by Jon Quixote
Contrary to what The General (commander of the army of Wrong) may claim, the Hulk does not kill. I know this. Not one hour ago, I saw The Hulk pick up a New York pedestrian, pound him in the head three times, and then throw him into a city bus with enough velocity to cause an explosion. And in doing so, the Hulk took enough care to ensure that the man was able to get up, dust himself off, and run far far away.
Thus endeth the lesson. The Incredible Hulk, at least the one that stars in Sega's new video game, does not kill. No matter how hard I try to make him. He can't. I blame puny Banner.
But when it comes to property damage, however, Hulk makes Niko Bellic look like Rudy Giuliani. If you like to smash things - buildings, tanks, billboards, army men in high-tech exoskeletons - is this ever the game for you. And if you don't like that at all... well, I guess you shouldn't be spending your time playing video games anyway. You're busy figuring out what the hell is wrong with you.
In small doses, running a half-ton gamma-powered Godzilla through what looks to be decently rendered Manhattan is a lot of fun. The Incredible Hulk: The Game follows the GTA-inspired pattern established by the Spider-Man games: you have the run of the city, vertically and horizontally, with missions, challenges, and easter-eggs sprinkled throughout. And much like Ultimate Destruction, if you decide you want to leave Rick Jones to the Enclave and just start smashing the heck out of the city, you can do that too.
The nice thing about The Incredible Hulk is that there are lots of small coolnesses. From being able to unlock and play as the different Hulks, like Mr. Fixit, to a very active progression system, so far there's always been something to keep me playing. There are challenges within challenges like trying to maneuver the U-Foes to take each other out. There are comic book references, like DAMAGE CONTROL vans putting around the city (and irony, when you throw one hard enough to bring down the Chrysler building. That was awesome. But I'm a Ford guy, so maybe it's just me.).
I also really felt like The Hulk. Not just in regards to the raw power in the avatar, but also in more subtle ways. Do enough damage, and the army comes after you. But the mere act of moving around the city as the Hulk causes that damage, and if you land on one too many taxicabs while hopping to the next mission, you can find yourself being hunted mercilessly by armored vehicles and soldiers with sonic cannons no matter how benevolently you're playing. At one point, just trying to get to the next checkpoint and running into a battalion of army dudes, I actually exclaimed "$#@%!, leave me alone!" and then had to pause for a moment to reflect on what happened.
The major criticism I can make about this game is that there's not much in the way of large coolnesses. Much like the aforementioned Spider-Man games, I start to wear down. I'm not the best video game reviewer because I get bored very easily (the only game I've played through to the end in the last five years is CoD4). I'm surprised that a week later I'm still happy to give an hour or two to this game here and there, but I'm starting to fade. The storyline isn't engaging in the slightest, and the game never really rises above button-push fighting.
Did I mention Bi-Beast was in this game? I guess Woodgod was tied up i some sort of licensing snafu. Still, someone actually thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if Hulk fought Bi-Beast?" I would like to buy that person a beer.
Still, it's the best comic book game I've played since Ultimate Alliance. It's basically a next-gen tweak of Ultimate Destruction, but the developers went out of their way not only to make it look gorgeous, but to make it a lot more fun. I think they're hampered by the parameters of what they're doing - there's nothing innovative going on behind this very basic, almost old-school game. But they did a pretty good job making something to satisfy both my twitchy ADD gamer self and my comic book geek side.
Verdict: B. Definitely rentable. Maybe even worth a purchase.
Iron Man, on the other hand, was a downright miserable experience. A herky-jerky aerial combat game that bordered on the unplayable.
Now, I'll cop to some personal bias here. I like video games. However, I suck at them. I'm a 30 year old who's more like 40 on the tech-curve. There's a type of game that seems to be gaining popularity as engines progress, and that's the type of game that's super-speedy and incredibly chaotic. Iron Man is in that style. A 3-D aerial combat version of Smash TV.
Maybe there's an art to these games that I just don't get, but that is incredibly enjoyable and satisfying to a certain demographic. But this is my experience with Iron Man: I'd fly over a hill and into a swarm of bad guys. I'd fly far away, I'd lock in on one, I'd fly through the swarm while firing on my target, and the target would blow up. I'd fly away again, heal if necessary (rarely necessary), and then repeat. Wheeeeee? I'd rather play that stupid horse riding game I saw in Untraceable. You know, the one that gives tech-savvy psychopaths access to all the data in my hard drive.
I also struggled with the controls and the camera mechanics. There's a part of the game where Tony is supposed to grab onto a US fighter jet and take it down that way (rather than shooting them down and being a bad citizen). Well, good effing luck that I could find the things most of the time, and great effing luck trying to line myself up with them so that I could try and precision-time the grab. Three planes need the treatment and that was an hour of my life that was spent having ever so much fun.
Terrorists try to smuggle some fun into this game, but Iron Man puts a stop to their plot.
The capper on this game for me came when I got to fight Blacklash! Yay, right? A kitschy villain who I was excited to run into in video-game form, who I'm never going to get to fight outside of a dedicated Iron Man game. Except that I never ran into him, and killed him from afar without ever even seeing his character design or figuring out how he was hurting me. (It was either a whip or a helicopter, I'm pretty sure) How lame is that? That's Teen Tony Lame.
So my apologies to the people who worked on this game. I'm sure you all worked very hard. But you all suck.
There was one good thing about playing Iron Man. And that's the fact that having save-game data on my XBOX unlocked the Iron Man Hulkbuster armor as a playable 'skin' on my Hulk game. Sweet. I just turned Incredible Hulk: The Game into Armor Wars: Iron Man vs. Tanks.
Verdict: D-. If you're a dedicated comic-book video gamer, and have nothing going on right now, maybe you might squeeze a couple hours of enjoyment out of this one. But that's about it.
by Jon Quixote