Game Description: Spider-Man 2 returns you to the world of Peter Parker. He's a troubled young man, and having people trying to kill him doesn't help things. This game follows the plot to Spider-Man 2, with new elements and enemies—to keep the gaming action as exciting as the hit movie.
Spider-man 2 seemed to me like the product of relentless scouring of Internet message boards, videogame reviews and fan input. To be this in tune with the audience is a badge of honor that the intuitive Treyarch developers should wear proudly. As a result, Spider-man 2 is not only the best superhero videogame I've ever played, but also the closest thing to a superhero simulator in existence.
In fact, GameCritics.com's very own Chi Kong Lui and yours truly commented on the apparent essence of the previous Spidey games—the feeling that you're just watching Spider-man, not becoming him. I myself wished for the ability to swing from the skyline to drop into a dark alley just to rescue a pretty, red-headed girl from getting her purse snatched. And being the game genies they now appear to be, Treyarch granted my wish.
But what makes the Spider-man games so intriguing anyway is inherent to Spidey's powers. Not one superhero in existence—and as a result, not one single superhero game in existence—has the ability to nose dive off the Empire State Building and, just before landing, swing from web to web safely and speedily. Any other developer with any other character would be hard pressed to bring to the table a similar experience, simply because there's nobody quite like Spider-man.
Swinging itself is already a very weird mode of transportation, using weight and inertia to guide you forward, up, left, right, over and under. But the previous games, much like the old cartoons, showed Spidey shooting and swinging miraculously from the air. This game puts an end to that nonsense. Spider-man needs an apparatus to shoot a web line. He needs a solid object to swing from, and once he lets go, the web line will hang loosely off the building, helicopter, George Washington Bridge, Statue of Liberty or wherever.
Almost every swinging scene in the two blockbuster films can be recreated in this game. It's almost miraculous how the developers were able to do it, but then again Treyarch has experience in making the Tony Hawk games. The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series is, of course, the series that made the impossible possible in videogames.Swinging, running on walls and jumping like Spider-man was once thought impossible. Never did I ever imagine it would feel as intuitive as it does here.
Some reviews have referred to this movie tie-in as "Grand Theft Spider-man." Granted, there are many similarities between the Grand Theft Auto series and this game. Both present large-scale, open-air environments that yield little to no loading times. (In Spidey's case, a large New York City stretches as far as the eye can see.) Both games have goal indicators in the on-screen maps. Both present gameplay that doesn't stop at the story's end.
But Spider-man can't do whatever a Tommy Vercetti can. He can't crush cars. Theoretically, he doesn't really kill anyone. He just saves people over and over again, which admittedly gets repetitious given the variety of help that is needed. Most missions are your typical stickup, while others include retrieving balloons for children, saving men in orange jumpsuits from falling, saving men from drowning, stopping break-ins and halting gang fights.
The limited variety hampers the game because the main forward drive in the game leans on saving as many people as you can for hero points. Hero points are accrued and used to purchase new moves for Spidey and pushes the story along. After saving the umpteenth orange jumpsuit man, the missions begin to get a bit mind numbing.
Despite the lack of variety in the missions, Spider-man 2 is still a remarkable step in the proverbial right direction. The game is exhilaratingly close to capturing that "superhero" feel of being responsible for lowering the crime rate of a city and helping defenseless denizens. I suppose the next big challenge for the developers is to now add weight on Spidey's shoulders—the real essence of this unique hero. It's all too easy to ignore a girl's cries for help in this game, and swinging by yields no consequence.
For instance, as Spidey, I was delivering pizzas and I was on the clock. A girl below was getting mugged and I decided to stop and tie the muggers up to the traffic light. I still made it to deliver my pizza, and the girl was safe. Later, the same situation occurred, but this time I ignored the plea for help just so my customer could get the pizza on time and I could finish the "time attack" mission. Whatever happened to that girl? Who knows? Who cares? I got my hero points.
I'd like to stress that I'm far from penalizing this game for not being even more ambitious than it already is. I'm only flattering myself that the developers may someday read this review and again go that extra mile. But before that ever happens, we all have Spider-man 2—a landmark superhero game that offers an experience not only unique to superhero games, but gaming in general.
