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.
But 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.
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!
And 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.
- Best 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!