable flexibility. Here’s to the city planners of Steelport, because they know how to shape a city for the ages.

Though I do still miss the mall…

FGC #421 Saints Row 4

  • System: Available on PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. The Gat Out of Hell expansion (/entirely new game) came out at just the right time to boot this one up to the current gen consoles.
  • Number of players: Like SR3, this one has multiplayer that I have literally never tried. Let’s assume it’s good!
  • Favorite Weapon: There is a gun that inflates people’s heads. While I would like the ability to randomly inflate other body parts (I would very much like someone to explode thanks to unreasonably swollen calves), I can’t say no to N64-style body morphing.
  • OuchiePresident for a Day: It impacts practically nothing, but this title begins with your protagonist as President of the United States. I would personally like to play more adventures where you’re a Super Hero President… but then I start thinking about how my ideal game is Dynasty Warriors: Oops All Presidents, and how much it would kick ass to take out hordes of enemies with an extremely over-leveled William Howard Taft.
  • So, did you beat it? Yes. This is one of the few titles I actually completely Platinum’ed. I would be more proud of that if it didn’t involve rubberbanding a controller so I could fly around on a hover bike for an hour…
  • Did you know? This game canonizes the “Saints Row 1 model” character as a virtual reality created “boss” during one mission. This means that, without a doubt, if your protagonist is female in Saints Row 4, she’s trans, and not just implied to “look different” like in Saints Row 2. I think this means we have exactly one videogame franchise with a potentially trans hero. Progress!
  • Would I play again: Absolutely. I intended to play through Saints Row 4 on PS4 for this review, even… but it’s a long game! And I have a 100% save file right there on PS3! And I like running around like an invincible idiot! It happens!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Captain Commando! Caaaaaaptain Commaaaaaando! Or… maybe I’m thinking of something else…. No matter! Please look forward to it!

Where did it all go?

FGC #296 Driver: You Are the Wheelman

DRIVE!And now for the other side of those awkward Playstation years: that time when no one knew what a videogame was supposed to be.

In the beginning, there was Pong, and it was good. And Pong begat a number of arcade experiences, like Asteroids, Space Invaders, and everyone’s beloved Pac-Man. And, while we were all happy with one screen of action, action, action, eventually gaming’s collective attention span required more. Mario became super the very moment his stages became long, horizontal affairs that could take whole minutes to complete. Sometimes there was a dinosaur at the end of the world! And a princess! And, while it was the teeniest of plots, there technically was a plot, and no more were we forced to use our imaginations to envisage why this puck-shaped fellow was being chased by four monsters.

But, for better or worse, there was always a divide. There were games where brave heroes ventured forth to conquer bad guys and maybe get a new weapon along the way to stab and/or shoot said bad guys, and there were also games that provided those classical “arcade experiences”. Pong was basically tennis, which I’m told is one of those sports things, and, in a way, many sports games were narratively no more complicated than Pong. Play game, win game. It’s the same in football as it is in Donkey Kong. Maybe there’s a story attached, but the only story that matters is that you “beat the game”. This is, at its core, the essence of the arcade experience, as if you’re not fighting toward an achievable goal, then why the hell are you wasting all those quarters? If I leave this arcade without ASS being at the top of the score table, then what am I fighting for?(!?!?!!)

SWERVE!But sometime around the Playstation era, that kind of thinking fell by the wayside. Maybe it was because the arcades started to follow the path of the dodo, or maybe everybody just desperately wanted to be Final Fantasy 7, but, whatever the reason, by the time we made it to the Playstation 2, every game had to have a complete story and incremental goals and a “40 hour, RPG-like experience”. Maybe it was a ploy to sell memory cards? All I know is that a “quick” experience like Mischief Makers, a game that would have been perfectly content to be an enjoyable 16-bit rental, was now derided for not stretching its content to fit some arbitrary length restriction. And Mischief Makers wasn’t alone: if a game was released, and it could be completed in an afternoon, it was panned from here to the hallowed halls of EGM.

And this led to some… awkward moments.

Driver: You Are the Wheelman won the 1999 E3 award for “best racing game”. Racing games have always been firmly planted in the “arcade experience” section, as, come on, is there anything more pure than “gotta go fast(er than everybody else)”? However, Driver is much more than a racing game: Driver is basically a proto-Grand Theft Auto (3). We’ve got some big (for Playstation 1) cities, cops to outrun at all times, and an emphasis on a bunch of random “challenges” you can perform with a car. Drive to hit checkpoints, drive to ram designated cars, drive to be a courier… I’m pretty sure I have a good idea where the title “Driver” title came from. When you get right down to it, “racing” seems like a poor description of this experience, as I don’t recall any time the stars of Crusin’ USA or Mario Kart had to worry about an arrest warrant. Well, maybe Bowser has a few priors, but the Mushroom Kingdom justice system is naively lax.

