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Reviewed: Spider-Man 2
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: August 1st, 2004
Page: 2
The basic premise of the game is quite simple; you're Spider-Man. This means that Peter Parker's life takes a back seat to Spider-Man saving lives and generally being heroic. It also means that people like J. Johan Jameson hate your guts.

As a nice first touch, Bruce Campbell once more does the introductory sequence of "learn the engine" spots, which are a lot more fun than the last time's. He's also present as the voice-over for each new chapter, when there is one, and as the voice on most of the 213 "hint markers" scattered around the city. You're going to hear a lot of him, but it's not a bad thing.

Control-wise, the game's arranged pretty simply. Spidey has seven real buttons to work with. One sends out a webline, one is for dodging attacks when the Spider-Sense blinks. One is for physical attacks button, one's used to attack enemies with webs - webbing them up, taking their weapons, flinging them around, or putting web in their eye. Then, there's a jump button, which when charged gives a higher and higher jump. The "turbo" button alters how all of them work; webslinging goes faster or results in a "web-zip" maneuver, web attacks shoot "impact webbing" to instantly tie up enemies, and so on. There's also a button to put Spidey into "Spider Reflexes" mode, which offers heightened awareness for dodging, and gives access to some different and more powerful attacks.

The combat and engine system is also improved considerably; instead of hunting through levels for "combo tokens" to learn new combat moves, Spider-Man collects "hero points" by fighting crime, defeating bosses, wooing Mary Jane, delivering pizzas, and other heroic feats of bravery and/or stupidity, like jumping into the harbor to collect the set of exploration tokens located on buoys. These points are then spent at the "Spidey store" (there are several throughout town) to buy web speed upgrades, new attacks, and other goodies.

Exploration in the game is key, of course. There are 40 "awards" to be had in the game, which when finished result in a 100% completion. Functionally, some of it's ridiculously difficult, some ridiculously easy; actually getting 100% completion is a work of patience. There are four "exploration" token sets to collect, 213 "hint markers" to tag, several bosses to defeat, pizza missions, Daily Bugle photography missions, Mary Jane missions (wherein Peter tries not to be late for various dates), and a plethora of daily missions, either player-activated or randomly appearing in the city. There are also "challenge" markers , which consist of preplanned routes that Spider-Man must travel in a given time frame; each of these has a normal and an insane time to beat. 

Storyline-wise, Treyarch did an amazing job with the game. Instead of just making the game a play-through of the movie, they made the movie's plotline almost a side-story. All the elements are there - MJ still gets engaged to John Jameson, Harry is still a bit insane, and Doc Ock still loses his wife and tries to rebuild his experiment. However, there's a lot more to enjoy. The Shocker returns, only to be caught once again. Your introductory boss is none other than Rhino - big, dumb, and a fitting teaching boss for the Spider-Sense feature. Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, shows up to harass Spider-Man. And the Black Kat, a fun antihero from the comic book series, shows up to try and get Spider-Man to lighten up a bit about the world and his responsibilities. There are in fact long stretches in the game where it feels like the movie isn't a big factor, but it's worth it, and it makes the game a lot more enjoyable than if it tried to stick 100% to the movie story.

To make sure that players don't get lost, the developers included a helpful map system. Every important location except for hideouts and tokens shows up in some overlay on the map. It's a very useful item. For the curious, yes, Treyarch did put in a memorial of the World Trade Center - in the Financial District, you'll find a blank spot on the ground where a skyscraper ought to be. Here, two squares of nine spotlights each point upwards and create "towers" in light. It's best viewed during the game's nighttime.

The game also includes a statistics page, which keeps up with both the relevant and mundane, and even some crazy statistics. In here you'll find a listing of how many crimes of various sorts you've stopped, how many miles you've crawled, how many challenges beaten... and that's just a sample of the relevant stuff. It also lists how much web-fluid (in gallons) has been used, how far Spidey's fallen without going splat (my record: 3011 feet), and how many revolutions Spider-Man has gotten on a spinning piledriver attack.

Despite the expansiveness and generally solid design, the game DOES have a few downsides. There are spots where the camera isn't quite cooperative, especially when jumping from the side of a building straight up; the camera tends to gyrate wildly, having no ground-based landmark on which to focus. There are spots where players will miss a jump, or attempt to web-sling but be unable to find something to latch on to. Executing the battle with Doc Ock in the final section is likewise hamstrung, first by the camera, and by the fact that his attacks tend to be rather "cheap", constantly picking Spidey up from the ground before he can move.

The game lacks multiplayer, which is a little annoying, but not insurmountable.

Graphically and control-wise, the game's a mixed bag. In terms of controls, the Xbox and PS2 are about equal; the PS2's trigger buttons are slightly more sensitive for turbo and webslinging, but carry the risk of inadvertent triggering of the Spider Reflexes button. The Gamecube's controller, like most crossover titles, just doesn't work as well - in games where players aren't relying on just a single button, the enlarged central button is a hindrance and not a help. On the graphical front, the Xbox is just about perfect, especially in progressive scan mode. The Gamecube's nearly as good, but doesn't show off bump maps and textures quite as well. The PS2, meanwhile, is showing its age; bump mapping and reflective surfaces aren't nearly as clean, the textures on buildings get blurred, and the visual output when swinging at high speeds tends to blur far easier than on the Cube or on the Xbox.

It's a must-have game on any, but if you've got options, I recommend Xbox first, then PS2, then Gamecube.

Added:  Sunday, August 01, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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