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Score: 8.9 / 10
Spider-Man 2 the game does exactly what the
movie does: it outdoes its predecessor.
A mix of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Minority Report (also by Treyarch) and
Grand Theft Auto III, Spider-Man 2 opens up the Spidey experience like
no other Spider-Man game before it. That’s not to say it doesn’t have
some flaws, but if you’re looking for a fantastic Spider-Man experience,
this is it.
The story loosely follows the events in the movie – Peter sorting out
his identity and various relationships (particularly with Mary-Jane
Watson), and Dr. Otto Octavius attempting a dangerous fusion experiment.
But like the original, the developers added their own spice to the
story. Not to spoil anything, but, Mysterio, Shocker, Rhino – in a slick
costume – and the curvy Blackcat all put in appearances. Although there
is a story and checklist of objectives for each chapter to propel some
action, it’s really easy to be distracted
by side missions.
Scattered throughout the truly massive and continuous city – that would
be, New York – are various NPCs that call to Spider-Man to illicit his
help. Interacting with these NPCs and accepting their “missions” is
implemented a lot like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – they scream and jump up
and down to get your attention then provide
you with a quick mission, whether it be saving people from a sinking
boat, grabbing a window washer before he plunges to the ground, fighting
off a squad of gang members, or dropping down on a getaway car,
disabling it then thump and ka-pow! the bad guys that exit the vehicle.
Completing these missions successfully provides Spider-Man with Hero
Points (more on this later), so there is a purpose to taking some of
these missions. However, these tasks also tend to quickly repeat
Rescue missions aren’t as numerous as “beat the thugs up” missions. And
for good reason. The combat is awesome. The quick tutorial, narrated by
Bruce Campbell, should be enough to make Spider-Man a one-man army. In
short order you’ll be flinging ne’er-do-wells at the end of a web,
upper-cutting them into the air for some aerial juggling, and dodging
blows as only a spider can. Besides the offensive arsenal, Spidey also
has defensive capabilities: spider sense (it tingles!) and an arachnid
version of bullet-time. Spider sense tells you when you’re about to be
hit, either with a punch or bullet. Hitting the dodge button when the
spider sense wiggly lines appear around Spidey’s head produces an
evasive move, which can be turned into an offensive counterattack. You
won’t realize Spidey’s full potential until you unlock all his powers
and this is where Hero Points come into play.
Instead of finding icons to acquire new powers and combos like in the
previous game, Spidey has access to the Spidey Store (which looks
suspiciously like a comic shop). To buy new combos and moves, Spidey
trades in Hero Points earned by completing Challenges, helping NPCs, and
fulfilling items on Spidey’s “To Do” list. The more powerful or
complicated the combo or move, the more Hero Points it costs. I suppose
it would be possible to go through the game without buying the upgrades
but why would you? But since there’s only one Spidey Store in the entire
city, it can mean long treks across town, which brings to light one of
Spider-Man 2’s downsides.
The 3D map of the city is accessed with the “back” button. This is a
great way to remain on-track and not stumbling around lost. However,
you’ll constantly be flipping from the map to the main action when
attempting to get to a specific location. On the main screen, there is a
small section of map that provides you with a sense of your immediate
surroundings and sometimes it will point out an objective location, but
you can’t select a location on the big map then swing to it on the
And on the subject of swinging, cool! No longer do Spider-Man’s webs
simply attach to some unseen anchor in the sky. Now each web actually
attaches to something, so if Spidey doesn’t have any building nearby (or
tall enough), his webline will attach to whatever is handy, including
trees or a roving helicopter. And Spidey can perform all sorts of web
tricks, including, what I like to call, the double-fisted swing down
slot canyons of the city. There’s a certain amount of realism in the
“swing physics.” Leaping from a tall building then waiting to swing up
on a web until the last second produces a very powerful and fast swing.
There’s a lot of room for experimentation as so many combinations can be
thrown into the mix – after all, Spider-Man does whatever a spider can.
(Besides crawling up walls, he can also run up and down walls and swing
For both combat and web slinging, the controls are fairly tight allowing
for good control in almost every situation. It can take a while to
realize Spider-Man’s full potential as a one-spider wrecking crew
because the combos are slowly unlocked over time.
For everything that Spider-Man 2 does right, there are some problems.
The first is some truly bizarre graphical glitches. The best example of
this was a guy I found lodge in some steps – his head was visible, the
rest of him was firmly lodged in the cement! While it doesn’t affect the
gameplay one bit, it’s just a little jarring to find something like that
when most everything else is done so well. Then there’s the tricky
subject of the in-game camera. As with all Spider-Man games, the camera
sometimes has a hard time keeping up or providing a perspective that
doesn’t suddenly make you nauseous or skew your view enough so that you
perform the wrong move. On the upside, indoor missions are seemingly few
and far between and what indoor missions are included are usually
wide-open areas so you don’t have the headaches associated with your
view being obscured. Still, you’ll encounter points of frustration with
the camera (even with some control over it).
The audio is simply average. I really like some of the incidental music
and the environmental audio is great (just listen for the increasing
“swoosh” sound as swoop at the bottom of swing), but the voice acting is
so-so. Most of the principle cast lends their voice talents to the game,
including Tobey McGuire. Often the delivery comes off as stilted and
really pasted together. When are voice actors going to start recording
dialogue together? (I know it’s the norm for actors to record dialogue
on their own in a soundproof booth and the logistics might be a huge
headache, but let’s just try it a few times and see how it goes, okay?)
That said, I must give kudos to the voice actor who voices Blackcat.
If you thought the second Spider-Man movie was better than the first,
then you’ll probably feel the same way about the games. The sequel’s
improvements over the original make it a must have title for any fan of
the web head.