Paul Jenkins on The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
The following was originally posted on Nintendojo.com:
Interviewee: Paul Jenkins, Bryan Brandt
Nintendojo sat down at Comic-Con with the famous Marvel scribe Paul Jenkins and Bryan Brandt of Radical Entertainment to talk about The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Read on for the full transcript.
Nintendojo: Hello; can you guys please introduce yourselves to our readers?
Paul Jenkins:: My name is Paul Jenkins, I am the writer of Sentry, Origin (of Wolverine), Spectacular Spider-Man, The Inhumans, and the writer of The Incredible Hulk game that’s about to come out in August.
Bryan Brandt: I’m Bryan Brandt and I’m the Animation Programmer on the Incredible Hulk.
Now that the game’s almost ready to hit retailers, we’ve seen a lot of video and played a lot of the game, but what can you tell us in terms of extras? Specifically, will we be seeing extra skins or extra characters?
BB: Yeah we will actually. There are going to be a bunch of unlockable skins for Hulk and there are various means of doing it. One of the unlockable characters is Joe Fixit (Grey Hulk). When you play as Joe Fixit, you get a whole new set of dialogue when you’re actually playing the game.
Will there be a new story for the character?
BB: The story is not different for Fixit, but he adds a lot of character to the existing stuff and there’s a lot of extra content added just for him.
PJ: Tell him about the Banner one.
BB: There’s a final unlockable in the game—once you beat it and collect enough ‘smash points’, you can buy the ‘Savage Banner’ skin. You can play the game with this tiny little guy (Bruce Banner) with all the powers of the Hulk. It’s really fun actually—you wouldn’t think it would be, but it’s actually really clever and it’s funny.
What about other extras; comic books and other miscellaneous Hulk related items?
BB: Yeah, that’s actually how some of the unlockables are attained. First you have to pick up comic book covers and other miscellaneous stuff scattered around the city and some of them will give you smash points so you can buy more moves and some will give you codes to unlock Hulk skins. We’ve got a whole bunch of Hulk covers.
Will there be cameos from other Marvel super heroes?
PJ: Actually, I wrote one for the story, but it didn’t make it into the final build. I’ll tell you a little bit about the cast of villains though. The Abomination—Emil Blonsky—he’s a pretty big Hulk character--he’s probably one of the main Hulk villains—a counterpart of the Hulk. He’s really big in the game. The whole game revolves around two main villains. One of them is an external villain, which is the Abomination, and the other one is the Devil Hulk, which is basically Banner’s rage gone absolutely out of control. He’s the evil persona of Banner’s rage. You fight them concurrently—you battle the Devil Hulk as you fight Abomination. The epitome of the story is that Banner is a “ticking time bomb.” You have those two characters, one assailing you internally and one externally, which creates the ‘ticking time bomb’ effect.
What prompted the decision for going with the free-roaming environment?
BB: Well, it was basically the most suitable environment for the Hulk. Every other Hulk game has him running through rooms and beating up a couple of guys here and there, but if you read the comic books, that’s not really what he does. He’s all about doing huge leaps and smashing stuff from 100 feet up. Those are his powers—we wanted that kind of combat. With this game, we really pushed what super hero combat could be, and I don’t think you’ve seen that before. There’ve been other super hero games that have had great combat, but not on the epic scale we’ve put together for this game—being able to break everything in your path and aerial combat at the top of buildings.
Spider-Man 2 by Activision featured challenges strewn about the city for the player to tackle at will. Will Ultimate Destruction feature a similar system?
BB: Yes, there is a set of side missions that the player can elect to go through and that you can unlock as you progress through the game. They’re pretty varied and fun. We have locomotion challenges similar to Spider-Man, but we also have some more unique ones such as a game called “Hulk Golf,” which can be played in the desert or the city. He’ll pick up a giant steel girder and whack a huge golf ball around. There’s Soldier Baseball where you try to hit the soldiers as far as you can as they drop out of helicopters.
PJ: Did Soldier Football ever make it? We talked about that.
BB: No, but there is a field goal game with cars. All the games are there to add variety and a bit of comedy to the gameplay. I think there’re 40 side missions total.
