Review: The Hulk (PS2)

Game: The Hulk
System: PS2
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Radical
Publisher: Universal Interactive
Released: 5/28/03

It seems that there is one constant equation that links the movie world with the video game world: One hot summer movie ALWAYS equals a slew of video games to go with it. Let’s take a trip in the way-back machine and prove this equation.

Spiderman? Yep. Multi-console release and GBA release.

X-2? Sure. Wolverine gets another multi-console game.

Star Wars? Please. Too many to list from last year alone.

So now we come to the latest summer blockbuster: The Hulk. Universal Interactive looked at the big green guy, saw big green dollar signs, and wouldn’t ya know it, the equation still holds true. Here’s The Hulk, yet another multi-console release. Here, we’ll look at the PS2 version. Does the game actually live up to it’s name? Or is it yet another half-assed attempt to cash in on the movie hoop-la? I think we have a decent answer inside”¦

STORY

Surprisingly enough, the story does NOT parallel to the movie. The game takes place about a year after the movie. After awaking from a dreadful nightmare, Bruce Banner gets a call from an old friend of his, Professor Crawford. Crawford claims to have found a cure for Banner in the way of the “Gamma Orb.” Apparently this orb can remove the Gamma radiation from Banner and keep it in storage. So Banner bites, and sneaks into the lab. He makes it to the center of the lab, and undergoes the treatment.

Well, it turns out Banner was set up from the get-go. Crawford betrays him, and uses the Gamma energy to turn into the evil Hulk known as “Ravage”. But it turns out Crawford didn’t fully drain Banner of the radiation, for he immediately transforms into The Hulk afterwards. What follows a race against time as you try to stop Ravage from getting the Gamma Orb to “The Leader”.

GAMEPLAY

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are two different styles of play. There are Hulk levels, which consist of the big guy tearing into the bad guys and smashing his environment in order to progress. Then there are Bruce Banner levels, which allow you to control Banner through several stealth missions. The good news is that there are only five levels of Banner, and about 15 levels for Hulk, so you’re never too far from smashing action.

Banner’s controls are straightforward. You use the control stick to run, and hold down the X button to crouch and sneak. The Circle button allows you grab onto objects and/or operate different machinery. Assuming you get too close to the guards, use the Square button to punch. Being Banner, you won’t do a lot of damage, but hey, it’s one way to defend yourself. Holding the L buttons allow you to enter First-Person mode, which is only used for looking around. It’s not very useful, as there are really no situations that arise where you need to use it. Holding the R buttons will bring up a green crosshair that locks on to the nearest object, whether it is a crate, a terminal, or an enemy guard. This feature is useful in some areas where you can’t see, but where you can, you’ll see what you have to do without it.

Banner’s missions, as said before, focus solely on stealth. Nearly every mission involves breaking into somewhere, or breaking out of somewhere, or something in between. You’ll get clues at the bottom of the screen as to what you’ll need to do next, so that helps. Overall, these missions take a while to complete, and might frustrate the user from what he/she bought/rented the game for: smashing everything that moves. Luckily, when you finish a Banner mission”¦

“¦You control the Hulk. The slow, plodding gameplay suddenly turns into a highly enjoyable romp. Controls change as well when you “get angry.” You still use the control stick to move, but now you use the X button to jump. Square is still your punch button. Hit it rapidly for a combo, or hold the button down to charge for a big hit. The Triangle button will allow you to perform the “Sonic Clap” move, allowing you to temporarily stun certain enemies. Circle is used to grab nearly anything you can get your hands on: poles, debris, guards, robots, cars”¦practically anything in your environment is at your disposal. If you pick up a bad guy, there will be several things you can do when he’s in your possession. Square and Triangle will allow you perform special moves (that differ on who you pick up), while Circle will throw them at the nearest object. You can also perform special attacks while in the air. Holding Square in the air will allow you to execute a super punch to the ground, while Triangle will simply cause you to stomp the ground. The L and R buttons act the same as they did in the Banner missions, but you still won’t need their functions much.

In the left-hand corner of the screen, you’ll have two meters: a health meter, and a rage meter. The health meter is green, and can be replenished by collecting green orbs from downed enemies. The rage meter is red, and fills up with each enemy you kill. It can also fill by collecting red orbs from downed enemies and destroyed equipment. When the rage meter is maxed out, you’ll enter Rage Mode. The Hulk glows and does more damage with his attacks. You can also perform super attacks by pressing Square and Triangle together or Circle and Triangle together.

