Playing With The Incredible Hulk
By now, many of you have picked up the new Incredible Hulk DVD or Blu-Ray and witnessed the newest take on the character in cinematic form. Of course, there has also been the occasional video game tie-in, and this hero is no exception. Let’s once again take a look back at the Jade Giant’s anthology of gaming…as green as it may be.
Questprobe 1: The Incredible Hulk – 1984, Commodore 64
The Hulk’s first foray into the video game world was…a text adventure. Needless to say, it’s not very exciting or note worthy. What IS noteworthy is the fact that this was supposed to be the second Hulk game; the first for the Atari 2600 was cancelled before release. The next proper game wouldn’t be for another 10 years.
The Incredible Hulk – 1994 (Super NES, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear)
Dr. Banner’s next appearance in video games did little to strengthen the character’s status with fans, as we were treated with a bare bones brawler that made little to no sense for the comic’s history or tone. Here, there was no “Hulk Smash” to be found…just Hulk Punch…everything. Bad guy? Punch. Wall? Punch. Controller? PUNCH. The game made big green move like he was walking through molasses dipped in tar, and for some bizarre reason, after a few hits, he’d turn into Banner and DIE. Apparently, there is something stronger than the Hulk, and its name is shoddy game development.
Marvel Super Heroes – 1995 (Arcade), 1997 (Playstation, Sega Saturn)
Once again, we find Capcom’s licensed fighting series starring the Marvel greats…stars a Marvel great. Hulk is one of the only characters to appear in all iterations of the fighting franchise, as well as the spin-off sidescroller on SNES. These titles, beginning with Marvel Super Heroes, continue with:
Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems – 1996 (SNES)
Marvel Super Heroes VS Street Fighter – 1997 (Arcade), 1999 (Playstation, Sega Saturn)
Marvel vs. Capcom –1998 (Arcade), 1999 (Dreamcast), 2000 (Playstation)
Marvel vs. Capcom 2– 2000 (Arcade, Dreamcast), 2002 (Playstation 2), 2003 (Xbox)
In all of the titles, Hulk plays basically the same – just heavy and powerful…and a bit slow. It’s important to note the title Marvel Super Heroes VS Street Fighter came out 10 years ago…and only now is Midway answering it with Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe. Seems a bit late, doesn’t it? Regardless, Hulk’s combat didn’t vary much from game to game (though I seem to remember one having a grey Hulk), but in MvC2 he did get a palette-swap version of himself that made him Orange (essentially, the Thing) and a bit slower. Beyond that, though, the same basic principle was there…Hulk Is Strongest One There Is.
The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga – 1997 (Playstation, Sega Saturn)
I mentioned this in my ComicMix Six – Worst Comic Book Video Games column last week, and for good reason. If the SNES and Genesis versions got the Hulk wrong, then this one only made it worse. In an attempt to put the character in 3D (as was popular with the newer games of the time) they sacrificed any playability or fun you could have had with the game by making just everything ugly. The backgrounds, the characters, everything. And once again, Hulk didn’t smash. Hulk could barely even JUMP. How could he defeat the Maestro (which, wait, isn’t that just a future version of the Hulk?) if he couldn’t even leap over a small pit in the floor? Awful.
HULK – 2003 (Gamecube, Playstation 2, Xbox, PC)
Based on the 2003 film, this time around the developers got it almost right. Decent combat, good control and the graphics weren’t bad either…a sort of cel-shaded version of the film. Of course, there were the typical additions to the plot, to pad it out to last a bit longer than the flick. Unfortunately, these brought with them the horrible Bruce Banner sequences. Rather than smashing everything in his path as the Hulk, you instead had certain levels where you had to sneak around as Banner to infiltrate areas or gain information. The stealth aspects of the game were the worst, invariably you always got caught, or Hulked out, which for those sections of the game, were a strict no-no. Lame.
