San Francisco, CA – Holy crap! Did you know that the new Spider-Man 2 movie is coming June 30th? If not, just spin around in a circle and you’re bound to see about two or three thousand advertisements for the sequel to one of the better summer blockbusters in recent memory. They’re on your cheeseburgers, soda cans, billboards and just about everywhere else. And of course, the webslinging superhero is bound for your gaming consoles as well in Activision’s Spider-Man 2.
To get even more excitement for what should be a chart-topping game, Activision held a press preview for Spider-Man 2 atop the Clift Hotel in San Francisco, and GameZone got an invite which included a raffle ticket, a few drinks, and a chance to preview the open-ended Spider-Man 2.
Gamers these days are just like 11-year old boys. They don’t like being told what to do. Spider-Man 2 makes a significant upgrade over the mediocre original (Spider-Man: The Movie) with its non-linear gameplay, mission variety, and combat system. Taking a cue from Grand Theft Auto III (just like every other new game coming out), developers Treyarch don’t want to be the nagging mom to the gamer’s 11-year old boy within – they’d rather be the cool uncle who spoils the snot out of the kid by letting him wander freely. Such is the case in the free roaming Spider-Man 2. Spidey can swing his way through Manhattan care-free determining his role in the city as he sees fit. Want to help out the populace by beating up some muggers? Go for it! Want to help out Peter Parker’s wallet by delivering some pizza? Ciao Bella! Each mission nearby is noted by marks on the radar (ala GTA3) or by encountering pedestrians on the street with a carat over their heads. Once a mission is accepted, it’s up to Spidey to complete within the allotted time (you can’t really do anything else while on a mission – ala GTA3). There are several missions that propel the story forward, described by one representative as “22 events intermingled with events from the movie”, and plenty of side missions (Ahem – ala GTA3). These side missions range from the aforementioned pizza delivery missions, to random encounters with thugs (Manhattan has a life of its own, random encounters are frequent), to good deeds (getting a balloon for a youngster or photographing for the Daily Bugle). From the looks I got, it appears as though there is a lot to do beyond the 15-20 hours of story missions.
Each mission rewards Spider-Man with hero points, which he can redeem at various stores in the city. That’s right, Spider-Man can get new abilities just by waltzing into little bodegas in the city. Say it with me kids, BO-DE-GA. In a city that has it all, why not have a superhero store? The hero points go towards new abilities, such as web speed, various combat maneuvers, and other assorted power-ups to make your superhero even more super.
Treyarch did a fair job digitizing Manhattan. While it may not be the photorealistic quality some may expect from games now, it does feature a fairly accurate representation of the Big Apple. Central Park, the Upper East Side, the Garment District – it’s all in there as well as the more familiar landmarks such as The Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge. Pedestrians and automobiles go about their business blankly (ala GTA3), but seem unfazed by Spider-Man walking amongst them. Days turn to nights in the game, and watching dusk hit over the Hudson is a treat.
What would Spider-Man be without Spider Sense? Represented by a blue meter just below his life meter, Spider Sense serves several different purposes. It works passively by alerting Spider-man of oncoming attacks (his head will light up with a blue halo) and actively by slowing down time (ala GTA3 – whoops! I mean Max Payne!). While time is slowed, Spider-man can do some serious ass whoopin’. New moves can be used, reaction time is quicker, and damage is multiplied. It all fits in nicely with the new combat system that allows upgrades and webbing up enemies.
There is no doubt in my mind that Spider-Man 2 will be a huge seller, likely spending a few weeks atop the charts on all three platforms (though the Xbox version is distinctly better-looking) because of its hype and marketing. Thankfully, Treyarch developed a game that looks like it may deserve to top the charts. Its non-linear approach was vital to saving the franchise and making this game worthy of checking out for fans of Marvel Comics and its intrepid arachnid, Spider-Man. Like a Hollywood summer blockbuster popcorn movie, there may not be a whole lot that’s new, but Spider-Man 2 (the videogame) is entertaining nonetheless.