But anyone returning to Driver from the sandbox-dominated future of right now is in for a rude awakening. Yes, there are all the GTA-esque activities available to you in Driver, but they’re all selectable from the title screen, not unlike choosing cups in a racing game. And, with the exception of a few unlockable cities, they’re all available from the first moment you start up the game. Think of it! A world where you can just replay your favorite missions at your leisure, and you don’t have to randomly drive all over the city looking for some capricious marker (and then never playing the mission again after it’s completed once). And what happens to those big, wide open cities if they’re not attached to mission markers? Well you can just choose “free mode”, and putter around town without a care in the world. Well… assuming you don’t piss off the local constabulary by merely existing.

VroomSpeaking of the po-po, there is a plot here. There’s a “story mode”, and it similarly showcases the times. Rather than going full criminal like every GTA descendant, you’re a police officer that just happens to be undercover as a nefarious wheelman. Eventually the FBI or CIA or FDA or somebody screws up, and you’re stuck on the wrong side of the law, and…. You know what? It doesn’t matter. No one is going to play through the story mode, because it’s attached to an opening “qualifying” stage that is completely impossible. But there is a trick to it! You have to exit the game, completely lose your progress (which, admittedly, was just watching one cinema scene… but still!), hop over to the “Training” menu, then learn all the super cool moves (like, uh, holding down the gas pedal really long), remember all the super cool moves, and then completely restart your game. It’s that easy!

And, for the record, if you’re playing this in 2017, you will curse every messageboard post about the scourge of “on screen tutorials” for the rest of your days.

But that’s Driver: You Are the Wheelman in a nutshell: it’s a videogame that has no idea how to be a videogame. It wants to straddle the line between arcade experience and story-based adventure, but it has no clue how to marry the two experiences, and we’re left with something very… confused. Driver isn’t a bad game, but it’s one of many Playstation games that simultaneously embraced the long-form narrative and overtly shied away from offending anyone that might not want to play for longer than five minutes.

So every time you complain about another Skyrim-alike or GTA-alike or even your bog standard generic platformer, be glad you live in a world where most videogames know how to be videogames and not… whatever happened here.

FGC #296 Driver: You Are the Wheelman

  • I'm a poor night driverSystem: Playstation 1, but then it eventually pulled into the Windows and Mac parking lots. It also had a Gameboy Color and iphone port, and those must be peachy.
  • Number of players: And it’s also a single player game. Another sign of the inevitable story mode domination.
  • Favorite City: New York, New York, it’s a hell of a town… that I don’t really like in reality, but it makes for a good series of levels.
  • Did you really not make it past the tutorial? Not for a good long while. I mean, it’s not like you can’t play most of the rest of the game without beating that damn stage. Also, there’s the matter of…
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I got this game for free. For some bizarre reason, I found this game (complete with case and manual) in the back of the ol’ band storage area in high school. I asked around, put it in the lost and found, and no one claimed the game, so, after a month, I took home my prize. I have always pathologically over-valued videogames, so I literally could not understand someone “losing” an entire Playstation game. … Then again, now that I’ve played Driver, I can maybe understand that impulse a little better.
  • Did you know? The final unlockable city is Newcastle upon Tyne, the hometown of Reflections Interactive. On one hand, that’s kind of neat, on the other hand, it’s vaguely masturbatory. Do you know what’s special about Newcastle upon Tyne? Yeah, me neither.
  • Would I play again: Grand Theft Auto 3 is, like, right there.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Uniracers! See, now there’s a game that knows its genre! Please look forward to it!

Ugh

FGC #247 Gravity Rush

WeeeeeGravity Rush is a game that is… a might confused about its intentions.

Gravity Rush is only available on Playstation Vita (currently owned by six people) and the Playstation 4 (currently only owned by jerks), so I’ll forgive you if you haven’t played it. In short, the gameplay of Gravity Rush is based on the magical skills of Kat and her cat (oh, I just got that), Dusty. Kat has the ability to twist the horizon to her will, so she can, at any given moment, “rotate” gravity so she can run up walls, across sewer ceilings, or just haplessly “fall up”. It’s a simple, easy to control mechanic, and it’s a testament to the designers that an entire city and all the “stages” contained therein work so well with Kat able to spider-crawl all over the city.

Oh, also, it’s fun as hell.