The Incredible Hulk – 2003 (Gameboy Advance)
That same year, there was another Hulk game released on GBA. With no ties to the film, this was a stand-alone adventure that had Hulk facing off against his rogues’ gallery and, of course, the army. Once again, however, the Hulk was reduced to more of a punching machine that a smashing titan. There’s nothing really bad about the game, per se, but nothing really good either. Pretty forgettable.
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction – 2005 (Gamecube, Playstation 2, Xbox)
Just before the end of the last console generation, we were gifted with a rare treat among comic book games…a title that actually did justice to the character and its mythos! Ultimate Destruction was everything a Hulk game should have been. Taking a cue from the Spider-Man 2 game, it placed Hulk in an open world sandbox where he could run around and do, well, just about anything. Missions were chosen at your discretion, and you could either follow them (and thus, the plot) or you could just go nuts and rampage around the city; picking up cars, punching holes into buildings, and knocking down whole skyscrapers. As you advanced with the story, however, you unlocked more combos for combat, as well as upgrades for the look of your particular Hulk. As a neat side-note, not only could you unlock a gray Hulk, but it actually had a completely separate voice-over accompany it, complete with “Joe Fix-It” style quips and commentary. With all the mini games and activities spread around the city, full control over the character, and as much destruction as the then-current console generation would allow, it seemed we finally had the GTA of Hulk games…call it Grand Theft Angry-Man. It was fantastic.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance – 2006 (Playstation 3, Xbox 360)
Hulk’s appearance in this title actually only occurred on the next gen-versions…and originally, only as a download. Hulk was one of four additional heroes added to the already deep roster of the game via the Xbox Live and Playstation Network online download services. For a small fee you could add Hulk, Nightcrawler, Hawkeye and Cyclops to the lineup of playable heroes (and also Magneto, Venom, Sabretooth and Dr. Doom as playable villains, a first for the game). This added extra achievements to the Xbox 360 version, and allowed for some interesting team ups and additional dialogue for the new characters. Having Hulk rescue Bruce Banner in the beginning of the game, for example, allowed for some humorous time-paradox inducing confusion. Later, the extra characters would ship on the game disc itself (only for Xbox 360) as Marvel: Ultimate Alliance – Gold Edition, and then once again as it reached Platinum Hits status (a distinction a game reaches after being available for over 9 months and selling over 1 million copies) as the Platinum Edition. Both are now extremely rare and sought after.
The Incredible Hulk – 2008 (Nintendo DS, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360)
Finally for the list, this year’s feature return to the big screen returns big green to the small screens as well. This time around, the developers (Iron Man developer Secret Level) took a page from the Ultimate Destruction handbook and made it an open world smash-fest. However, something didn’t quite click. Maybe it was the way it ham-fistedly added the film’s plot to the game. Maybe it was the occasional glitching the game received, or the slowdown from multiple enemies on screen. Maybe it was the lack of humor, something Ultimate Destruction had in spades (tell me you didn’t love the part where you balled up a car and used it to go bowling with troops as pins). It wasn’t that it was a bad game, it just wasn’t…well, it wasn’t Ultimate Destruction. And that’s all we really wanted. There were even multiple “costumes”, but all they were just different skins for the character, they didn’t add any attributes or change any dialogue. Still, the next-gen versions once again had the upper hand with complete destructibility of all buildings, and the PS3 and 360 versions each had exclusive skins. They also JUST recently received a free download upgrade that added a two player co-op destruction mode. However, I’m not sure how it plays yet, as I’m the only person I know who actually owns the game.
Hulk will make another appearance in the next Marvel: Ultimate Alliance game, and this time, he’ll be available on disc from day one (well, allegedly, anyway).
Ian Bonds is a video game retailer, writer and comedian from Baltimore. He has never dabbled with Gamma radiation, and you wouldn’t want to see him when he’s angry. Well, you wouldn’t want to see him when he’s sleepy, either…or bashful, or sneezy or…what was I talking about again?