Dashing through the air, I look up at the beautiful sunset and look down at the crowded city. People cry for help, some in need of medical attention, others in need of immediate rescue. As I prevent this world from losing another life, quiet thank-yous and roaring cheers are all I hear. There's always a critic or two questioning my behavior, wondering if I have anything better to do than save the world. To those who don't want me in this world, all I can do is smile. Not that you can see it through this mask I wear.
Don't think of me as a hero. I'm just a man with great responsibility. I am Spider-Man.
Not a year has gone by that I haven't thought of my craziest childhood dream. All kids dream of growing up and doing something great, but one thing I wished for – even though I knew it wasn't possible – was to become one of my favorite superheroes. Who wouldn't want to have unbreakable bones, eyes that shoot lasers, or the ability to fly?
Spider-Man 2 lets you become the superhero you've always wanted to be. The city is your jungle gym, and your powers let you climb it in a way that was never before possible. Virtually every trick that Spider-Man uses in the movies has been implemented into this game. This means that you can swing so fast you'll feel like you're flying; perform airborne stunts like Tony Hawk; run alongside buildings like you're in The Matrix; and jump so high that even Mario couldn't keep up.
These are all amazing and wonderful things. They're exhilarating, spellbinding, and the number-one reason to see the movie and play this game. But they come at a price.
Spider-Man 2 will blow away anyone who plays it for just five minutes. I can't even begin to point out all of the subtle things that make web-slinging fun. The thumbstick is fine-tuned to give players optimal control, allowing for sharp and precise changes with only reality standing in your way. (Not our reality, the game's reality. Cars, balconies, traffic lights – you have to watch out for all of them!) The amount of power that you feel like you have is unparalleled. The tutorial only gives you the basics, most of which you will figure out on your own, but there is a wealth of gameplay mechanics to discover after that.
Should you choose to stick with the game after the first five minutes are up (it's almost guaranteed that you will), you'll notice that there are a few colored arrows bouncing around the screen. Anyone who's played a game before knows that you have to follow them, and doing so will reveal two mission types: hero-based and story-based. The hero-based missions are short and sweet. Jump on top of a stolen vehicle, lure out the driver and beat him till he loses consciousness. Save a man before he falls off a building. Prevent the police from being killed in a violent shootout.
The sweet turns sour when the game fails to give you more than five different types of missions to complete. I saved the same construction worker, the same police officers, and the same hostages at least a dozen times each. It gets old really fast, and the game never lets up. Almost every chapter requires that you gain 2,000 or more hero points, which are earned every time you save a life. These simplistic and overly repetitive missions make the game feel like something other than the masterpiece you started with.
There was one really cool mission that involved a helicopter chase. Most thugs try to escape after getting the tar kicked out of them, but their form of transportation is typical: a slow-moving car that I can catch in an instant. One particular group of thugs had a helicopter waiting, creating a surprise chase through the city. It was pretty exhilarating, and since I only experienced it once, I never had to face the disappointment of it becoming repetitive.
The story-based missions are loosely related to the movie's storyline. They include: talking to Doc Ock and Mary Jane; getting yelled at by your boss; delivering pizzas; and defeating villains that weren't in the film. I had some fun with the villain battles, but had little desire to deliver pizzas or watch the movie sequences. The real-time footage isn't very good, and most of Spider-Man's best lines are saved for the battlefield.
Spider-Man's combat is limited to one button. Punches are generated just by pressing the B button. The game tries to add some variety with a few three-button combos, but they do little to spice up the experience. With the exception of the boss (villain) battles, every enemy encounter will turn out the same. Some block, some don't. Some run, some attack head on. Others shoot guns. After completing this type of mission a zillion times, you can't be expected to want more.
I have no doubt in my mind that casual gamers will think the world of Spider-Man 2. Conceptually it lives up to my expectations, and that should be more than enough to please those of you who don't play games every day of the week. For those who do play frequently, Spider-Man 2 comes across as a game that was rushed to market as soon as the developers perfected the one thing that mattered most. As it turns out, however, that one thing is just one small part of a big picture. Great web-slinging does not equal great fun.
Spider-Man 2 is the game that could have been and almost was...but never got to be. I love how the game makes you feel like you're flying when in actuality you're just swinging from web to web. I love how the web must have somewhere to stick (like a building or a tree), because without such restrictions the game wouldn't be believable. I also love the complexity of the controls and how they forced me to look before leaping, and practice or risk dying. But I don't love much else, and all that I just listed makes up about 1/3 of the overall experience.
As far as the graphics are concerned, Spider-Man 2 delivers an eye-full of great architecture. There is one part that is instantly recognizable as New York, with colorful advertisements and distinct (though not exact) landmarks. Viewing the city from the top of a skyscraper is really amazing. Even more amazing is what you feel when you jump off a skyscraper. The speed is intense, the picture slightly blurs, and the sound effect is a doom-impending whoosh. Slinging a web saves you from doom, creating the comic book experience you've always wanted.
Spider-Man 2 is quieter than you'd expect. The music only kicks in for missions. The rest of the time you're treated to the sounds of the city, as well as the sound of a spider flying through the air.
And annoying! Spider-Man 2 has some really agonizing missions that you'll wish you could skip.
Near-perfect web slinging and swinging mechanics that will stun game players.
Spider-Man 2 is a very uncommon game with a lot of common mistakes. It's the gameplay (not the concept) that counts when it comes time to empty your wallet, which is why I am unable to recommend Spider-Man 2 as a must-buy. A must-play, definitely. Hardcore players will get as much out of it as they can in a weekend. Casual players will love it and enjoy it longer just because of the sling factor. With those things in mind, take your gaming habits and personal tastes into account before adding Spider-Man 2 to your collection.