There has always been an unusual amount of debate over “sandbox games” (aka GTA clones) and whether or not it’s even possible to make a modern, city-based sandbox game and still be a good guy. Grand Theft Auto (3) set the standard with its rotating cast of psychopaths, and the likes of Saint’s Row refined the concept with superpowers and aliens (aliens make everything better), but even in games where you’re a “good guy”, you still kind of come off as less Robocop and more Judge Dredd (hi, Crackdown!). And, while it’s always fun to watch someone attempt to play GTA while obeying every traffic signal and only stealing cars when absolutely legally appropriate (huh?), nearly all of those games are based around “the fun is in the mayhem”. Heck, I’d argue that the absolute worst parts of any of those franchises are when you’re forced to follow the rules, and maybe not launch your date into the stratosphere just because she’s taking too damn long to get in the car.

WeeeeeGravity Rush has a very GTA-esque setup with its four main “districts” that comprise one giant city, but you’re a law abiding citizen. And, while you can damage property, kick pedestrians, or “accidentally” gravity-hurl soldiers into the next zip code, there are no rewards for doing so. There’s no penalty, either, so you’re not going to summon a tank because you’re causing too much mischief. It’s just you, Kat, and some gems to collect that are mysteriously hanging upside down off that Space Needle-wannabe. The only “things to do” around town are complete missions, collect gems from weird places, and maybe try to discover a secret or two hidden around the nooks and crannies of the city. That’s it. No stand-offs with the police. No vehicle theft. There isn’t even a single weapon available beyond Kat’s own limbs (and maybe tossing a trash can around). This should get old fast.

Yet, I could “gravity rush” over this city for days.

It’s difficult to even try to put into words, but there is a simple joy in running all over Hekseville. And I do mean “running all over”, as I’m pretty sure I left Kat’s footprints on every last surface in town. From way down in the depths to the tippy top of that clock tower, Kat gets around. And there’s no penalty for being… shall we say… careless. Kat does not experience fall damage, and, presumably because her spine is made of some manner of jelly substance, there’s never a single complaint even when the gravity gauge inopportunely runs out while our heroine is a mile up. You even are safely deposited back on terra firma if you manage to fall off the edge of the world. This is essential to the game, because, if there were a penalty for “improper” gravity rushing, then you might carefully conserve those gravity powers and not, ya know, have fun with it. With very few penalties for falling (okay, it might be a pain to get back to where you were if you plummet particularly badly), you’re always encouraged to gravity rush around, and, yes, it’s a rush.

It’s just a shame the rest of the game doesn’t quite understand that.

BoooThere are two sides to Gravity Rush: the exploration and the combat. This is pretty normal for a video game, because I could describe, say, Super Metroid in exactly the same manner. You’re using a different skill set when you’re getting to Ridley than when you’re fighting Ridley, and, while there is some overlap, they’re very different experiences. Gravity Rush is no different, and, while the exploration of Gravity Rush is new and exciting, the combat is rote and, frankly, archaic. You’ve got a basic melee attack, a dodge roll, a jump kick, and a dash attack. Hm, we’re barely a step above Final Fight here. But you have gravity powers! And you can use ‘em to hover high in the sky, and then deliver a devastating dive kick. And… that’s about it. You have a few other gravity powers, but they’re all extremely limited by a sort of “magic meter” that will refill just in time for the battle to be over. So you’re stuck dive-kicking over and over again, which is fun for like five seconds, but if I wanted to play a game that was dive kicking all the time, I’d just play some dive kick based game like, I don’t know, Street Fighter.

Oh, and did I mention that there are a number of flying and “tall” monsters that absolutely require all dive kick, all the time? Yeah, it gets old.

And, unfortunately, Gravity Rush’s combat leaves such a sour taste in my mouth that I made this chart describing my time playing the main campaign:

VISUAL AID

It wouldn’t even be so bad if there wasn’t so much of an emphasis on bosses and monster mobs. Or if the bosses/monsters worked as intended, like, at all! I can’t tell you how many times I attempted a dive kick on some random monster, and somehow rammed into their underside, or some random bump on their model, or something, and, whoops, no, Kat is just hovering there doing zero damage for no reason now. There’s even a special “drill kick” homing attack that is really powerful… but half the time I used it I got stuck on a tree or a wing or whatever, and the attack petered out to nothing. That’s always fun! Let’s make the worst parts of this game take even longer!

