Superhero games have a rough history at best, but recently it seems like Spidey can do no wrong, whatever the medium may be. You’re looking at one of the most technically amazing games released in months.
Imagine if there had been no GTA3 . The very idea of a free roaming city might still be lost to us, and games themselves could perhaps not be as popular as they are today. There’s just something so satisfying about exploring, finding things that no one else has and then explaining how you found them. As Tommy Vercetti in Vice City we wasted several hours stealing cars and perusing about town, with such an exceptional environment that we felt like we were really in another city.
Take everything you love about GTA , the massive city, the beloved free time to not further the plot and mess around, and the unapproachable atmosphere, and throw Spider-Man into the mix and you have Spider-Man 2. Toss in superior graphics and a more polished feel than GTA , and you have a solid contender for your cash.
While it is based on the equally awesome movie, there’s so much more going on here than you might think. You’ll have to deal with some classic Spidey villains like Rhino, Mysterio and Black Cat in addition to the Alfred Molina-powered Doctor Octopus. He’s on board for the voice, along with Tobey Maguire and the ultimate narrator Bruce Campbell.
But the voices don’t matter. The story is secondary. The reason to buy and love this game is the complete island of Manhattan, recreated in painstaking detail for your own amusement. This isn’t a fictional city like GTA ; it’s the real thing. From Roosevelt Island to the Empire State Building, Spidey crawls, sticks and swings like only he can. And for the first time ever, it actually feels like you’re playing as Spider-Man, not an assemblage of sprites or polygons in a video game.
The way he runs, swings and flips in the air has been pulled straight out of the comics and tossed in here for the complete experience. Simply swinging around the city is gratifying and relaxing, much how it’s portrayed in the books themselves. It’s captured so well it affects the way you live in the real world, much like the Tony Hawk series has. After playing a ton of THPS would you look at real world objects and wonder: “Could I grind down that? Maybe if I popped a boneless onto the roof and then??” Spider-Man 2 has you wanting to swing and scale all over everyday objects, just like our favorite superhero.
But if you know Spidey, you know he can’t catch a break, and the game takes that into consideration. You’ll be swinging about, running up the sides of buildings when someone will yell for help. You’re the super hero, so you save said person, gain hero points (used for powering up the web slinger) and resume your fun. Not much later, someone else is in trouble.
It’s this way even when you need to be somewhere else, too. Developers Treyarch have given us the ultimate superhuman experience, so just because you’re supposed to meet a friend for dinner or catch a meeting with pre-tentacles Octavius doesn’t mean you’ll make it. It’s a big city, and lots of people need your help. And it doesn’t hurt that the game moves at a great framerate, rarely if ever stuttering with countless buildings on the horizon. It’s easy to be swallowed by the scope of the scenery.
And everything looks damn nice. Each console version has slightly different capabilities, so certain buildings reflect nicer and have a bit more detail, but the ?Cube holds up just fine. There’s some pop up, but given the size of the city, it’s forgivable and doesn’t happen very often.
But eventually you’ll press on with the storyline, which vaguely follows the film’s plot. If you’ve seen the movie you know what to expect, but that’s where the extra villains come into play. Still, it’s a little sad that the same ones keep getting used over and over. Enough with Shocker and Mysterio! Give us Beetle and Boomerang, two sorry nemeses that never get away with anything.
The game does lose a few points when on foot, though, as gameplay is pretty close to the original game. Sure there are new combos and improved character graphics, but indoors the game loses its majesty, proving that Spidey, just like the game’s camera, needs to be in the open air for maximum effectiveness. While crawling underneath a bridge or any other tight area, the camera typically goes nuts. It doesn’t cause a lot of unnecessary mistakes or anything; it’s just pretty annoying.
But, even outside, there are some minor issues. The random crimes that keep you busy are of limited variety. Either the police are being shot at or a woman’s purse is stolen. Then there’s the angry drivers, whose car Spidey pummels until they stop driving. Seems a little out of character for Spider-Man to destroy someone’s car just to slow them down. And if you play this at all, you’re bound to save a kid’s lost balloon more than a dozen times.
Having a field of play this large seems to wreak havoc on testing, too. Both GTAs and this title have many, many little bugs lurking about that ever so slightly impair the overall mood. Citizens clip through each other and Spidey’s ability to stick to surfaces doesn’t always come through. There are areas where he just can’t climb. This is especially odd for a game that revels in its openness, and only serves to aggravate.
These things aside, everyone should enjoy the main course: seeing the sites as Spider-Man. There are so many things hidden around the city that finding them all could have been a game in itself, and it would be ranked just a high. Scouring the city for the myriad tokens is so much more fun than duking it out with enemies here. The only things keeping it from complete greatness are the so-so indoor areas and some recycled gameplay. But with its dwarfing city and some tunes from KMFDM, Spider-Man 2 is an excellent choice for any console.