Movie to videogame, videogame to movie, and here we are again with Spider-Man 2. Well the movie was great but here at MyGamer.com we write reviews on games. So I’m not going to waste time telling you to go see the movie when you can become Spider-Man in the new PS2 game. Developed by Activision, does Spider-Man 2 actually succeed in breaking the infamous good movie-bad game curse?
The big pull with this release is that you have the ability to go anywhere and, if you feel like so inclined, prevent crime along the way. While playing you will find yourself quickly addicted to running around in your tights amid the huge, sprawling city provided for you. The city is alive with traffic, pedestrians, trains, and even helicopters flying around in the sky–which you can stick to with a web shot and just go for a ride. My favorite thing to do is leap from the city’s tallest building and then deploy a web swing just before impact! There are a few impressive graphic touches in eveidence here, like subtle motion blur when traveling at speed or jumping from a really high building–both of which really make you feel as though you are Spider-Man. Beating up villains and running around town are the best parts of the game, though. After you defeat all the villains in a mission you can stay there and continue to beat them up for hours. This may be a little sadistic but I couldn’t stop myself from attempting to get them as high into the air as possible. When you’re done pummeling you can gift wrap them for the police and hang them from a street light. Your heroic escapades are not limited to exterior missions, though, there are also plenty of interior locations in Spider-Man 2. You can go into stores and buy upgrades, go to the pizza parlor and deliver pizzas, or go to the the arcade and play some games. The game’s controls are a touch complex, but only because of the massive number of things your character can do. In order to hang a villain from a street lamp you have to press ‘square’, ‘square’, ‘triangle’, and ‘X’. That’s just one example, and there is an entire list of unlockable moves like that one. It is cool that there’s so much you can do but you actually need to know how to perform all of these moves in order to defeat the game’s bosses. I found myself mashing buttons a lot because I didn’t feel compelled top memorize the button combinations–well, except the one that lets you hang people from poles, of course, because it’s so much fun.
Okay, the following goes out to all videogame graphics programmers and the ever-money-hungry motion picture industry: Stop, I repeat, stop rushing games out the publishing door before everyone is allowed to finish their respective projects. You will sell more copies of the game if it is awesome in all departments, and less if you force your crews to get it done in a restricted period of time. The point that I’m getting to is that the PS2 graphics on Spider-Man 2 could easily be mistaken for PlayStation quality. The in-game story scenes are pathetic. When you approach characters on the street and talk to them their lips don’t even move, and they stand there like cardboard cutouts. Some of the game’s bigger battles weren’t even polished off to look particularly good. There is a scene in the game when a gang of robbers are pilfering some expensive art, and during the intro a guy is standing there who obviously should be holding something. Then, while he is talking, a gun magically appears in his hands halfway through his speech. Although the in-game scenes are atrocious the designers still deserve credit for the 3D cut sequences. There are some which are fully rendered in 3D and appear as almost exact replicas of scenes in the movie. These all look great and they make for a nice break between chapters.
Throughout the game you are swinging around town a great deal and–oddly–there is no accompanying music; there’s just ambient silence and the hiss of your web shooters as you traverse the rooftops. I think that the game would have benefited from adding a soundtrack to it. The movie’s soundtrack was obviously availble to the developers, it’s a licensed game, and therefore I find it hard to understand why they didn’t use it. However, they have included some excellent voice acting from Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Alfred Molina. When you actually hear their voices it sounds like they attempted to act while voicing their various parts–a rare event in the videogame world. Not all of the actors from the movie are in the game, and the characters who don’t have high-profile voice talent behind them sometimes fall short in quality. Fortunately the really bad voice acting is few and far between. There are some great references to old TV shows and games when you battle Mysterio. For example, during one fight he quotes Outer Limits saying “We control the horizontal, we control the vertical.” And he always adds something really dumb at the end, too. I think it ‘s great that the developers put the time into the game’s writing and actually included a sense of humor. Bruce Campbell is your narrator, and aids you throughout your missions with brief tutorials and tips that are laid throughout the city.
The effort poured into the game and the amount of levels is impressive. With all of the different locations and a fairly long and challenging ‘normal’ setting, Spider-Man 2 has a lot to offer. It attempts to provide the gameplay benefits of a game like Grand Theft Auto except you can only play as a good guy here. There’s no stealing cars or beating up random people for Spidey. However, you can attend to as many random street crimes as you like, and you can beat up all the villains you want, too. When you have gotten all of the way through the game you will always have that option and you can perfect your spidey skills while doing it. If that sounds like it isn’t fun to you then there are also tips or races laid throughout the city.
To answer the question I posed at the beginning of this article, I don’t think Activision have broken the good movie-bad game curse. They had a sizeable opportunity here, but with the graphic problems and amazingly outrageous lack of soundtrack they’ve fallen shockingly short. The game is, however, still a lot of fun–but it’s nothing spectacular. I do, however, now find myself wanting to return to web-slinging high jink, so, in the words of Stan Lee: “Until next time true believers.”