Tiamat?And it’s a damn shame, because replaying the city “free” bits for this article, I was reminded just how overwhelmingly fun this game can be. Like a good Metroid or Mario game, there’s joy just in playing around, not necessarily working toward the next goal, but shooting around this enormous playground and enjoying your time in this world. And then there are the missions that, overwhelmingly, suck. Or, even if they don’t completely suck, they at least drag down the fun to a monotonous level. And that’s no fun at all.

So, hey, people that made Gravity Rush? You made an amazing, innovative game here… How about you let me play that?

FGC #247 Gravity Rush

  • System: Playstation Vita and Playstation 4. The PS4 version contains all the additional Vita DLC, for the record.
  • Number of players: It’s Kat against the world. Or with the world. Depends on the day.
  • Port-o-Call: I own this game for both systems (yes, I’m a jerk), and, frankly, I don’t think I could go back to the Vita version. Everything feels so… cramped. This game kind of needs the widescreen, movie-theatre treatment, because, seriously, when you’re shifting the horizon, it should be life-sized.
  • Favorite city division: Who decided to put the red light district next to the largest school in the city? A genius, that’s who!
  • Like Mario?Aesthetics Corner: Is there an art book for this game? There should be, because, damn, I could look at Gravity Rush art for at least 200 pages or so. That said, whether it’s deliberate or not, I feel like the first area of this game is its ugliest, which provides a poor first impression. Or maybe I just don’t like yellows…
  • Cats always land on their feet: Oh. Just got that, too.
  • Did you know? This game was the brainchild of Keiichiro Toyama, previously best known for Silent Hill. However, according to interviews, he had the idea for Gravity Rush well before the creation of Silent Hill, and it was partially inspired by the comics of Moebius. If you’re unfamiliar with anything in this bullet point, please check out the output of both of these men immediately.
  • Would I play again: I would play the “completed save” again, but I’m not so sure about the actual game-game. I’m even looking sideways at those side missions…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Cruis’n USA for the N64! Let’s see the sights at 90 MPH! Please look forward to it!


Weeeeeeeeeeee!

FGC #215 The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

Get ready to smash!The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction might be one of the most inadvertently clever games in all of gaming.

There have been a number of Incredible Hulk videogames over the years, and even more games that simply involve the big green meanie. This makes a certain kind of sense, as, even more than his superhero contemporaries, Hulk is pretty much made for the videogame arena. Which would you rather play? A game where Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, must make careful, measured decisions about the fate of his people while maintaining complete silence, or do you want to smash tanks with a massive maniac? Even Hulk’s basic skillset reads like an NES instruction manual: Hulk runs, jumps, and punches. Collect powerups to get angrier! Press the “smash” button to clear the screen!

But, alas, Hulk doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to videogames. In general, while a God of War style rage-romp through the entire Marvel Universe would fit Hulk like some stretchy purple pants, we have yet to see such a gaming event. When Hulk appears beside his fellow heroes, he simply becomes the random “strong guy”, and can be relied on to be slightly more powerful than Iron Man, but not as fast as Spider-Man (well, except in that one stupid game where he only appeared as Bruce Banner… damn copyrights…). Similarly, in fighting games, Hulk is just there to be the “balanced” strong guy, because, inevitably, there’s a Juggernaut or Sentinel to be the “real” big guy. Hulk can’t catch a break! And even in his starring adventures, Hulk has a tendency to be fairly generic. Come to think of it, maybe his “straightforward” powerset naturally makes Hulk fairly indistinguishable from other videogame heroes. I think Lester the Unlikely had a more complex set of abilities in the 16-bit era than Doc Green.

WeeeeeeBut the open world renaissance of the early 21st Century (aka that time everyone was trying to ape Grand Theft Auto 3) led to possibly the greatest expression of that genre. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a game where, finally, you get to experience what it is to be the Hulk.

The most overt appeal of TIH:UD is, of course, a Hulk that can finally do something. Hulk smash, and Hulk jump, but this is also a Hulk that can run up buildings, launch missiles, and perform piledrivers. Hulk can even use some of that puny Banner’s smarts to transform cars into metal boxing gloves. Think about it: the Hulk can now equip Hulk Hands! We live in the best of all possible worlds! And, while those skills are primarily focused on destroying your nearest soldier, tank, or giant mecha, it all adapts very well to the traversal of an open world game. You don’t need a car, Hulk can run. You don’t need a plane, Hulk jump good. Even the concept of “fast travel” is perfectly masked by the Hulk’s random ability to jump cross country in a single bound. These are all skills we’ve seen utilized in other videogames, but rarely to the point that we see them in TIH:UD. Remember how C.J. jumped? Hulk is the one with the ups.

