Friday, December 17, 2004

Review: Spider-Man 2: The Movie (XBox)
Posted by Ariel :: 11:00 AM

Most video games based on comic book characters have sucked for the most part. In fact almost all the games I have ever played have failed to capture what it is like to be the costumed star of the game. There have been exceptions to this, but most games fall short of delivering on the promise of their premise. Fortunately, along with the string of excellent Marvel movies has also come a string of good video games, which brings us to a video game based off of a movie based off of a comic book. Just one of those transitions usually boded disaster for the franchise in question. In this case we get the sequel to the aforementioned, which is also a boding for disaster. Fortunately Spider-Man 2 squashes these curses like a bug.

Spider-Man: The Movie was a very well done game but, at times, was still your standard superhero smash 'em up, with a couple of other genres blended in for good measure (I particularly enjoyed some of its ceiling crawling stealth segments). Spider-Man 2 is a whole new game, however. Stealing GTA's free-form mission-based exploration formula, this game presents a compressed rendition of Manhattan, which is eerily accurate in a lot of respects, and drops you completely into Spider-Man's tights. After the first opening cinematic through the first training sequence to the first of a series of chapters, the game allows you to become a superhero more thouroughly than any other game I've ever played. As accurately as the movie captured the use of Spider-Man's abilities, the game lets you use them as accurately as they were captured on film. Webslinging alone will consume hours of your time, all the while you are doing nothing more than traveling from place to place.

The webslinging in this game is absolutely perfect. No longer are you swinging from some imaginary point in the sky as in the first movie game, You are now required to have a point to swing from. Usually a step this dramatic into the realm of realism ends up killing the fun in the game, but having a realistic New York to swing from makes this swing mechanic far superior to any seen in any previous spiderman game. You will swing realistically and have more fun doing it due to the greater control now possible. Previous games had you swinging forward and moving slowly from side to side, or jumping off and swinging forward in a new direction. You can still do this in this game, but you can now web shoot the corner of a building and swing around it, executing a turn at over a hundred miles an hour, do loop de loops around a post, or the very corner at the top of a building, or even just swing around a pole. Anything you think you should be able to do if you tied a rope to something you can do in this game. This combined with two more websling moves you can unlock (the webzip shoots out a webline and Spider-Man pulls on it hard, changing his momentum entirely, and the web sling, where you shoot out two webs and you can use them to slingshot yourself through the air in a similiar manner as when Spider-Man slingshotted himself from a building to the bridge in the first movie) as well as your ability to run along walls allow you to move through the game just like you saw Spider-Man do in the movie. It was so accurate that while I was playing someone walked into the living room and thought that I was watching the movie. In fact it wasn't until I dropped down to the street to talk to a citizen in distress that she realized I was playing a video game. It is also that much fun to do.

Speaking of citizens in distress, the game presents challenges to you at every opportunity. Some of them are timed events that wait until you have advanced to a certain point before activating some quick missions that advance the story, but, in order to become a better Spider-Man, you must earn hero points, usually by stopping crime in a manner of ways. A lot of the time you will see someone on the street with a question mark over their hand, and they'll wave up to you and yell for help. Once you initiate conversation with them they'll inform you of some crime in process and it is up to you to stop it. There will also be random crimes that you can stop. Unfortunately there is not a lot of variety in the things you can do. They boil down to, stop a car, beat up some thugs, rescue someone from a building/boat, and get someone to the hospital. This part will get repetitive for some, but once you've unlocked some of the myriad of Spider-Man's combat moves you can do alot of these missions in several different ways. Unfortunately a lot of people will get mired down in having to do the same mission over and over again.

Another thing that gets used over and over again is the sprites for the random citizens in the city. It wouldn't be such a big deal, considering the amount of time you spend swinging at 150 mph 200 ft in the air, but you have to talk with them over and over again in order to progress through the game.

Fortunately the game offers several side distractions to break up your duties as Spider-Man. You can take photos for the Daily Bugle, race to meet Mary Jane for a date, or deliver Pizzas (with hilarious pizza delivering music). There are also 150 challange markers with a variety of tests for your Spider-Abilities and 2 levels for each challange, giving you a total of 300 optional challenges to fulfill. Not to mention there are skyscraper tokens, bouy tokens, hideout tokens, and secret tokens to find.

Coming back to the sprites for a second, some of the jobs done on the actors is terrible. Mary Jane in particular looks like she got hit with a frying pan. The voice acting is not inspired either. Doctor Octupus' lines are well done and Black Cat's are excellent (as is her character model) but everyone else is pretty bad, and even Tobey Maguire sounds bored at times. JJ is hilarious though. The one true brilliant spot in the voices comes from Bruce Campbell, who once again guides you through the training mode, but also joins you in the form of help icons scattered through out the game. You can read what he is supposed to be saying from the pop-up that comes up although he ad-libs all over the place to hilarious results.

The game keeps statistics for just about everything you do (one of my proudest achievemest is a streak of 51 enemies beaten without taking a hit) even the amount of distance you've traveled, how much web fluid you've used, and what your maximum speed was.

At least rent Spiderman 2 and dedicate some time to it, or use a cheat code to unlock all of Spidey's abilities and give it a whirl. If you liked it as much as I did go out and buy it. The game is very good and all the potential is there for an absolutely spectacular sequel. Now you too can do whatever a spider can.

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