If you’re going to reboot a movie franchise, you might as well have a go at the videogame franchise. too. But unlike Marvel and Paramount with their Edward Norton starrer, Sega is unabashedly following in the footsteps of an earlier incarnation, 2005’s “The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction” with its more modestly titled movie tie-in “The Incredible Hulk.” To be fair, there isn’t a word yet for “post-ultimate” destruction, but the lack of a subtitle is appropriate for this flimsier and less ambitious game that’s unlikely to set off a rampage to videogame stores.
The good news is that “The Incredible Hulk” isn’t just a rote presentation of the upcoming movie. Instead, it’s a follow-up to “Ultimate Destruction’s” smashable open-world, set in a New York City beleaguered by rage-sucking nano-bees, madness guns, giant cyclops robots and flying soldiers with laser guns, hoverships and anti-Hulk turrets. It all makes about as much sense as it sounds.
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Although the design is a spirited presentation of the “Hulk smash!” ethos, the technology has a chintzy feel. Some areas look great (Times Square, various back alleys), some look unfinished (the expressways, Central Park), and most just look the same. For people who’ve recently played the gorgeous “Grand Theft Auto IV,” this New York will look like a really sad also-ran.
The destruction has a disappointing papier-mache feel. The environments are so primed to burst that Hulk brushing up against something has pretty much the same effect as him pounding it with two fists. As the giant green guy leaps like a pogo stick around the city or just runs through the waves of debris he creates everywhere he goes, the constant crush of vehicles, street lamps, and hot dog stands devolves into a steady drone.
“Steady drone” is also a good term to describe the voice perf of Edward Norton. It’s quite obvious the multiple Oscar nominee doesn’t want to be here, though it’s not his fault he’s stuck reading lines like, “Rendering an entire city uninhabitable makes me angry!” He does his best to sound uninterested, which is helped by a conspicuous lack of cutscenes. Instead, the story is moved along by such uninspiring visuals as a picture of a cell phone or a computer readout.
Similarly, a lot of the missions feel unoriginal and under developed, as if the game makers couldn’t afford to reject a single one of them. Despite the open world design, the plot is rigidly linear with few options. The only variations are a handful of minigames that task Hulk with punching buildings, carrying around taxis or literally jumping through hoops, but most of these are uninteresting busywork.
But after a few hours, as the silly plot rolls along at a steady pace and Hulk’s “feats” rack up and unlock new abilities, a certain charm bubbles up from the middling tech, fussy interface and chintzy physics. There’s the quality of a sloppy puppy, eager to please, even if he can’t quite do the same tricks as the bigger dogs.