And, as one might expect, all these skills are put to the test during the plot-mandated missions. General Ross and Abomination are out for Hulk’s gamma-irradiated blood, but Hulk is the strongest one there is, so let’s beat down everything wearing a uniform within sixty miles. And, while the missions might not be as fun as running around the city, they do have a tendency to introduce new gameplay mechanics (re: ways to hit things, things to hit), and the plot is expected Hulk fair. Green behemoths wreaking up the place is kind of the draw of the game, and missions are how you get there.

Except… Well, this is where you really get to be the Hulk.

Public transportation sucks!The Hulk has been around for over fifty years, so there have been a lot of interpretations of Robert Bruce Banner. He’s been shrunk down to become the warlord of a micro world, ejected into space to become a warlord of an entire planet, and there was that time he went to Vegas and inexplicably did not become a warlord of any kind. Though many adventures, he’s fought practically every member of his supporting cast (his Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Lex Luthor have all been gamma monsters at some point [occasionally simultaneously]), joined the Avengers, and even temporarily became Lou Ferrigno. But, when Hulk is at his most Hulk, he sticks to two mantras: “Hulk is the strongest one there is”, and “Hulk just wants to be left alone”.

And, when playing an open-world, GTA-style game, don’t we all just want to be left alone?

It is fun to be the Hulk. It is fun to run around the city smashing whatever unfortunate object wanders into Hulk’s path. And, what’s more, it’s fun to be as damn unbeatable as the Hulk, and to not really have to worry about anything the “police” of the game toss in Hulk’s general direction. It is very easy to dash around the city collecting enough health to survive practically any “random” onslaught. Heck, come to think of it, it almost feels good to take a hit. Hulk was just shot with a missile, and it did the tiniest sliver of damage. I’m invincible! Bwa ha ha!

PILEDRIVERAnd then there are the missions. The missions can be fun, but they’re also Hulk’s homework. They’re balanced to actually be something of a challenge, and, thus, they can be demanding. Hulk can fail. Hulk can be captured. Yes, the missions have to have some difficulty, because otherwise what’s even the point of playing the game, but… It’s never fun to see a game over. It’s never fun to be “stuck” on some particularly intensive boss, and find out you either have to get your skills or experience up. There’s nothing fun about roadblocks. Hulk is supposed to smash puny roadblocks.

But you can ignore the missions! You can just roam around the city at your leisure… and still be reminded by markers, subtitles, and the general plot that it’s time to stop having fun now and get back to the “real” game. Stop running around smashing indiscriminately, player, you should be getting back to business now. Are you ready yet? How about now? Don’t you want to fight the Abomination? He’s right there in the trailer for a reason, player. Come on, stop roaming.

But player doesn’t want to go back to the mission. Player just wants to be left alone.

Look, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, stop pestering me. You’re making me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

FGC #215 The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

  • System: Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube. Aw, remember when licensed games were on Nintendo systems?
  • Number of players: Red Hulk, Blue Hulk, Gray Hulk, and Orange Hulk do not appear in this game. You’re stuck with one Green Hulk.
  • Temptation to write this article in all caps and use zero pronouns: HIGH.
  • HERE WE GOBest Superhero game? Technically the best superhero game will always be something in the Marvel vs. Capcom line, but this game might be the most true to the character. You spend all of the Arkham series watching Batman beat people to death (and occasionally use a tank and electricity gun), Superman is never as super as he’s supposed to be, and videogame Spider-Man is able to spend more than five minutes outside of a guilt-inflicted fetal position. Hulk gets to be Hulk in his game. That’s commendable.
  • Sequel Time: I understand the movie-based Playstation 3 The Incredible Hulk was similar to this adventure, but I dodged that game, as the Superman Returns tie-in game pretty much soured me on licensed superhero movie videogames forever. The hurt runs deep.
  • Did you know? According to at least one Marvel Comic, no innocent people have ever died in a single Hulk rampage, because if Bruce Banner knew he was a murderer, he’d commit suicide immediately to permanently cage the Hulk. Even if we take this completely insane factoid as true, then the ol’ super scientist is still ignoring the economic ramifications of a Hulk storm and how many people are likely doomed to die in poverty thanks to destroyed homes and ludicrous medical bills. There, I just justified the Marvel Illuminati.
  • Would I play again: I might fire it up again to experience glorious Hulk-o-Vision again, but I’d really prefer a modern day sequel where you can actually completely level a city, Rampage style. Yes, an entire city would have to respawn every time you changed areas, but, man, I would play that game every day until the end of time.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Code of Princess for the Nintendo 3DS! Anime hijinks and a whole lot of dragons to stab? I’m there! Please look forward to it!

Nice