Amazing, Spectacular, etc.
I'm a sucker for Spider-Man. I started getting an allowance when my mom found out I was saving my lunch money to buy Spidey comic books. I was a fan of "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends", Nicholas Hammond, and the infamous dancing Spider-Man (do a Google search). However, I never cared much for his games. The 1982 Atari
game did nothing for me. He wasn't doing anything close to what a spider could do in 1989's Dr. Doom's Revenge
. And would he really have as much trouble taking on tubby Wilson Fisk as he did in 1991's The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin
? I ignored the PS2 release
accompanying the first hit movie, but couldn't pass on the hype surrounding the sequel. Could you really do everything a spider could do? Could you really go anywhere? Well the answer to both questions is… pretty much.
The story arc of the game and the story arc of the movie are similar, so spoiler-phobes be warned. The misguided scientist Otto Octavius
is trying to develop a risky alternative energy source in the Big Apple and it's up to Spider-Man to keep New York City safe. The game, narrated by Bruce Campbell, also acts as a nice bridge between the movies and the comics. Sure Doc Ock is the main villain, but there are other bad guys and gals here that wouldn't translate well to the big screen. With threats from a loony special effects wizard
, a career criminal
with shocking power, and other super and mundane villains there's a lot to keep Spider-Man busy aside from the movie's action set-pieces. There's also a lot for Peter Parker to do: there are pizzas to be delivered, photos to be taken, and dates with Mary Jane to be kept.
So here's the game—Spider-Man patrols New York City and keeps it safe. New York (to the eyes of me, a non-New Yorker) is presented seamlessly (no load times) with the major landmarks (Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Empire State Building, etc). As Spider-Man swings through town three things can happen: he can stop a random crime, help a citizen in distress, or trigger a timed challenge.
Random crimes show up on the helpful map/compass on the screen and must be dealt with in a reasonable amount of time or they go away. These include stopping muggings and purse snatchings, halting rooftop robberies, and taking a rather fascist approach to road rage.
Citizens in distress also show up on the map, but are easily spotted with their green distress bubbles over their heads. These helpful citizens point out workers dangling from rooftops, police pursuits which just passed through the area, and sinking boats among other "disturbances."
Timed challenges are triggered by hitting icons around the city or starting a pizza delivery, photo assignment, or Mary Jane quest.
The goal of all of this, aside from doing good Spidey things, is to earn Hero Points. Hero Points can be spent in several Spidey Stores around the city to regain health or purchase special moves. Accumulating enough Hero Points is usually a gateway to the next chapter (of which there are 17) which triggers story missions.
With the exception of spinning giant webs, you can do anything Tobey Maguire can do. Spider-Man starts with his innate abilities: web swinging, web snaring, running and jumping, etc. By spending Hero Points, Spidey can swing faster and learn cool spider tricks and combo moves. Realistic or not, this works very well in terms of gameplay. A white glow around Spider-Man's head (the Spider Sense) lets you know when you're about to get hit, so you can quickly press the dodge button. Also, as Spidey does cool Spidey-stuff (like dodging attacks and moving gracefully through NYC), he charges his Spider Reflex meter. Activating the Spider Reflexes triggers a slow motion effect, letting Spider-Man evade his enemies easier, do more damage, and more complicated combos.
Probably the nicest aspect of this game isn't its focus on replay, but continuous play. You can move through the game quickly if you are just focusing on completing the chapter objectives, but the game offers a cornucopia of missions and goals for the completist: finding tokens on the top of skyscrapers, raiding criminal hideouts, and more. Once you've completed the game, you can keep on playing.
Spider-Man 2 does have some weak points. Presenting NYC seamlessly does mean that graphics aren't that crisp (I'm assuming that there is a trade-off). In-game models are fine, but the few rendered scenes show their weakness. Also, having the actors voice their game counterparts really doesn't make that big of a difference. Tobey sounds a little flat and Kirsten's time would have been better spent working on her relationship with Jake.
Off the top of my head, I can think of only a dozen in-game missions (the random crime type thing). Over the course of the game, you'll see these repeatedly and after completing each one 25 times, you'll win an award. Sound repetitious? It might be, but I'm not sure where the variety could be added. It does seem odd that there's a rash of people falling from buildings and I think that losing a balloon is more instructive for children than teaching them that superheroes will be around to help them. Anyhow, this is all traditional Spidey stuff. If you are tired of replaying the same types of missions, the core part of the game is still strong enough and long enough to highly recommend this game.
Finally, all NYC is represented (again to me, a non-New Yorker) but it really doesn't matter. You get the same crimes in the Financial District that you do in Harlem. You could probably focus on a four block radius and have the same gaming experience as someone who covered the entire city.
The Bottom Line
I loved Spider-Man 2. It's a great game and I'm still scouring the city looking for the last five criminal hideouts. Sooner or later I'm going to take care of the Witch Woman hiding out near the ocean too. Spider-Man 2 is a strong enough product that it doesn't need the movie tie-in status. Hopefully Treyarch is working on another Spider-Man game based more on Marvel and less on Columbia Pictures. It's great swinging around and seeing the Empire State Building, but imagine seeing the Four Freedoms Plaza, or running across the Avengers, Daredevil, Kingpin, etc.