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Spider-Man 2

Platform(s): GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSP, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: Nov. 16, 2004 (US), March 11, 2005 (EU)


PS2 Review - 'Spider-Man 2'

by Thomas Wilde on July 18, 2004 @ 11:46 p.m. PDT

Dr. Octopus has put NYC in crisis again, but Spider-Man is coming to the rescue. The controls have been beefed up to allow never-before-seen moves and amazing agility in a fully explorable 3D world that allows Spidey to take on missions and challenges all across the city.

Genre : Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Release Date: June 28, 2004

Xbox | Game Cube | GBA | PlayStation 2

Games based upon comic book licenses are almost as infamously poor as games based upon movie licenses, so Spider-Man 2, as a game based upon a movie that’s based upon a comic book, should be screwed straight out of the gate.

Spider-Man 2 isn’t bad at all, though. Granted, Spider-Man has, as a rule, had better luck with his video games than almost any other comic book character (even his bad games are simply mediocre, such as Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin on Sega CD, as opposed to the soul-crushing horror of a Dark Tomorrow), but Spider-Man 2 is still a lot of fun.

There’s a plot here, which eventually gets around to being similar to the movie, but Spider-Man 2 is really about treating New York City as your personal playground. You can opt to follow the game’s simple instructions, which will eventually bring you into vicious mortal combat with one Doctor Otto Octavius, or you can swing around the city, fighting random crimes and exploring rooftops.

When the game opens, you’ll be dropped into the city of New York, which has been rendered in its entirety and placed at your disposal. To get around inside it, you can climb walls, swing on weblines, ride atop cars, jump across city streets, or sprint across rooftops, just as Spidey himself does in the movies. The impressive bit here is that this has been accomplished without loading zones; New York is a living, breathing entity that takes place in real time, sort of like the Los Angeles of True Crime.

Unfortunately, as if to compensate for loading up an entire city every time you leave a building, Spider-Man 2’s graphics have taken a hit. There’s a strangely bare-bones approach to the game’s look, where everything except Spidey himself has just enough polygons to look like what it’s supposed to look like, and no more. Most of the character models have a hint of the grotesque to them, and wouldn’t look entirely out of place on a well-made PSOne game. They’re well-animated, and the sound’s decent, but you’re not going to be playing Spider-Man 2 for the graphics.

Instead, you’ll be playing it, in large part, for the webslinging and the exploration. It’s fun to simply jump around the city as Spider-Man, throwing yourself off tall buildings and using a well-timed webline to save yourself just before you hit the ground, or climbing all over creation searching for one of a variety of hidden tokens. In between death-defying stunts, when you’re in close proximity to the ground, you may run across random crimes, or pedestrians in need of help, and you can swoop in to save the day in classic superhero style.

There are only about a dozen different kinds of crime in New York City, though, and Spider-Man doesn’t have anywhere near that much random dialogue. After about the twelfth sinking ship, or the fifteenth construction worker who’s hanging onto a building’s roof by his fingernails, it starts to wear a little thin.

Fighting crime, finding tokens, helping people, and completing storyline-related tasks will earn you Hero Points. These can be traded in at the Upgrade Stores throughout the city for new techniques, aerial tricks, combos, or improvements, enabling you to experiment with Spidey’s webs and superstrength. Every time you pass one of the main game’s fifteen chapters, new upgrades will be added to the store, letting you constantly evolve Spidey’s approach to combat. Most of these new moves are of the combination variety, or provide a devastating counterhit if you attack after a successful dodge, but each one provides a good visual. You can hang an unconscious thug from a lamppost or yank someone across the street into your fist, just as in the comics.

It’s only when you start to progress through the game’s story mode that Spider-Man 2’s flaws begin to assert themselves. The plot of the movie is mostly intact here, featuring the botched fusion experiment that gives rise to the villainous Dr. Octopus, but Doc Ock himself only puts in an appearance after Chapter Ten. For the nine chapters before that, you’ll be slugging it out with some of Spidey’s classic villains, who’ve been redesigned to be more in line with the films’ look: Rhino, Mysterio, and the Shocker. You’ll also get to meet the Black Cat, a thief and burglar from the comics who’s only barely avoided being in the movies, and partner up with her for some of the tougher fights.

The advantage to the game’s story missions is that they’re usually very different from anything you’ll just run into in the city. After a vicious boss fight or an arduous platforming sequence, a simple mugger is a nice change of pace, even if you’ve already fought a few hundred of them.

As you get towards the end of Spider-Man 2’s story, you’ll probably notice that certain flaws keep popping up. There are a couple of missions that are made sort of artificially difficult by strange gaps in Spidey’s moveset; for instance, you can’t climb walls or sprint along them when you’re carrying someone, so a rescue mission in Chapter Nine is made a lot harder than it has to be. Spidey also can’t swim for some reason, which seems really odd.

A couple of the hardest challenges don’t make any sense, either. Doc Ock’s containment field randomly generates bolts of plasma that can only be dodged with your spider-sense, even if they don’t come anywhere near you and you’re on the other side of a wall. Shocker’s best attack is a large explosive force dome which is nearly impossible to dodge. Doc Ock himself can be almost impossible to beat, as he belongs squarely to the tradition of video game bosses who have to let you win; if he grabs you, it’s possible for him to kill you in one long string of hits, without affording you the opportunity to counterattack or escape.

The most frustrating part of Spider-Man 2 comes in Chapter Nine, when you have to destroy one of Mysterio’s gadgets that’s hovering above the Statue of Liberty. To do so, you have to swing out to the edge of the gadget and destroy a series of orbs that power its defense system, but it’s nearly impossible to generate enough momentum to reach an orb. Instead, you have to get somewhere near one of them and exploit what looks like a glitch in Spidey’s autotarget system, where he’ll change direction in midair and fly over to an available enemy. As far as I can tell, if that bug wasn’t there, you couldn’t actually get past Chapter Nine.

Spider-Man 2 has a great engine, and it’s easily the best superhero game ever. I’d love to see the same approach taken for other superheroes; it’d be great to see Daredevil prowling the alleys of this New York, or Iron Man flying above it. You’ll have hours of fun swinging around the city. The real problem is that the further you get in the story mode, the less fun Spider-Man 2 becomes.


Score : 8.8/10

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