The Hulk Review

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Publisher: Universal Interactive
Developer: Radical Entertainment

Platform: Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube
Reviewed on Xbox

He's big. He's green. He's what happens when you get Bruce Banner angry. In this third-person action game, you'll have a chance to smash your way though waves of enemies as the Hulk, as well as sneak your way around enemies as Bruce Banner. Once you've made your way through the single-player portion, additional, single- and multiplayer game modes await.

Rob de los Reyes

The Hulk movie is out, and Vivendi Universal continues to try to find the synergy (or some other consultancy buzzword) between its movie properties and its video game operations. Universal Interactive has had its share of stumbles in this regard but recently put together the intriguing The Thing and the surprisingly lively Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis. But those were old properties. The Hulk, by contrast, is completely reborn in the Ang Lee movie, and now we see the different parts of the Universal machine chugging in synchrony. If nothing else, the combined force of the marketing extravaganza has been something to behold.

And so, too, is The Hulk video game. It's one of the more visually appealing games to come along in some time. Its dark, edgy, graphic novel style artwork gives the entire game a more sinister look than the bright greens and purples you may remember from the old The Incredible Hulk TV cartoon. The game is true 3D, but the art style imparts a weird and attractive blend of 2D and 3D looks. Adding to the visual package, the Hulk is given some cool animations and attacks, like floating in mid-air while charging up a punch and an almost cute little kick move with his stumpy legs. Well-directed cut-scenes top off this impressive visual package.

But sometimes the stretch for the cinematic crosses the line between good viewing and good playing. Sometimes, when executing a nice move, the "camera" swivels for a more cinematic view. When the move is done, the camera returns to where you left it. It's a nifty effect. At other times, however, the camera slews around wildly for no discernable reason. Because movement control is relative to your view, you'll find yourself running to the left one minute and, without changing the direction of the control stick, suddenly running to the right the next. Most of the time, this is more irritating than genuinely problematic, but in a tough boss fight, it's absolutely maddening to line up your attack only to have your careful planning banished by an involuntary camera swing.

Beyond that, The Hulk bears few grievous sins, but it also fails to inspire. Story mode breaks down into two activities: smashing everything that moves (and many things that don't) as the Hulk and hiding from everything that moves as Bruce Banner. The Hulk comes equipped with a decent array of attacks available in fairly straightforward combinations. He can attack with punches and kicks and execute a ranged attack with a big clap of his hands. He can also pick up scenery elements to use as a club or a missile. And the fact is, it's just plain satisfying to use a forklift as a club, sending tiny human enemies flying into a corner. There isn't much to do as the Hulk other than swat wave after wave of enemies, but this is the Hulk after all. He should do long division?

Missions played as Bruce Banner are interwoven to break up the pace and provide a different sort of challenge. But mostly they just break up the pace. Banner tip-toes around, pulling a switch here, pushing a box there, and occasionally "hacking" a security system. The hacking part is something of a mini-puzzle requiring the quick reordering of number strings of various lengths. They're reflex tests more than brain-teasers and about as active as any other part of the Bruce levels. The rest of the levels are often spent fighting the camera angles in an attempt to understand what to do. What's more, Bruce's activities and choices are simply too limited in the face of games that have done the "stealth" thing more and better. And in the absence of more frequent save points, you'll have to replay more of them than you'd like.

Still, the unique visual package and the opportunity to take a few swings of a giant Hulk fist are easily worth the price of a rental. Given the relative brevity of the story mode, you may only need one rental session to finish, and as you beat certain bosses, you'll unlock other game modes with slight variations on the "Hulk smashes stuff" theme. If you're looking for a lot of depth in the fighting system, you won't find it. But you can find a decent array of combat moves right from the get-go. The relative single-mindedness of your goals as the Hulk tends toward the repetitive, but switching off levels with a friend seems enough to put a bit of pep back in the process. Have a few beers, break a few things, and let the experience roll off you. It's a summer movie game, after all; deep thoughts can wait for a rainy day.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 15, 2003 3:49 PM.

The Incredible Hulk Review was the previous entry.

Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness Review is the next entry.

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