There’s not much thought that goes into the Hulk levels. Your goal is to smash your surroundings and beat up any and all enemies to get to the end of the level. There are three classes of enemies that you’ll have to deal with. There are humans, which are easily dealt with, and can be thrown around like rag dolls. There are gamma dogs, giant dogs that can jump on you and knock you down for several seconds. You can’t pick them up, but they get smashed just the same. Then there are the Gamma-infected soldiers. They are the toughest enemies you’ll face in the game, as they’ll take the most of Hulk’s power to put down. Picking them up will severely limit Hulk’s mobility, but they can provide the most entertaining enemies if you choose to slam them to the ground. (You’ll see when you play.) Giant robots also fit into this category. The unfortunate thing is that these enemies are the only types you’ll see in the game, despite how they are dressed. Even many of the game’s bosses are pretty much like the Gamma infected soldiers, just with a lot more hit points. A little more variety in this area would have been appreciated.

Another area variety would have benefited from is the fact that ALL the Hulk does is smash things. Every Hulk stage has this objective, and it never differs. Granted that all the Hulk does is destroy things anyway, but the action gets very repetitive. You might get tired of the same thing over and over as you progress to the end of the game. However, the action is pretty entertaining, and you WILL have fun with all of Hulk’s attacks, at least initially.

GRAPHICS

The Hulk is yet another game to fall under the cell-shading craze of character modeling. The characters themselves look incredibly realistic, and not too cartoony like other cel-shaded games. Each model is vibrant with an incredible array of facial expressions. There are also many unique animations that go with The Hulk and his enemies. Each Gamma-infused enemy has a decent array of attack animations, and The Hulk himself was given PLENTY to use. I also find it amusing that when The Hulk attacks and smashes up a room, the walls and floors that don’t break will crack under pressure. That was a nice touch. The cut scenes were also very well done. The characters transfer nicely from cut scene to gameplay, which is in incredible feat to say the least.

However, the graphics do have their downside. The environments Hulk fights are average at best, and most of those environments are incredibly dark. Many of the missions in the middle sections of the game will have you traveling through hallways of pitch-blackness, with no clue where you’re going, or what you are picking up. (Using the lock-on function, you’ll be able to focus on objects with the green crosshair, but it doesn’t help that much.) The problem becomes worse in the Bruce Banner levels. You’ll be sneaking around in total darkness, not running into any enemies, yet not progressing because you can’t see what you need to accomplish. This made the Banner levels very hard to traverse through, and nearly had me throwing my controller against the wall in frustration. Unfortunately, there is no “Brightness” option in the game to alleviate the problem.

The camera angles can also detract from the action in some areas. As you go along in some stages, the camera will suddenly change without warning to an odd angle. You might end up running the wrong way by accident and right into the danger you are trying to avoid. I’ve lost quite a few Banner levels this way.

SOUND

The in-game sound effects fully complement the huge multitude of destruction going on. Explosions, crashes, electric shocks, and screams of the innocent guards fill the senses as you bash and smash. The music, however, sounds a bit generic. You’ll hardly even notice it as you proceed through the Hulk levels, and it will grate your nerves as your sneak through the Banner levels. A little more effort could have been done with the score of this game.

In-game voices are good in some places, and horrible in others. During the cut scenes, you’ll be treated to some decent speeches by Bruce himself. It’s during the action scenes that the voices can get annoying. If the guards catch Bruce in the Banner levels, he’ll spout the same two or three phrases as you try to get away. You’ll get sick of those three phrases rather quickly. During the Hulk missions, you’ll hear lots of enemy chatter as you beat them up. The guards’ yelling is not so bad, but some of the Gamma-infected baddies can let out some real cheesy lines. “Drop me right now!” “I think we made him angry!” By far the worst example of this is when you start fighting robots. They’ll spout out some of the most stupid, monotone lines you’ll ever hear”¦over and over again. “Damage received.” “Aggressor identified: The Hulk.” Thank goodness you can kill the robots to make them stop.

FUN FACTOR

Outside of the twenty or so missions in the game, there’s a small chunk of extra stuff to see and play. As you go through the game, you’ll unlock items of “Challenge Mode” you can play. There’s “Endurance,” where you’ll fight wave after wave of enemies until you run out of energy. Then there’s “Time Attack,” which is just like Endurance except there’s a time limit. Then there’s the ever-popular “Hulk Smash!” mode, which is like Time Attack except you’ll get extra time by destroying your environment. Those who simply want to destroy things will probably spend most of their time in Challenge Mode when it’s unlocked.

You’ll also be privy to material relating to The Hulk movie. You get trailers, behind-the-scenes photos, and even a “Making-Of” movie focusing on both the movie AND the game. Those who loved the movie will appreciate these extras.

There’s also an extensive list of cheats, and a password system to enter them into. If you can find them, they might prolong the life of the game a tiny bit, but not a whole lot.

Ratings
Gameplay: 7
Graphics: 6
Sound: 6
Fun Factor: 7