"Jump anywhere, climb anything and smash everything!" screams the blurb on Radical Entertainment's forthcoming console title The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. In a gratuitous attempt to prove that the angry green giant is the most powerful superhero of them all, Radical Entertainment is readying a relentless display of comic book carnage that takes The Hulk's superhuman strength to new extremes.
Gamers will probably get a huge kick out of smashing entire buildings to rubble, creating weapons out of more or less anything they can lay your hands on, from cars to buses, with the freedom to stomp around the city at the speed of a sports car jumping off skyscrapers, pulling choppers from the sky and smashing passing aircraft to scrap metal.
With publisher Vivendi-Universal Games gearing up for the game's release on PS2 and Xbox later this year, we thought it was high time we grabbed a one to one with Radical's Eric Holmes, the Scot lead designer of this free roaming city based action romp.
Eurogamer: What's the new Hulk game about exactly?
Eric Holmes: The story focuses on a conflict between Bruce Banner and Emil Blonksy, who comic fans will recognise as the alter ego of a character who becomes known as The Abomination, and through the game's story we interpret and tell the origin story of Emil Blonksy becoming The Abomination. There are reasons for going through that and this conflict with Bruce Banner really resonates with the current audience. We've had really positive feedback on our story and the way it's really focused on Emil Blonksy's relationship with The Abomination and Bruce Banner's relationship with The Hulk and their relationship with each other and the journeys that they go through. We draw a lot of interesting comparisons between the two characteristics of the two men in question and the two monsters in question. There are some good themes in the story, some resonant concepts, and we're all pretty happy with it.
Eurogamer: There's no movie attachment this for the latest Hulk game: could you really do what you wanted this time?
Eric Holmes: This game is entirely based on the comic book, so we really wanted to take advantage of the rich comic book world that's there for The Hulk, possibly reinterpret the character a little bit in terms of what he can do as a game character beyond what you're familiar with or have seen in the movie.
We've indulged a bit more in what the player wants to do in the game. There's a lot more freedom to do the things you want to do. Sometimes you demo the game and people are a little bit shocked and surprised with the sort of things we've achieved with the game, and it's up to the player to decide whether he wants to do these sort of things or not.
Eurogamer: Is it based much more around the destructive element of The Hulk this time? No stealthy sections?
Eric Holmes: There's absolutely no Bruce Banner in this game. The whole game is based around one core mechanic, which is really the power of The Hulk, and exploring that in lots and lots of different ways. The Hulk has over 150 unique moves in the game; those break down into Locomotion abilities, combat abilities, special moves. Basically you can pick up objects in the world and apply them as weapons - this is what we're calling Weaponisation, where he actually takes objects in the world, changes the shape of them and then changes the use of them for gameplay. So, for example you might get a car, rip it in two, smash the parts together and then he has two giant steel boxing gloves he can use to fight with. Or take a bus slam it down with two giant slams, and then he has a shield which he can use to defend himself against projectiles. Around 70 of the moves are unlockable, a good variety are available at the start. We really want to allow the player the opportunity to really learn them all and have a strong purpose as to why you might use these moves that you unlock in different periods of the game.
So at the start of the game you have amazing locomotion; you can run all the way around the environment at about the same speed as a sports car drives, he can run up any wall. He's so powerful, he has so much momentum he just digs straight into the concrete and starts running up there, and jump incredible heights; I guess he can jump about twenty stories high when he really charges up and goes for it. And you can combine all these moves together to get this really fluid kind of movement throughout the environment. You can run down the street, slam straight into a wall, start climbing straight up, shoot off the top of a building, dash over the edge, stick your fingers into the concrete of another building and start clawing your way up to the top, charge up a jump, shoot off the top, jump onto a helicopter and then drag it down to the ground.
The way you combine stuff together is really a central part of the game. There's no stopping or starting when you're moving around if you don't want to - you can just tie everything together in one big fluid motion. It's pretty visceral when you get your hands on it.
Eurogamer: How does the whole city-based structure work in terms of how you design the missions and so on? Is it that familiar GTA sandbox style?
Eric Holmes: At any one particular time there's a least one story mission available to you plus a number of side missions. The story missions really help progress the game and explore the reasons why the Hulk may be doing one thing or another, or introduces a new enemy, or gives closure to another enemy. The side missions are a little more irreverent - there are a larger number of them available at any one time. You unlock those in batches, and they're crazier than the story missions, for example Hulk Golf, where Hulk has a giant golf ball in the desert or somewhere in the city, and you can use giant clubs to slam these huge physics objects five blocks in a single hit as he tries to slam it into this hole.