Alright, switching back to Paul, we have a story question. Will the storyline follow the continuity of the Incredible Hulk comic? Also, will there be any influence from the movie or The Ultimates comic, which Hulk is a part of?
PJ: Actually it’s a little bit backward. Marvel’s doing a comic book right now based on the game. They saw the game storyline was helping to reinvigorate the Hulk franchise because the gameplay is so much fun. We contacted Peter David (a famous Marvel scribe) to write a four issue series based around this game. What he’s doing is taking this game and bringing it into current continuity, so instead of following what the comic is doing, the comic is actually following what we’re doing, which is very flattering. Secondly, the story is based on the main continuity of the comic because when Radical first came to me, they were fans of the work I’d done with Ron Garney on Hulk when we put together the Dogs of War mini-series. The game is loosely based on that series.
Can you reveal any other villains in the game besides Abomination and Devil Hulk?
PJ: Well, there’s no sense in giving it all away, but there are definitely some other characters that give Hulk problems such as the military. There’s the dark under-belly of the military designed by Emil Blonsky called The Division. There are a couple of other characters familiar to Hulk fans.
Can you give us an idea of story and gameplay length?
PJ: The story is seven chapters long and somewhere between 30 and 40 missions. I’m not sure what that means in gameplay terms, but I imagine there’s quite a lot of material to present it and engage players. One of the things one does when designing a game like this is to intuit what the player is going to do. For example, thinking that when a player reaches level 15, they may be thinking, “I want to go play Hulk Golf now.” Therefore, we had to take these things into account in order to keep the player engaged in the storyline. [Bryan,] how long do you think it turned out to be?
BB: We haven’t actually timed it yet, but I’d say at about average pace, the story can be completed in 12-15 hours. We haven’t timed it yet.
Can we go into boss fights—how many will there be and what variety will we see? In other words, will each fight feature a different element that players must exploit in order to conquer the villain?
PJ: There are six boss fights. Without giving away storyline, there are several fights with Abomination as you encounter him at different points during the game.
BB: Yeah, Abomination appears multiple times because he grows more powerful throughout the course of the story. As for the variety, we’ve got several ways of going about beating bosses. There’s a fight where Hulk battles a giant Mech in the desert. The boss is using satellite dishes to bring in reinforcements, and you can take out those dishes or you can just concentrate on the boss. He has other parts as well such as weapons, which can be disabled. There’s a lot of punching and kicking, but there are always multiple ways of dealing with any situation. There’s usually something in the environment that can be used against the boss.
We’ve seen quite a bit of Hulk’s abilities such as weaponizing and critical mass maneuvers, but are there even more to unlock beyond those seen thus far in the builds on the Comic Con and E3 show floors?
BB: The build we have out there now has a lot of the moves already unlocked, but when you start the game out, Hulk has the core set of moves—running, jumping, climbing. Over the course of the game, Hulk collects smash points by beating enemies, destroying things, and completing missions and side missions. Those points can be used to buy more moves. There’s also a move tutorial, which will show you moves and how to do them.
PJ: The move tutorial is actually pretty complex. It’s very interesting because, in every aspect of the game, the tutorial doesn’t give you simple instructions such as “push the X button.” The tutorials are often incorporated into the gameplay, such as a soldier or a colonel instructing the player in the army’s “simulation tactics” instead of throwing button combinations at you out of context. Ron Perlman (Hellboy) is doing the voice of Emil Blonsky, and he does the voice for the move tutorials, which is a lot of fun.
How in depth is the story in terms of narrative elements—cut scenes, dialogue, and such?
PJ: It’s about as in depth as I’ve seen in a game like this, which is what drew me to the project. I spent almost every single day on the phone to get it all together. It’s story intensive and driven by cut scenes. I hope there aren’t too many of them or they’re rewarding instead of being something the player has to sit through. There are other elements that occur in the game such as missions where Banner works with a familiar character. There’s a level where Banner works with Doc Samson in order to get by General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross. These characters reveal some of the story elements as they instruct you on completing the mission. So, like the tutorial, story is often revealed by playing the game instead of the player being fed information.
You mentioned Thunderbolt Ross and Doc Samson—can you tell us any other characters in the storyline? Betty Ross perhaps?
