For as much as superhero movies have improved over recent years, the games based on the same intellectual properties haven't exactly kept up. Just look at Spider-Man, Batman, The Punisher, or the Fantastic Four--er, OK, maybe not the Fantastic Four--and then look at the games that have followed up on the hit movies. Generally, there's a pretty wide gap between film and game quality, even when the game itself isn't directly based on the movie. 2003's game based on The Hulk franchise suffered from a similar issue. While the game was mostly OK, it lacked depth, and it threw together too many hackneyed gameplay mechanics that just weren't conducive to an enjoyable experience playing as everyone's favorite angry, green hero. Thankfully, developer Radical Entertainment saw the problems with the original game and didn't give up, putting together a hugely improved sequel in the form of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Featuring something of an open-ended structure, a bevy of crazy moves and destructible, well, everything, Ultimate Destruction places you in a veritable playground designed just for those who love the Hulk's methodology of destruction over discretion. Though the game does have its flaws, the fact that Ultimate Destruction does such a good job of actually making you feel like you are The Hulk makes its issues much more forgivable.
Ultimate Destruction isn't based on the Ang Lee Hulk film from a couple of years ago. Like THQ's recent Punisher game, it focuses more on the comic-book universe, putting together a storyline that brings such familiar characters as Doc Samson and the Abomination (aka Emil Blonsky) into the fold. There isn't an awful lot to the plot of the game. Essentially, Bruce Banner is already the Hulk by the time the game begins, and he and Doc are working on a way to try to cure him. Enter Blonsky and a cadre of government soldiers, who want nothing more than to wipe out our friend, Big Green. Clearly, this aggression will not stand, and through the several chapters of story the game presents, Hulk smashes whatever tries to stand in his way.
And smash he does. What Ultimate Destruction absolutely does best is give you a metric ton of ways to completely obliterate anything around you. Hulk starts off with some fairly basic punches and throws that let him do plenty of damage to the scenery around him, but as you play through the game, you'll earn smash points via your destructive tendencies, which can be used to purchase new moves. These moves range from humongous seismic bursts that explode everything within a 30-foot radius to crazy hammer-throw moves that let you whip tanks as if doing so were an Olympic event. Hulk is also armed with a number of "weaponizations," which are basically ways he can take things--like nearby cars, streetlamps, or what have you--and turn them into methods of mayhem. You can pick up buses and smash them into useful shields, rip cars in half, wrap them around your fists to effectively give Hulk his own pair of novelty "Hulk Hands," or pick up a nearby missile launcher and simply throw the missiles at oncoming helicopters. There are literally dozens upon dozens of moves to unlock, and almost all of them are an absolute riot. The game isn't exactly stingy with the smash points either, and even when you do run low, all you need to do is head to one of the game's main environments and go nuts.
During the game, Hulk takes up residence at a secluded, abandoned church somewhere in the middle of nowhere. But from there he has access to a few jump points, where he can literally jump hundreds of feet in the air to reach new areas, the primary of which are a major metropolis and the badlands (a barren desert with several military installations). Similarly to those of the Grand Theft Auto games, story missions are accessible from icons found in each area, and they are denoted on your map. The story itself is quite linear, as you're only given one story mission at a time. But in between story missions, you can run and do any number of a whole lot of available side missions, which earn you more smash points. These missions range from simple checkpoint races around the world, to rescue missions, to long-jump competitions with a giant monkey balloon acting as a parachute (we'd try to explain, but trust us when we say it makes more sense in the context of the game). There are a whole lot of these side missions, giving you plenty of lasting play beyond the scope of the story missions. And that's good, since there really isn't a lot of breadth to the storyline portion of the game.
Not crush, not smush, not bash, not crash. The Hulk will only SMASH!
The whole story probably won't take you more than nine hours to beat, but to its credit, the story packs in an awful lot of action into those nine hours. Periodic fetch quests and escort missions are complemented by some excellent missions of wanton destruction, and chapters are punctuated by some particularly good boss fights. The missions where you run around blowing everything up and punching the hell out of all manner of tank and anti-Hulk robot are generally the best parts of the game, as the escort/fetch quest/chase missions all feel a little hacked together...not to mention frustrating.
Ultimate Destruction is a tough game on the default difficulty level. In most cases it's an enjoyable level of challenge, rather than a cheap one, but there are some annoying sections. Large swarms of enemies have an ugly tendency to gang up at woefully inopportune times, often leading to situations where you'll be just on the verge of hitting a goal for your mission only to be wiped out by a stray barrage of Hulk-seeking missiles or giant mechs. Again, though, not all of it is cheaply difficult. The boss fights are almost all extremely satisfying, for instance, with only one in particular feeling highly overpowered.