Featured Columns

December 2, 2010

The Comics Console: Ultimate Spider-Man

So often we see video games based off the movies or TV shows of our favorite comic book characters, and so rarely do we see a video game based on an actual comic book story line. Sure, there are superhero video games that aren’t based off anything in particular that borrow from a character’s vast continuity, like Batman: Arkham Asylum or Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, but the list of video games that pull their story directly from the comic book pages is a small one. There are only two examples that come to mind: The Death and Return of Superman for the SNES, and Ultimate Spider-Man.

Ultimate Spider-Man

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Released: Spet. 22, 2005
Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
ESRB: Teen

Ultimate Spider-Man is Treyarch’s third attempt at a Spider-Man game, and there are many reasons why it’s the best, the main one being that the look and story come directly from Brian Micheal Bendis’s reimagining of the wall-crawler, more specifically, the Venom story line. Though you aren’t exactly playing through the events of Ultimate Spider-Man #33-39, that’s about where the game begins. You start off in a big way as Peter Parker taking on Venom on the High School football field, and it’s the big boss fights like this one that this game does so well. It’s everything in between these fights that hasn’t changed much.

Treyach’s previous Spider-Man game, Spider-Man 2, based off the film, was our first sandbox Spider-Man experience where we were able to swing freely around the city, and actually feel like Spider-Man. That same style has returned, but with a more simplified web slinging mechanic, using only one web line to swing from as opposed to being able to use two previously. Combat has also been overhauled, and is a lot less clunky. Spidey now uses punch and kick combos, as well as a few web attacks you may recognize from other games to take down street thugs, and you’ll also be required to detain your foes with webbing, otherwise they’ll get back up and continue attacking.

You’ll be doing a lot of this with all the combat missions that are spread throughout the game. It’s really kind of annoying how many there are, because these missions take a lot of time, and are dreadfully repetitive. But to keep things interesting while just swinging around the city, random crimes and conundrums will pop up that you’ll have the option of taking care of, just like in Spider-Man 2.

Another big staple in gameplay are the many different kinds of races you’ll be competing in. The Human Torch makes a few appearances, and as a side mission, you’ll compete against him in different races around the city, as well as taking on different races placed throughout the map. These races are pretty straight and forward; you have markers you have to make contact with from point A to B, and you’ll have X amount of time to finish. These races are pretty fun at first, but quickly get dull and frustrating. Boss battles often have a kind of chase mission before the actual fight where you’ll have to keep up with the boss while saving citizens or doing some other sort of chore, and allowing the boss to stray too far results in failure. These missions are terribly boring and repetitive, and my least favorite part of the game.

One of the game’s highlights is being able to play as Venom in addition to Spider-Man. Venom obviously plays much different than Peter Parker, using strength instead of agility. Webs are replaced by extensions of the symbiote, but you don’t do much web slinging as Venom. Much like the Hulk, you’ll leap and jump from building to building, but the biggest difference is sucking the life from citizens to restore your health. The Venom segments are a lot of fun, but sadly there aren’t very many of them.

Fans of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic will immediately recognize Mark Bagley’s art style used for the game, mixed with the beautiful cel-shading design. The colors and over all style of the game really pop and entering this version of New York is a blast. Cutscenes are made up with comic book panels, and it’s done well, and doesn’t feel forced like most attempts at trying to make a video game look like a comic book. Sound design is pretty spot on, and the voice acting is surprisingly great; this whole cast is absolutely worthy of taking over for a Spider-Man animated series. The story is already good, but the general writing for each character is impressive. Everything from dialog, witty banter, and Spider-Man’s snarky remarks you’ll hear from time to time all feel very natural.

Again, just like Spider-Man 2, the city is filled with tokens to collect for points and unlockables, but unlike Spider-Man 2, you can unlock comic book covers, and even black suit Spider-Man. But only once you’ve completed 100% of the game, which is really lame honestly, because once you’ve completely finished the game, there isn’t much to do, so it would have been nice to enjoy the black suit while there was something relevant to accomplish.

Finishing the campaign allows you to switch back and forth between Venom and Spider-Man to play around with, but I was disappointed that the story ended so quickly. You could run through the main story in only about five hours, and it’s really sad, because the story is so good.

Ultimate Spider-Man is easily one of the top three best Spider-Man games ever made, even if it does suffer from repetition and a short campaign. Fans of the comic will definitely want to consider picking this title up if they haven’t already, not only because it’s an amazing Spider-Man experience (pun intended), but because of the huge amount of guest stars like Wolverine, Nick Fury, Silver Sable, and the classic villains like Green Goblin, Electro, Rhino, and more.

For more segments of The Comics Console, click here!

Andrew Hurst



  1. Kristin

    How about Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, which is set during Civil War?

  2. Good point. Another great example.

  3. DecapitatedDan

    This is my favorite spider-man game! And since I only own an original xbox it gets played more often than one would think nowadays. I do agree on the repetition though.

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