PJ: *Laughs* You’ll find out when you play.
In the first game, there were several levels that employed Bruce Banner. Do any story elements bring him into the standard gameplay this time around besides the Savage Banner character?
PJ: Absolutely not. *Laughs* (To Bryan) I think the Banner levels were one of the difficulties that you guys faced in the first game. There’s no stealth as Bruce Banner, which was the problem in the first game; however, Bruce does play a huge role in the story. He’s a huge focus—it’s driven by Bruce Banner. Cut scenes and mission briefings are all presented as or to Bruce Banner. Bruce Banner does all the dialogue; you exist as Bruce Banner. The cumulative feeling for the fans is Bruce Banner is hugely involved in the game—you just never play as him, which is justified in the game. He’s in there all the time. My emotional draw is to Banner, not Green Hulk or Grey Hulk. All emotional conflict is with Banner, not Hulk. You get to do all the fun stuff the Hulk does without stealthing around as Banner.
Paul, you’ve done a lot of comic work, but is this your first video game and will you be doing more Marvel games in the future?
PJ: I’ve done work with other games in the past. I did Twisted Metal: Black, Soul Reaver, and I’m currently working on The Darkness with the guys who did Chronicles of Riddick. I’m very intrigued by video games—I think they’re a form of storytelling unlike any other, and any time you do a new one, you have to recreate a template. You have to think of new ways to engage players. As for working on other Marvel games, I’ll plead the Fifth Amendment even though I’m not a Yank.
Bryan, back to gameplay, will we be seeing indoor levels?
BB: There actually are a few that are part of the story. I can’t reveal too much, but there are sequences where Hulk has to break into and out of certain areas.
How will the levels be varied in terms of objectives and features?
BB: There’s an overall story that’s going on for each chapter. For instance, there’s usually something Bruce and Samson are working on, which will drive the gameplay. Each mission will usually consist of Samson needing Hulk to do some dangerous parts-retrieval, destroy some landmark, take the power out in the city, or have Samson hack into a computer while Hulk is dealing with the army. There’s a whole variety of objectives and styles of missions.
You mentioned landmarks—what landmarks in real life influenced the creation of the city or perhaps elements of pop culture—advertisements, Time Square, anything like that?
PJ: You won’t see any major references like Time Square or anything like that. It will simply be a city. We were debating setting it in New York, which is where most of the Marvel stories are based. The problem with that is that we’d be recreating the Spider-Man game and we didn’t really want to do that. We justify the way we created city through Abomination’s appearances. As far as landmarks, we did give buildings certain funky names—every time you go to a shop, it’s the name of someone who worked on the game. I was a triple-X movie theater. *laughs*
On the topic of voice acting—you mentioned Ron Perlman as Abomination and we’ve heard that the voice actor from the old cartoon will be doing Hulk—will there be any other big name voice actors or any from the cartoons?
PJ: I was there fore the recording. We have Neil McDonough as you mentioned from the cartoon. The guy who did one of the voices was also Solid Snake I believe.
PJ: I think so, I’m not sure if he made it into the game. It may have been the Liquid Snake voice actor. He was really cool. We didn’t have anybody else from the animated shows, and Ron Perlman was our big name. You’ll actually find the lead designer Eric Holmes’ voice. There’s a funny anecdote about that. When we got to the end of the game, we realized to our horror—Eric (Holmes), Tom Keaton (voice director), and myself—that we had forgotten to record three of the voice-overs. Two of us had British accents and we had to do these characters. Eric Holmes was in there and his line was “I need a medic.” Every time he said it, he sounded like a Scottish guy crying out “I need a medic!” Finally, he did a gruff voice and says *in gruff voice* “I need a medic!” If you ever want to poke fun at him, you can mention that. I ended up in it too, and my line was “Sir, yes sir!” I was trying to do it, but I couldn’t quite get it. They cut my line down to “Yes sir,” and the final line that ended up in the game was “sir.” *Laughs* I’m in there, though.
That about wraps it up. Thank you very much for the interview guys. Thanks for the time.
PJ: No problem; thank you.
BB: You’re welcome, thanks a lot.
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