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April 21, 2011

The Comics Console: Salute to Spidey pt. 5: Spider-Man 2!

Spider-Man: The Movie is a tough game to top. Spider-Man 2 does a pretty damn good job of pulling it off, though there are a few key Spider-Man ingredients missing to make this the ideal Spidey game. But what’s been improved from the previous edition, in my opinion, very much makes up for what’s been left out, and the result is arguably the greatest Spider-Man game ever.

Spider-Man 2

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Released: June 28, 2004
Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PC
ESRB: Teen

When you think of what it’s like to actually be Spider-Man, what do you picture? Great power and responsibility? Super villains throwing your hot girlfriend off a bridge? Satan erasing your marriage to a beautiful super model? Battling with constant sexual frustration? Or how about web-slinging through New York, patrolling the streets for random crimes, and taking down some top names in your rogues gallery? Unfortunately, you’ll have to find your own relationship trauma and sexual issues, but Treyarch does a pretty good job with the crime fighting aspect of Peter Parker’s life.

The most noticeable difference about this game from the last few installments is that we’ve been removed from the level based interior stages, and taken to the streets of NYC. The scale of the city is massive, with plenty of buildings around; web-swinging has been completely rethought, and is without a doubt the most enjoyable feature in the game. The web mechanic is much more realistic, meaning there actually has to be buildings or objects to swing on, as opposed to just swinging from mid-air like the last games. The new web-swinging does take some getting use to, and you can choose a simplified version for swinging, but once you get it down, you’ll often want to simply swing around, exploring the city, and enjoy being the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler.

Spider-Man 2 loosely follows the story of the movie, exaggerating and embellishing it like the last game, which is awesome. As far as plot, the game runs a bit thin, but there are still a ton of objectives and missions to keep you occupied, even if some of them aren’t very interesting. Obviously, you take on Doc Oc throughout your journey, but in between are confrontations against Rhino, Black Cat, and Mysterio. Rhino only shows up in one boss battle toward the beginning of the game, and Black Cat provides horrendously boring and frustrating chasing missions, but thankfully Mysterio actually plays quite a large role in the game. Quinton Beck is a stunt and effects specialist (much like he is in the comics) who challenges Spider-Man to a test of feats with a massive obstacle course, and later you’ll explore his apartment fun-house, and eventually take him on in a battle atop the Statue of Liberty, all of which are extremely fun, and among the best missions in the game.

But you don’t spend all your time with super villains. Chapters in the game will often require you to gain points which are earned by stopping street crimes. As you swing through the city, citizens will call to you for help, or random events will pop up, and if you like, you can answer their calls to save the day. This is actually the most boring and tedious part of the game. All the street crimes are the same, and always a breeze to finish. It’s always either chasing a car, saving a construction worker from falling off a building, or just beating up thugs. Basic combat really isn’t very interesting either, as it’s mainly just button mashing. Your Spidey Sense gives you plenty of time to avoid enemy attacks, and even if the odds look stacked, you can slow down the action and takeout foes with even more ease. You can use the points you earn from these missions to buy new attacks, and upgrades, but it only makes combat slightly more interesting.

After you finish the game’s campaign, the city is left open for you to swing through. While there isn’t too much to explore, there are a ton of coins to collect, and races to finish, but there is no incentive to play through the game again, and that’s what I really wish was included in this game. In previous Spidey games, there have been a closet full of unlockable costumes, and a few playable characters, which was awesome, and I really hate that none of that is here.

The key members of the cast reprise their roles for the game, and Tobey Maguire and Alfred Molina do great jobs. The writing isn’t half bad, but Kirsten Dunst’s performance was completely phoned in, and only barely surpasses the supporting cast. Graphics aren’t as pretty as the last game, and some of the character models look last-gen, but they get the job done.

While Spider-Man and Spider-Man: The Movie are definitely great games, it’s really the sandbox city and web-swinging that sets this game above the rest for me. I’ve never felt more like Spider-Man in a video game than when I was swinging through Soho as fast as I could to get to Mary Jane. It’s moments like that where I can actually become the main character that makes a great comic book video game for me.

This same model of Spider-Man game is used for future Spidey games like Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, until the idea of the Spidey game gets rehauled into the classic beat-em-up level based game that is Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. I prefer the sandbox “Grand Theft Auto: Spider-Man” style over the beat-em-up because of the freedom of web-swinging around my environment, but I’m sure that’s not going to stop developers from creating great Spidey games. Beenox’s Shattered Dimensions was a really unique Spider-Man experience, but I would like to see that formula expanded a bit for their next Web-Head adventure, Spider-Man: Edge of Time, and see the next truly great Spider-Man video game.

Next week on The Comics Console, our Salute to Spidey wraps up as we break down every major Spider-Man game released!

Andrew Hurst



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