Genre : Action
Release Date: June 28, 2004
For years games based on movies have always seemed to fall short (and in many cases way short) of their big screen brothers. It's become an unpleasant trend in the video game industry and it's one that many developers have tried to break free of, but usealy with little success. There is no "one" reason why many games based on movies fail, sometimes it's because the developer is just trying to cash in big on a popular movie license to make a quick buck and doesn't care much about the quality of the title *cough cough The Matrix cough*. Other times it's more due to the fact that what looked great and worked well in the movie doesn't end up working so well in a game. Movies only have to entertain us for 2 or 3 hours but games have to entertain us for many many more, and thus is a problem for developers looking to make a game based directly on a movie. But developer Treyarch has mastered that and broken free of the movie based game stereotype with Spider-Man 2.
Best known for their work on the excellent Tony Hawk series of games, Treyarch has done an outstanding job in taking what will surely be one of the biggest movies ever and creating a game based on it, while at the same time making it long lasting and fun to play. This day in age most single player only games do not offer all that much longevity and tend to be easily beaten within 8-10 hours. Spider-Man 2 is one of the few single player only games that breaks this mold and offers the gamer an incredible amount of things to do resulting in quite abit of replayablity. For starters you have the whole city of New York modeled in stunning accuracy right down to some of the smallest details. Famous landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park and Empire State Building have been very faithfully recreated in 3D. On a side note I must say I have much respect for Treyarch for very tastefully adding in 2 beams of light where the Twin Towers once stood. Pretty much every square inch of NYC has been modeled in the game making for a lot real estate to cover. Making this really impressive is the games amazing draw distance and lack of loading times. One of the first things I did in the game was climb to the tallest building and look out over the city to see how far I could see. To my surprise I could see the whole entire city with no fog what so ever. I was in total awe! I then dove off of the building free falling to the ground and then right before I would have impacted I tossed out my web and swung off to the other end of the city. This led to my other moment of "awe" when I realized that there were no load times what so ever and that this massive city was being rendered completely in real time. You can move seamlessly from one end of the city to the other, from the highest point to the lowest point, with no load times what so ever.
One would expect to see massive level of detail model changes in a game like this to save memory. But surprisingly the LOD changes are actually quite subtle. You will noticed buildings getting more detailed in the distance as you get closer to them, as well as people and cars on the streets popping up, but all of this happens at a pretty good distance from you and is blended in such a way it is not even very noticeable unless you are really looking for it. Not only does the city look great, but it also feels very alive too. From high above you can see cars on the streets and people walking on the side walks. When you come down to street level you can actually walk around and interact with fully 3D people as well as traffic.
But what good would a massive, fully 3D city be if there was nothing to do? Thankfully there is loads of different things to do here. The game it self is split up into 2 main parts: Story missions and events based on the story, and everything else that's not directly related to the story. Spider-Man 2 is made up of "Chapters", each one having a list of things to do that need to be completed to progress to the next one. At the start of each chapter (and later accessible through the pause menu) are a list of everything that you need to do, but often times during a chapter new things will come up and be added to this list or certain things will change based on what is happening in the game. Your story missions follow the plot of the movie and will have you going to different places and meeting different people throughout the city as well as performing other tasks. Most of these missions can be done when ever you want to complete them, but some are timed events that you have to do right away. While completely these missions a number of both in-engine and CG cut scenes will come up to progress the story along. The acting for the most part is solid in these cut scenes but far from great and sometimes they can get a bit corny.
Out side of the main missions there is a near endless number of things you can do. While swinging around the town you will come across people on the streets that want to talk to you. These people act like "side quests" and will tell you about bank robberies, police chases and other event's that are taking place right now that you can take part it and help out. After completing one of these side quests you will earn "hero points" for your good work. Besides your other objectives for completing a level, you also must earn a set number of hero points before you can progress to the next one. These side missions are very fun at first, but after a while you will notice that there are only a few different types of quest and they will get some what repetitive after a while, but never to the point were you get sick of doing them. Also, later in the game these side quest will get harder and more challenging which helps some.
Besides the side question, you also can compete in time races from one part of the city to another as well as search for a number of different types of coins to collect that will unlock secrets in the game. Over all you are really pretty much free to do what you want, when you want in the game. You are more limited here in what you can do then in say GTA 3, but over all you have a great amount of freedom to make your own choices. Treyarch has done a great job in mixing in required story elements that have to be completed to progress the story and game along with the freedom to play through other parts of the game however you like.
Adding to your freedom in the game is the great combat system. When you first start playing Spider-Man 2 the combat system seems extremely limited with one action button used for combos and only a few different moves you can do. It also is pretty bland and boring at first too. But don't let this fool you, as the combat system in Spider-Man 2 is actually extremely deep. As you advance through the game you learn new moves and can buy an whole host of different power upgrades for things like swing speed. You are even able to buy new moves too. You can buy these upgrades at different shops through out the city with your hero points that you have earned by completing missions. Pretty soon you have a whole host of combos and complex super moves you can use on your enemies, making the combat much more enjoyable. Helping things out are the great controls in the game. You will never have any problems performing even the most complex of your moves thanks to the solid controls. One of the best features of them is the games swing system. Unlike previous Spider-Man games where you just simply had to hit a button and you would shoot out some webbing and swing no matter what, in Spider-Man 2 you actually have to aim for a building or other structure to swing from. This not only gives you more control over where you go but it also effects the nature and movement of your swing based on where you shoot your web. Despite how it might sound, "aiming" your web for swinging is very easy and done by pointing with the joystick in the direction of an structure and pressing the R trigger button on the Xbox controller. Treyarch really did a wonderful job with making you feel more apart of the game with this system. It's also very fun and swinging around the city is practically a game in it's self.
In the end, Spider-Man 2 is not only the very best super hero game ever made, but it is also the very best movie based game ever made. Many would argue that the Chronicles of Riddick is the best movie based game ever made, but I do not include that as a "movie based game" since it was not based on any movie, but only on a character from a movie. Which that gave the developer much more freedom with the game design then a real movie based game. Treyarch did a fantastic job in bringing the look and feel of Spider-Man 2 the movie home for us in the form of a video game. For a single player game, Spider-Man 2 has a good bit of replay value, which factored in with the 12 + hours it will take the average gamer to beat the single player missions and you have a great game that is well worth it's price tag despite the lack of any multiplayer modes. Fans of the movie and action game fans alike should not miss out on what is one of the best action games out there!
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