Version tested Xbox 360
Stan Lee's radioactive riff on Jekyll and Hyde has long provided popular source material for our gaming entertainment. After all, Hulk loves to smash - and what's more videogamey than smashing things? It's a superpower made for gaming. Unfortunately, it's also a superpower that pushed against the boundaries of what games were capable of. Hulk may be the strongest there is, but until realistic physics were an option, his boundless strength could still be blocked by a strangely rigid pile of metal barrels.
It took 2005's Ultimate Destruction to finally unlock the potential in the character, a shameless exercise in visceral wish fulfilment that dropped you into a desert, and later an anonymous American city, and let you go nuts. There were story missions, of course, but nobody remembers those. What we remember was leaping for miles, leaving craters with each landing, surfing on flattened buses and ripping helicopters in half.
This very loose game-of-the-new-movie wisely sticks with the winning Ultimate Destruction formula, but does so in such clumsy fashion that rather than delivering the next-gen evolution we were all hoping for, it's content to simply offer a half-decent cover version instead. That the end result fails to improve on its predecessor, and is in many ways inferior, is a real disappointment.
Spider-Man 2 was the first superhero game to offer a spandex-clad spin on the GTA open city formula, but it's since become fairly common. Superman did it, even Transformers had a go. Hulk, therefore, feels comfortably familiar from the start. You have the free run of New York, using the map to find the icons that will trigger story missions. You can destroy absolutely everything - including buildings, although these respawn - and for fast movement around town you can charge up your jumps to bound across greater distances.
Hulk's basic punches and combos are enough to deal with most normal threats, but once armoured enemies make an appearance you need to start using your Rage powers. This is a red gauge that fills up opposite your green health bar, and it can be filled by basically doing angry things. Punch a wall for a few seconds. Smash stuff. You know the drill. The four categories of Rage power are then selected with the d-pad and deployed by holding down two face buttons. You'll know most of them - his thunderclap and ground smash have appeared in pretty much every Hulk game ever. You can also use your Rage to refill health in an emergency, and to deliver smaller, unblockable punches.
Needless to say, a grumpy green giant stomping about the place, trashing taxi cabs, soon attracts attention and your threat level is basically Hulk's equivalent of GTA's wanted level. The more stuff you smash, the higher the level rises, and the more powerful the counter-measures deployed against you. To start with it's just cops and soldiers, but soon enough there are tanks, helicopters and Hulkbuster troops trying to halt your rampages. Your threat level can be reset, although the method chosen is both laughably simple and utterly illogical. Ducking into a subway station and emerging elsewhere on the map reduces your threat level to zero. Quite how an eight-foot-tall monster in an enclosed space with limited exit points is enough to bamboozle the military is never explained but, hey, comic book logic, I guess.
In Ultimate Destruction, Hulk's powers and abilities were upgraded by cashing in Smash Points, but this is one of the few areas where the new game improves on the formula. Advancement now comes from Feats - basically mini-Achievements within the game - and accomplishing a set series of Feats will grant you new powers. Some are the sort of thing you'll accrue through normal gameplay - jumping a certain distance, defeating a certain number of enemies. Others are story-based, allowing certain abilities to be triggered only after a specific point in the missions. Still more require you to fulfil specific criteria in missions - tricking one of the supervillain U-Foes team into defeating one of their comrades, for instance.