#622 Spider-Man 2

Posted: 8th August 2014 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

354th played so far

Spider-Man_2_CoverartGenre: Action
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Activision

This is a game I’ve been looking forward to playing for quite a while. When playing and discussing Prototype and Infamous, their free running mechanics came up and Spider-Man 2 was a game Peter often cited as the original game to do this, and do it well.

Enjoying those mechanics, I’ve been wanting to try it myself and see how the game plays. Besides, it’s Spider-Man, that makes it even better!

Our Thoughts

There is something incredibly freeing about webslinging. I’d experienced it earlier, in smaller form, playing (of all things) Lego Marvel Superheroes, but this game, build around the whole concept, makes it so much better. Once you get into it, soaring over the streets and roofs of Manhattan feels incredibly empowering.

What adds to this sensation is its realism – when swinging around, your webs don’t simply attach to the possibly invisble ceiling – they instead connect to appopriate nearby ceilings, with the physics constraining you to swing around that point. While frustrating your movement, it also makes it a more active experience, making control more interesting.

Combine that with the ability to climb up any building, and you get a true open world – no buildings are out of reach, no roofs too high to climb and no limitations in access. It creates an incredible freedom. And while this work isn’t always encouraged – there are no simple collectables and climbing the Empire State Building only gives you access to a time trial course – being that high up is encouraged.

I added the ‘once you get into it’ disclaimer – while webslinging becomes second nature after playing for a while, it takes some time to get used to it and needs some more time when you start after the game after not having played for a while (as, indeed, I just did). It’s not that major, but is something I had to be careful with.

The fighting system of the game fits in with a similar elegance – jump, attack, block and web are the four main buttons. They’re where you expect them to be (looking at you, Free Running) and combine into attacks in simple, elegant ways – no need to learn long combos or to start button mashing.

It makes Spider-Man 2 a really nice work to just explore and do things in. The world is filled with lots of little side tasks – bits to be heroic – from car chases (with you slinging after them) to apprehending thieves and rescuing escaped balloons. This is where some of the flaws show up as well. As nice as the controls can be, they aren’t always suitable for the tasks (or perhaps the tasks are far fiddlier than they should be for controls that, by necessity of the world, are a bit more reliant on broad strokes). Rescuing the balloon is one good example of that, but my personal bugbear for most of it have been the car chasing. You are meant to chase and land on the car so you can beat it down, but between the limits of web slinging and your own occasional lack of speed, it is very difficult to actually land on the car.

So that’s a lot of gameplay, but what about the story, you may ask. Based on the movie, the game expands on most of it, adding plenty new characters and encounters – as you’d expect from a game like this really. There’s some decent voicework here and some okay writing – especially, obviously, in the quips – although not up to movie quality. So far, it mostly feels tangential – excuses to play some expanded versions of existing mission types. These mission can be more interesting – an early fight in a museum requires a nice change of strategy compares to fighting in the streets, for example.

There are some other smaller issues with the game. Most notable for me was the lack of waypoints – there’s no way to go on the map and indicate you want to (for example) visit a specific shop and set a marker that leads you there. While not essential, with the large size of the world they’re trying to create, this sort of help is pretty useful, and it’s a shame it was missed out.

Final Thoughts

The most impressive thing about this game is that it is possibly the greatest movie tie-in game ever released. Others like the Lego Star Wars  don’t exactly count here since, whilst licensed, they were not released at the time as an official game. Any comments to the contrary would be more than welcome.