So I planned on taking Spider-man 2 (and Gene's review) to task here; planned to gripe about the repetitiveness of the street crimes, the flighty combat, the lousy camera, etc. But…I can't do it. I like the game too damn much. Web-slinging my way around Manhattan is simply the most empowering videogame experience I've had in ages. I defeated Doc Ock over a week ago, but even now as I write this, I still feel the gravitational pull of the game. I'm still playing it endlessly, still exploring the nooks and crannies of the city, and still feeling those butterflies in my stomach each and every time I sling myself down Broadway through Times Square.
Spider-man 2 and I actually got off to a rough start. It was certainly easy enough to get myself off the ground and into the air, but staying there proved to be a bit tricky. My early efforts were not pretty. I spent more time kissing the street than I would have liked. It took a few somewhat painful nights for me to learn how to control Spider-man. I experimented, trying to figure out what I was capable of, what I could do. At first, I careened my way around the city, completely out of control. But with practice, in time, I was spending less time on the street and more time in the air. I learned to finesse my way through Manhattan. A little web-zip here, a little wall run there, and suddenly, with all the wonder and awe of a super hero realizing his own powers, I was skillfully sailing between the buildings like an old pro, and—if I do say so myself—I was looking unbelievably great doing so.
Being a super hero, at heart, is an alpha male fantasy. Super heroes have domains to protect; in the case of Peter Parker, it's New York City. Treyarch obviously spent a great deal of time and energy creating a videogame version New York, and they were wise to do so; the city is as much of a character in the game as Spider-man is. Once I mastered web-slinging, I actually felt as if I owned the city—all of it, every square inch. New York belonged to me; it became my domain. This sense of ownership, I believe, is the essence of the super hero experience, and Spider-man 2 captures it like no game has before.
The game also has a terrific sandbox quality. Depending on my mood, I could either goof around searching for skyscraper tokens and running timed web-slinging races, or else fight crime. I never felt pressured to do anything. Gene's wise to mention the Tony Hawk Pro Skater games. Spider-man 2, in spirit, feels like a descendant of those games, featuring a similar improvisational quality and sense of freedom. (And maybe my ears are deceiving me, but the game even recycles a few of the sound effects from Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2.) Like the Tony Hawk games, I found myself constantly searching the city for "lines," for alleys and avenues that were ripe for web-slinging.
It's certainly easy enough to find fault with Spider-man 2. The boss fights always felt hinky to me. The narrative felt a little thin and underdeveloped. Any time I was indoors, I felt like a cat trapped under a laundry basket; I couldn't wait to get outside again, back to the skyscrapers, where I felt most at home. But why complain? Give Treyarch the credit they deserve. Like Gene says, it does indeed seem as if they'd scoured Internet forums, trying to figure out what gamers wanted. And Treyarch deserves even more credit for the simple fact that instead of crafting this living, breathing comic book world, they could have simply produced a crummy Spider-man game and, based on the strength of the license, they would have sold a million copies anyway.
One of my standard criteria for measuring the worth of any videogame is the question of whether or not the world of the game is a world I want to be in. Spider-man 2, without question, has this quality in spades. There's something bright and vivid and breezy about the world of Spider-man 2. (In contrast, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, despite the indisputable quality of the game, was a world I couldn't wait to get out of.) Like I said, even though the game is technically finished for me, it's a world I'm reluctant to leave. I confess, I haven't—ahem—actually seen the Spider-man 2 movie yet (though I did see them filming scenes for the movie last year in Madison Square Park; a stunt-man dressed in a Spider-man suit hanging limp from a crane). I thought the first film was lousy, and I wasn't looking forward to the sequel at all. Credit Treyarch again for making a videogame of such high quality that I'm thinking about counting myself among the "true believers" again. I've got a ticket for a matinee this afternoon at the multiplex down the block.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Violence
Parents need not fear, Spider-man is here and is childproof. The videogame is no more(if not less) violent than any comic book at your local grocery store.
Fans of Spidey won't want to miss this one. The obligation to adhere to the movie's plot actually serves to bog down the pace of the game, but the game does take delicious turns into Spidey's comic mythology. Black Cat, and her voice actress, especially turn in a choice performance in the game.
Fans of free-form gameplay might be disappointed that the missions are more linear than it first appears to be. But free-form fans may want to pick up the game if onlyto see the most technically impressive large-scale environment in any videogame to datezero loading times and many of the buildings exactly where they would be in real life.
Fans of unlockable materials may frown at the lack of rewards for completing 100 percent of the game.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers may have a difficult time. Subtitles are not available. When cries for help do occur, a marker shows up on the map, but the audio clue is a much more immediate indicator.