June 13, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

All Systems (Vivendi Universal Games; Teen)

You have to wonder why the Hulk — our favorite green-skinned comic-book hero — took so long to appear in a truly memorable videogame. After all, it seems that every other hot title involves some level of supersize destruction. Take Grand Theft Auto, where you can spend hours in your car running over lampposts and streetlights with unapologetic glee. And imagine a 15-foot-tall human wrecking ball unleashed in GTA’s Liberty City. Come to think of it, that would be a videogame.

A pity, then, that The Hulk, arriving alongside Ang Lee’s film of the same name, doesn’t quite realize that lofty premise. Still, it delivers a fair amount of over-the-top carnage. Besides using his monstrous mitts to pummel puny humans, Ol’ Greenie can take advantage of his surroundings by, say, ripping pipes off walls and tossing them at his hapless foes. And if he’s looking for a quick exit, he can even punch through concrete to create an opening. This kind of well-thought-out chaos helps differentiate The Hulk from countless other less imaginative fighting titles.

Wrapped around the action is a light, Saturday-morning-cartoon story set, we’re told, a year after the movie’s action. Reprising his film role, Eric Bana lends his voice as Hulk’s scientist alter ego, Dr. Bruce Banner, but there’s a new cast of comic-book villains, including the skeletal-clawed Half-Life. To make full use of Bana’s involvement, a few levels require you to play as Dr. Banner. These stealth levels (basically scenarios in which Banner must sneak past guards) add some variety but can also aggravate, since even the slightest wrong move requires you to restart the level.

The rest of the game, however, should manage to keep your temper in check. Even though the Hulk doesn’t acquire new moves or abilities throughout the game, the destructible environments create a sense of ever-changing gameplay. We would love to see an open-world game with less linearity and an even richer story. But for now, this action brawler delivers loads of mindless mayhem. Sometimes, it is easy being green.

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