Another side mission Hulk has to grab an ambulance for someone who's injured and gets bonus points for causing casualties along the way as he takes them to hospital and then throws it into the emergency room. They're there to break up the pace and intensity of the game because the story missions are quite dark.
Eurogamer: How many story missions are there in the game?
Eric Holmes: There are over 30 story missions and more than 40 side missions. We're looking to reach about 20 to 30 hours of gameplay, plus as much as you like through the free roaming experience, which to be honest, people get very distracted by. Being the Hulk and having that move set available to you is just really enjoyable. It's kick-arse!
Eurogamer: Is it strictly a single-player game?
Eric Holmes: Yes.
Eurogamer: And any plans for downloadable content?
Eric Holmes: No, no plans.
Eurogamer: What sets it apart from all the other superhero games, do you think?
Eric Holmes: If there was one word to describe it, it's power. Power will set it apart from all the other superhero videogames. No one is anywhere near as powerful as this character. Just when he's running down the street, his feet dig into the concrete and rip huge holes in it, you can rip cars in two and use them to bash people over the head, you can use a bus as a Frisbee. Just the scale is unlike anything else out there, and of course the character theme really helps us reinforce that.
Fans always argue is The Hulk as powerful as Superman, and the debate is always going to rage on, but Superman is never going to use a bus as a Frisbee! He's going to help people off the bus if they're injured or help them off the bridge that it's teetering off of. Hulk doesn't care, Hulk's just going to slam that bus down and use it to damage whatever opponent he's fighting at the time.
Eurogamer: How have you got all this relentless destruction gameplay past Marvel, without balancing it out with the Banner element?
Eric Holmes: Well, we all agreed, even Marvel agreed, we have such a range of experiences available to the player as the Hulk, he didn't really direct the action, but you don't really need Banner in there as part of the interactive game. The real unique part of the game, the reason people are buying it is to play The Hulk, not to play a character that could fit into a hundred other games. There are plenty of other scientists in other games.
Eurogamer: Was that possibly learning a lesson from the last Hulk game, where there was a lot of criticism levelled at the Banner stealth missions?
Eric Holmes: I would fully agree that the Banner stealth missions don't have the same intensity as the Hulk missions, but in some ways they really helped emphasise that you wanted to be The Hulk because you really wanted to get out there and kick some arse rather than run around and hide behind a crate.
We certainly feel that we have more than enough range as the Hulk character to deliver a really exciting and broad ranging game, whereas the focus on the last Hulk game was much narrower, much more of a room to room fighter. You entered an area, a bunch of enemies would attack you, you used all the objects in the area, sure enough, you could cause damage, but there really wasn't any sense of the player directing the action, and choosing when he was going to start a fight, the player was just pretty much reacting to things. I think there are only two corridors in this entire game!
Eurogamer: One thing I did like about the Hulk movie game was the visual style. Have you kept faith with that or gone for something completely different?
Eric Holmes: The style of the new Hulk game is a hyper realistic style, so if you look at The Hulk in this game side by side with The Hulk in the movie game, The Hulk was cel-shaded in the movie game, he doesn't have so much detail, we put more in the outline of the character than the general structure of him, In this, the detail was like huge, so you could see every single muscle. On his body you could see veins popping out underneath his skin. We really wanted to bring out the detail as far as we could. We've achieved something pretty special.
Eurogamer: It's interesting that J Allard and Microsoft are hyping up the next gen as being this 'HD-era', and yet I noticed that you're doing 720 progressive scan on the Xbox version and 480p on the PS2 anyway! How is it you've managed to pull off going to that resolution on Xbox?
Eric Holmes: There's been a strong push from people in the studio to realise the highest quality possible, and since this technology is becoming more prevalent, people are finding it affordable to buy sets, we really want to make sure the game looks as good as it can. For a relatively inexpensive feature to add you get a whole new dimension to the experience, so we went for it.
Eurogamer: What engine are you using for The Hulk?
Eric Holmes: The Radical studio has 200 people, and we have a number of games in development at any one time, and we have a lot of shared technology as a result of that. Our last title was obviously The Hulk, but other titles Radical has produced are things like Simpsons Hit & Run which had great streaming technology, open environments, traffic systems and pedestrians.
We're currently working on Scarface, which is another game with an open world city experience, but there's a lot of common technology, and a lot of common wisdom about how you build these systems. So the size of Radical and the commonalities between a lot of these games provides us with a very cost effective way to bring a lot of these technologies to all the titles.
Be sure to check out the game's website for more information including a new trailer.