Welcome to Lost in Translation? – the Ready Up series where we look at the rocky two-way road of media adapted from videogames and games based on films and TV shows, in a bid to decide whether the juice was worth the squeeze, or if what made the source material great in the first place got lost in translation.
For this instalment of LIT? we’re going topical, with this being part one of an Avengers special. Without a tie-in game of its own (although early footage of a canned Avengers game can be found if you shake YouTube hard enough), we’re looking at the pre-Avengers games featuring the movie’s four super-powered stars: The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor: God of Thunder and Captain America: Super Soldier.
First out of the gate is the Avengers scene-stealing Jade Giant himself, The Incredible Hulk. Recipient of a 6/10 from this very site and a middling 55 on Metacritic, The Incredible Hulk was released in the UK as a day and date tie-in with its eponymous filmic inspiration in June 2008.
Developed by Edge of Reality, then best known for fellow movie tie-in games Shark Tale and Over the Hedge, and directly translating the events of the film with a fair share of additional story content lifted from the comics, is the game deserving of its ‘meh’ reputation, or is it a decent adaptation of what is, in my opinion at least, a decent film?
What it got right
Set on the island of Manhattan (following a brief introductory scene in a fizzy pop factory in Brazil), The Incredible Hulk is a third-person free-roaming smash ‘em up which, from the very start, allows players to either explore and destroy anything they desire or travel to the many mission markers dotted around the city and progress the plot, bringing to mind the Crackdown or Prototype games. Adapting all of the key action scenes from its source material, the game manages to stick closely to the film’s plot, which sees Bruce Banner (in the form of Fight Club’s Edward Norton) on a quest to find a cure for his anger management issues while fighting off Emil Blonsky (Reservoir Dogs’ Tim Roth) in his nearly-successful bid to become even more powerful than the Hulk.
Ensuring the game runs longer than its two-hour namesake, the game’s plot deviates from the film’s with the inclusion of missions more closely linked with the comics that inspired this whole endeavour. The game sees players knock heads with the dreadfully named U-Foes (think an evil Fantastic Four), the sort-of two-headed android (and innuendo-magnet) Bi-Beast and the evil scientific collective known as the Enclave. Mini-games and a gazillion collectibles round out the package of a fairly substantial game.
Thankfully unlike the film, the game doesn’t seem to worry about Banner’s very deliberate attempts to not turn into his grumpy alter-ego, with players always in control of the Hulk rather than Banner. There is genuine fun to be had simply smashing shit up, with a raft of unlockable abilities eventually allowing you to level buildings with a single special move, rendering the game quite a successful stress-releasing toy.
What it got wrong
For someone who’s an advocate of how good storytelling in games can be, it’s a pity that The Incredible Hulk relies so heavily on assuming its audience has seen the film it’s based on – players who haven’t will be pretty baffled by how events unfold,with the generally poor cutscenes breezing past any details that would help make sense of the hows and whys in a bid to get back to the smashing as swiftly as possible.
Also bringing the storytelling down is some of the voice cast… well, one member in particular. While the game sports each principle cast member reprising their role from the film, specifically Edward Norton, Tim Roth, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, and Tim Blake Nelson, each and every scene with Ed Norton is performed so listlessly. His Bruce Banner sounds at best bored and at worst depressed, with all the conviction of a man reading his shopping list. It’s frankly a waste of talent and a genuine shame.
On the gameplay front, my biggest complaint is how the Hulk is, for the most part, turned into an oversized errand boy, with fetch quests, escort missions, and don’t-let-the-enemy-steal-this missions making up a little too much of the green guy’s adventure. The Hulk’s catchphrase is not “Hulk Fetch!”, after all.
Despite being a tad repetitive, playing as the Hulk is fun. Levelling buildings and whole neighbourhoods for kicks is great and the game, in general, isn’t that bad. Yes the graphics were sub-par even by 2008’s standards, yes the viewpoint which sees Hulk rather small on your screen is a little irksome and yes, Ed Norton ruins the mood every time his Bruce Banner opens his mouth, but ultimately you’ve got an enjoyable game that is largely faithful to its source material. All in all The Incredible Hulk is a good adaptation and an okay game. Certainly worth a weekend of your time.