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Aug 31, 2011

My spider-sense is tingling once again

Spider-Man 2
Game Category: Action - Third Person
Developer / Distributor: Fizz Factor / Activision
Release Date: 28 Jun 2004 
Rating: ESRB - Teen

Marvel Comics has seen the creation of thousands of superheroes (and super-villians) over the years that it sometimes make your mind boggle as they seek to introduce to us even more. No superhero other than Spider-Man, however comes across as being the most well-known, the most respected, and the most commercially successful.

It is truly a dream for Marvel Comics fans to be able to live in the era where we get to see movie versions of Spider-Man. Starring Tobey Maguire as the wall crawling superhero for the first three movies, this was a rich opportunity for Activision to license the creation of three PC video games based around the movie franchise.

What could have been a great game for the second movie has however been sullied by strange design decisions. I had expected more from the developers of the game -Fizz Factor. Unfortunately, the fact is that Spider-Man 2 is a game that features overly simplistic but repetitive game play, and it's capped off by lame sub-plots.

Read on for the full review of the game.

No doubt about it... I'm walking into spiderwebs
Game Play
Spider-Man 2 is a single player game that hides no pretenses about who you take control of. You will find that the main menu is bereft of some important options like multiplayer and unlockables, something that you should be aware of from the start.

Upon starting a new game, you are taken through the first mission which is essentially a tutorial mission. The tutorial is narrated by Bruce Campbell, which is an outright surprise for me. Bruce's lines in the mission is a tad sardonic, but at least it's all in good jest. As you play on though, you may have a funny feeling that this game is targeted at kids. Thanks, Bruce for the memories.

The Web is a marvelous thing
Here's what you get to learn in the tutorial:
  • Web swinging is important for Spider-Man, and the way it's implemented in this game, why it's a doozy. There are web icons located in strategic locations in a level, and when Spidey is near one, he can anchor himself on it and swing towards the next web icon. This is perhaps the best part of the game.
  • Climbing walls is not a difficult thing to do as well, however do be prepared for that sudden shift of your camera view as you jump onto a wall. The experience can be quite vertigo inducing after playing for a while.
  • Fighting is so simple that any kid could easily master this. Just point with your mouse and activate punch, or jump and then kick. 
  • Double jumping helps Spider-Man to dodge from deadly super villian blows.
  • Zipping towards walls is straightforward. If a surface is climbable and not too far away, you just activate this ability and you will find Spider-Man reeling himself toward that point.
  • There are a few moments in the game when your Spider sense will tingle and you must quickly perform a jump or directional arrow key press. Master this or it's instant death. 
Additionally, you will learn to shoot at turrets and shatter glass with your web shooter much later in the game.
    What else can it be but a jailbreak!
    There are quite a number of standard enemies in the game. They come as standard thugs or super thugs (the larger sized goons who look ready to break your neck). You will be fighting many of these guys, but at least you can use your web to pull their guns away, or to hold them to a spot. You do see some other enemies, but the variety is not that great.

    Every enemy will drop a health icon when killed, so the game becomes kind of a monty haul as there is more than enough health icons to help you through the more difficult spots. You will also occasionally find an glowing adrenaline ball that allows Spider-Man to do incredible melee damage on his enemies. Additionally, located throughout the levels are interesting hidden objects that you can collect - these are Spiders and Escaped Inmates. The Spiders are very well hidden while the Escaped Inmates will fight back. You may want to collect them, but there really isn't anything attractive to unlock.

    Time to take out Thug #999
    Spider-Man 2 features Doc-Ock (or Doctor Octavius) as the primary antagonist, as you try to stop him from conducting his little fusion reactor experiment. There are also three other super villians featured in the game - they are Rhino, Puma, and Mysterio. You will find there is no bearing to the movie, and although the creativity is appreciated, purists may not like the idea that the game drifts from the movie's plot in inane sub-plots that don't truly add anything to the game - other than being a gap filler for your ultimate showdown against Doc-Ock.

