Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PC, Wii, DS - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
As regular readers might have gleaned from my review of Iron Man last month, I don't exactly have high expectations of game adaptations of superhero blockbusters. With very few exceptions, they're dismal, uninspired and unimaginative affairs, seemingly designed to plunder the wallets of those who loved the movie (or the wallets of their parents, come to that). With The Incredible Hulk, however, there's really no excuse. All Edge of Reality and Sega had to do was follow the template laid down by Radical Entertainment two years ago with Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, give it a polish, fill in a few cracks, and make it vaguely relevant to the plot of the film. Job done.
Shockingly, that's more or less exactly what they have done. The Incredible Hulk follows Ultimate Destruction in abandoning linear levels for an open world structure, here - as in the game of Spider-Man 3 - the island of Manhattan. I've yet to see the movie, so I can't tell you how closely the game mirrors the plot, but as far as I know the game takes one strand - Bruce Banner's pursuit by the army and its creation of a rival 'abomination' - and adds a number of additional strands based on the activities of a mysterious group known as The Enclave and the activities of a selection of super villains.
Missions that further these plotlines are dotted around Manhattan for the Hulk to select as he pleases, and completing one mission will open up others in one or more of the plotlines. Along the way, you get a selection of mini-games to try your hand at, not to mention a wealth of bonuses and collectibles, from items that boost your health and your fury guage (used to perform health recharges and devastating special moves) to comic book covers, souvenir buildings and alternative versions of The Hulk to play.
This is a better open world than we've seen in recent efforts like Spider-Man 3 and Iron Man; more densely populated, with a bigger variety of population and traffic and more sense of the world adapting to your actions. Nearly everything you see can be wrecked if you put in a little effort, and throwing taxis, lamp posts, buses, humvees, soldiers, armoured hulk busters and weird mutant creatures into the scenery is probably the single greatest pleasure of the game. Whole buildings can be taken down if you give them enough punishment, and you'll even get the aforementioned souvenirs if you can batter down a New York landmark. It's the sort of behaviour that has made The Hulk a popular figure with grumpy toddlers from two to eighty; feel free to shout "Hulk Smash!" as you go!