The Incredible Hulk Xbox 360 review

He's topped the box office - but will the big green fella have the same effect in the gaming world? James checks out the tie-in game...

Don't be angry, people...

If there’s one adjective that shouldn’t be attached to this game, it’s the one they actually did attach to it. Most of the fun you have in The Incredible Hulk will be directly related to how much you allow yourself to psychologically become the Hulk as you play, be that leaping away from the attacking army while shouting “HULK JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE!” at your TV, or levelling every building in the city to punish the puny humans that attacked you. The skeleton of a good game is there, it’s up to you to put some real meat on the bones. Placed in a fairly decent facsimile of New York and guided by Rick Jones, your mission is to survive long enough to bring down the mad-scientist clique, the Enclave. Or, y’know, don’t.

After all, the missions are almost always dull retreads of the same game mechanic. You jump or run to various markers on the map, punching everything there, lather, rinse, and repeat until braindead. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself doing an escort mission, which steers the game into new and frustrating territory as you try and get a measure of precision out of controls designed to let you leap tall buildings and punch tanks. Hitting a soldier or hopping a short distance requires you to perform Herculean acts of prevision that’ll reduce you to a weeping shell after a few attempts. In the opening mission (which was so poor I almost gave up on it) you are confined indoors, and need but to brush past anything that’s not nailed down to send it careening unexpectedly down the room. Hulk is an unintentional whirlwind of destruction, more clumsy than a teenager with balance problems, and most of the time it looks and feels ridiculous.

The free mode is actually a much more satisfying way of playing the game – aside from the sheer fun that can be had in running, jumping and hitting stuff when it’s not attached to a mission objective, there are numerous “feats” that unlock upgrades to the Hulk’s abilities, such as “climb to the top of New York’s 5 highest buildings” or “throw 5 enemies off a building.” Fulfilling these objectives is actually substantially more fun than following the rails of each mission. Rewards for completing feats or collecting comic covers also come in the form of new characters to play as, the kind of easter eggs that comic nerds will love (and I should know.)

The city itself is rendered in nice detail, with numerous landmarks from both the real world and the Marvel universe included – and better yet, made destructible, with bonuses for levelling each one. The claim that you can “destroy” any building is slightly over-hyped – what it actually means is that buildings have a health value and you can knock them down – in many cases, with “realistic” damage – but they’re not fully rendered internally, you can’t really get past destroying the outer walls. The mechanism for buildings that are actually collapsing is laughable, too, as the entire object rapidly shoots into the ground, revealing a “destroyed” framework of rubble and girders beneath it. One of the game’s many obvious shortcuts.

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The plot, such that it is, barely makes any sense. It largely involves being attacked by the army or helping Rick Jones defeat “the Enclave.” In practise this means he’s shouting mission objectives at the Hulk through a radio earpiece as if he were a rational, intelligent being that could understand them. The story is as paper-thin as the gameplay – most of the times you don’t even get a cut-scene, and when you do you wish you hadn’t. Your missions usually get explained over a static screen as Ed Norton’s disinterested voice drawls over the top of it threatening to put you to sleep. In fact, why not just go to sleep? When you wake up and activate the mission, you’ll just have to run towards a map-marker and punch it. Why waste valuable snooze-time waiting to hear the explanation behind it?

As previously described, the engine is laughably unbalanced, and on occasion reveals itself as being nothing more than genuinely broken, crammed with the kind of physics bugs and confusing responses that typify a rush-release movie license. Jump in any body of water and witness the game completely freak out as the mechanic to get you back on dry land kicks in. Every part of the game feels slightly incomplete. It’s largely passable, but lots of issues betray the hastily tied-up threads of the game – like the fact that climbing the higher buildings leaves you staring down at a grey void where the city should be as the draw distance fails on you.

At least one major element of the Hulk’s character is flat-out missing. Where, I might ask, is the mechanic that allows you to change back into Bruce Banner? It’s a startling omission that could easily have been worked into the game and provided a modicum of extra dimension – after all, how hard would it have been to make the player need to change back into Banner to travel on the subway, rather than, say, leave them with the image of the Hulk riding a train? It would’ve made things substantially more fun, but alas, Brucie himself is restricted to cut-scene appearances only.

Despite all this, it is a slightly above-average example of a movie tie-in game. Saying that, however, is nothing if not the very embodiment of the phrase “damned with faint praise.” The more you play the game the more you realise that there’s nothing to it. There’s a few afternoons fun to be had, but the rot of repetitious gameplay will soon set in, and it’ll work its way to the bottom of your pile soon enough.

2 out of 5
if you’re a casual gamer

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3 out of 5
if you’re a dedicated Hulk fanatic.

Rating:

2 out of 5