It can’t be much fun being the Incredible Hulk. Spending half your time as the weedy Bruce Banner in a constant struggle to come to terms with the pea-green rage inside; and the other half as the Hulk himself – who is no doubt far too angry to really enjoy the immense power he wields. It is all well and good being able to jump over skyscrapers and throw tanks over the horizon, but we’ve no doubt that, given the option, Banner would be more than happy to swap his trouser-bursting fury for a pair of red-pants and a cape.
We digress. "The Incredible Hulk: The Official Videogame" sees Sega (and developer, Edge of Reality) attempt to constrain the big green temperamental-fella within the framework of a free-roaming sand-box adventure. Unfortunately, much like the gamma rays that birthed the Hulk himself, this is a title that will probably make you want to throw your Wiimote out the window in a fit of rage (though we doubt Sega will take any responsibility for your shredded under-garments!).
Hot on the heels of the truly abysmal "Iron Man – The Official Video Game", Sega’s latest effort to capture the magic of the Marvel Universe doesn’t quite manage to plumb the same dark depths as Tony Stark’s adventure, but that’s not for want of trying. Essentially a (poor) remake of the enjoyable "The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction", "The Official Videogame" is sandbox gaming at its most rudimentary.
Set in New York City, gameplay focuses on running around smashing things up and, for the first half an hour or so, this actually proves to be quite enjoyable. Despite the awful, half-finished graphics (more on that later), taking control of the Hulk does manage to imbue a sense of the infinite power and possibility that the character represents. Scaling buildings, smashing to the ground from hundreds of feet up, hurling cars and pounding bad-guys into the pavement can feel weighty and visceral, and the accompanying audio is beefy enough to genuinely add to the experience.
Fast forward a few hours, however, to a time when cars are still being hurled, buildings are still being scaled and bad-guys are still being pounded into the pavement, and that sense of empowerment has now become a memory, worn away by stultifying repetition. Missions in "The Incredible Hulk: The Official Videogame" can nearly all be summed up with two words: "find" and "smash". From finding and smashing bombs, to finding and smashing giant robots, this simple theme runs throughout, only to be broken up by various mini-games (which once found, for the most part involve smashing things up…).
That the actual combat can be marginally entertaining is to the game’s credit, but unfortunately that’s only if you can overlook the visuals. Where "Grand Theft Auto IV" rendered New York in an unprecedented degree of detail; "The Incredible Hulk" presents one of the most crudely realised translations of The Big Apple seen for a long time. Squinting into the fog of the abysmal draw-distances you can make out vague approximations of skyscrapers thrusting skyward (coated in textures which would look at home on the Nintendo 64) and cardboard looking cars bouncing down characterless streets past blank-eyed pedestrians. The model of the Hulk himself is passable, but the rest of the world can be described as "functional" at best.
Accompanying a big cinematic release can have benefits, and being able to feature the likeness and voice of Edward Norton in your game is one such benefit. Unfortunately the plot that knits all the wanton violence together fails to hold your attention, or indeed that of Norton himself, who sounds semi-conscious throughout. The narrative leaps between missions can be truly astounding; with face-offs against forty foot high robots preceding a citywide hunt for giant-footballs (sorry, bombs) to destroying groups of Enclave soldiers. This latter group (the game’s vaguely defined enemies) are using New York as a test bed for the experiments of four exo-suited scientists who… oh, it really doesn’t matter. All you need to know (and all you’ll really care about, so paper thin is the plot) is that they’re there to be thrown about, and that the Hulk is more than happy to oblige.
"The Incredible Hulk: The Official Videogame" sadly fails to break the curse of the superhero-movie-tie-in videogame, with graphics that astound for all the wrong reasons and gameplay that (although showing tiny glimpses of verve) will disappoint all but the most committed of Hulk fans. The Hulk, as a character, doesn’t really require the subtlest of touches and smashing things up can be fun, but "The Official Videogame" barely moves beyond this. Bruce Banner is famous for saying "Don’t make me angry – you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry". And do you know what? On this occasion he is absolutely right – we won’t.
Reviewed by Simeon Paskell at N-Europe.com