    The levels in Spider-Man 2 take you through the Marvel Universe of New York. You will get to:
    • Drop by the New York Maximum Security Prison to attempt to stop a villian's escape, 
    • See first hand an unfinished construction site - this is a difficult and tiring romp requiring you to jump and zip around the scaffolding, 
    • Visit OsCorp headquarters to stop a bomb threat, 
    • Explore an impressive and unique version of New York as created by Mysterio's super power abilities, 
    • Reenact the New York train scene (as seen in the movie), and 
    • Attempt to stop Doc-Ock plan's at his waterfront laboratory.
    Later levels feature exotic obstacle courses
    Spider-Man 2 sports some of the worst cutscenes ever. They're blurry and pixellated, and probably not worth watching, other than wanting to find out how the story progresses. Some of the in-game models aren't too detailed and even Spider-Man looks rather artificial in some of his movements. Some of the textures look rather blurry even on the highest settings.

    On the contrary, I thought that the level design was not too shabby, with a few exceptional levels in the later part of the game. However, because of the placement of web icons, you will realize that you can never web-swing in a true free form manner through the large expanses. In fact, the placement of the web icons show that movement through the levels is actually quite linear.

    Did your doctor botch your plastic surgery, Aunt May?
    Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Alfred Molina all contribute their voices to the game, however, I thought that Tobey sounded a little unenthusiastic in reprising his role as Spider-Man in this game. The rest of the acting has its equal share of hits and misses, so get ready to love it or hate it as you watch some of the lame cutscenes in the game.

    I felt that the music from KFMDM, a German industrial metal band, was rather uninspiring; it probably makes for some good background music, but that's about it.

    Uhh... watch out Mary Jane!
    • It's a Spider-Man game.
    • You get some interesting level designs to play through.
    • If you are afraid of getting lost, then never fear, just follow the large blue-red arrow above Spidey's head to your next game objective.
    • This may be a good game for boys who love superhero games. 
    • Finally, if you look hard enough, you will find a couple of mini-games hidden throughout the game.
    My spidey sense is tingling!
    • I'll list the game's biggest fault first - I usually don't get vertigo playing action games, but this particular game made me feel quite nauseous as I played it to its completion. The main problem is whenever Spider-Man transits between normal mode and zip / wall climbing mode. The camera view spins so abruptly as it adjusts to some upside down view that you will go blue in the face in no time if you continue to keep your eyes on the screen.
    • The many small game elements like mini-games, hidden objects, sub-plots all look like an adhoc brainstorm session by the developers to prolong the story. They don't really add much value to the game and actually makes it feel more like an average attempt at game design.
    • There are no unlockables to keep you motivated in playing the game.  
    • The levels may be nice to look at, but you will realize that the game plays out in a very linear path. 
    • I can't say the same for the video cutscenes; they look horrible and only goes to show that the production values are not too good here.
    • The sub-plots involving Rhino, Puma, and Mysterio don't really add much to the game. In fact, they detract from the story we have come to love as seen in the movie. 
    • Spider-Man 2 is a really short game. 
    I'm getting dizzy here
    I find it rather difficult to recommend Spider-Man 2 to anyone. It's a short and ugly game (I clocked almost 4 hours) that has simple fighting and web-swinging concepts. It will probably induce bouts of dizziness as the camera quickly adjusts itself to some weird angles while moving Spider Man from the wall to a standing position, and you will also have to contend with hordes of boring thugs and super thugs. You may also complain about the blurry and dated movie cutscenes; this game will never come close to the excellent scenes we saw in the actual movie.

    Not all is a total loss however. There are a few things in the game you might want to look at though: like the way web swinging gets implemented, the design of Mysterio's trio of levels in the later part of the game, and there are some the challenging (but not mightily innovative) boss fights.

    The Mysterio levels are the best part of Spider-Man 2
    My suggestion is that you get Spider-Man 2 only when it's in the bargain bin or you are a collector of Spiderman memorabilia. This game will turn out to be a journey of hits and misses, but at least you have been forewarned!

    Daily PC Game Review Score: 4.5 / 10
    Review Date: 30 Aug 2011


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