It isn’t easy being a superhero, especially a superhero that is burdened with great power and the responsibilities that come with it. It is also not easy juggling two identities and, as we can see with Peter Parker, having to forsake the love of your life for the demands of being New York City’s protector really doesn’t leave time for life’s littlest pleasures. Spider-Man 2 for the Xbox picks up a year later after the incidents of the first game when Spidey took on the psychotic Green Goblin. Once again the game follows in the footsteps of the blockbuster summer movie of the same name. While the first game showed us that some games based on movies could be remarkable, this one is out to prove it can do so much more. Will this game catch you in its alluring web? Dare I say it? Yes, it does.
A year has passed and Peter Parker/Spider-Man is at a point in his life where he feels the pressures of keeping up with his responsibilities as a college student, pizza-delivery boy and photographer for the Daily Bugle with that of being New York’s hated/respected superhero. On top of that, the girl of his dreams, Mary Jane Watson, tells him that she’s seeing somebody and that the relationship is growing into something more serious. The pressure piles on as Peter Parker must complete a paper on Doctor Otto Octavius who is on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough with the aid of four mechanical arms. When Octavius’ experiment goes array, though, the accident turns the brilliant scientist into the devious Doc Ock. Blaming Spider-Man (who comes to the aid when the experiment went bad) for the death of his wife, Doc Ock sets out to destroy him.
Spider-Man 2 has made a number of changes that will be obvious the minute Spider-Man steps out on the ledge of a building. For one thing, gamers are given a choice between Easy Swing and Normal Swing. While Easy Swing is a lot like the first game’s web swinging, Normal Swing -- while a little tricky to master -- makes for some precise swinging action. The next thing you’ll notice is that game no longer pushes you along to advance the story. As a result of this freedom, New York City becomes a massive playground where gamers can go wherever they like . . . including down on the street with the busy pedestrian and automobile traffic. This Grand Theft Auto-styled free roaming is what makes Spider-Man 2 the unique experience that it is, but there’s more . . . so much more.
In between the game’s story, that follows the film’s main sequences rather well, Spider-Man’s freedom to roam introduces mini-missions that come in the form of people in need of assistance. A green question mark pops up down below and Spidey can come down and receive mini-missions that have him stopping everything from petty crimes (purse snatchers or mean gang members) to major crimes (armored car robberies or shootouts). Many of the other missions have our hero rescuing workers dangling from ledges to taking injured civilians to the hospital before the timer runs out. You’ll even be called on to stop enraged drivers and retrieve a child’s lost balloon. On top of that there are races and pizza-delivery missions to complete. Whew, that’s quite a lot to do, but after completing them successfully you earn Hero Points you use as currency to purchase new web slinging tricks or new combat combos.
Speaking of combat combos and web-slinging tricks, this sequel offers a new assortment of them. Spider-Man can now shoot two different web lines to slingshot himself across great distances or can wrap web around two opponents at the same time. You can even tie up enemies to lampposts or hurl a ball of webbing into a crook’s face. He can perform a swinging kick that can bulldoze over multiple enemies and run across a wall Matrix-style to avoid enemy attacks. His Spider Senses are back and this time they do a better job of warning you of attacks. You can even call up your Spider Reflexes with the black button and this slows the game down much like Bullet Time in Max Payne.
The game’s main story though is short but sweet. If you skip the extra missions and races, you’ll really only come across major plot points of the film and a few that have nothing to do with the movie itself. For example, Spider-Man finds himself going up against foes not even in the film like Shocker and Mysterio, and he even comes across the beautiful and busty thief Black Cat who changes the story into that of an interesting love triangle. Much like the first game, not following the movie too closely just makes the game all the more fun to play.
Graphically speaking, Spider-Man 2 is a mixed bag. While the main character models look good in action or during cut sequences, pedestrians look horrendously blocky. It is great to see Peter Parker look a lot like Tobey Maguire and Mary Jane look a lot like Kirsten Dunst, but they aren’t really as neatly rendered for an Xbox game. The real star of the game is the city and while its breathtakingly massive, it’s also as accurate a representation as London is in the PS2 crime game The Getaway. While up close buildings aren’t as impressive, there is no denying how incredibly detailed the beautiful city looks in both daylight and nightfall.
As for the sound, the score is wonderfully cinematic but is seldom heard during your exploration of New York City. There’s a reason for that, actually. Moving across the city you’ll hear pedestrians shout out to you and much like the movie you’ll get mixed reactions from citizens. You’ll also be able to hear citizens in distress so there’s a good reason for not blending the action with a running soundtrack. The city is alive with sound, just step down into the street where you’ll catch a pedestrian chatting on his or her cell phone or catch a lively conversation between two people. As for the voice action, Tobey Maguire and Alfred Molina (who plays Doc Ock in the movie) are really good. Kirsten Dunst, on the other hand, isn’t. Her performance will bring bad flashbacks of Jill Valentine from the original PSOne Resident Evil.
Spider-Man does whatever a spider can and Spider-Man 2 just proves that what he does makes for a highly addictive superhero game. There’s never a shortage of things to do in this game and New York City is yours to explore so there’s a lot to cover. Throw in a great story and Spidey powers and you have yourself a game that should already be in any fan’s collection.
#Reviewer's Scoring Details
Part of the reason the first Spider-Man game was such a treat to play was that it was easy to do all the things our favorite Web Slinger did in the movies. In this sequel, the game continues the tradition and goes a step further by improving the combat combos, swing moves as well as running across walls Ninja Gaiden-style. Swinging is a bit trickier this time around due to the fact that now the web must make contact with buildings. Still, with a little practice it isn’t hard to master the cool moves.
Once again because Spider-Man 2 is released on multiple platforms, the game doesn’t take advantage of the graphical capabilities the Xbox offers. The result is a game with beautifully accurate and wonderfully detailed landscape that looks wonderful from afar. As far as the character models are concerned, Spider-Man looks great once again and his alter ego, as well a few of the other main characters, look like the actors that portray them in the film. Still, the pedestrians look awful and sometimes characters like J. J. Jameson look blockish and often times Mary Jane Watson’s head looks misshapen. On the other hand, though, the Black Cat looks amazing . . . I wonder why that is?
The film’s actors, Tobey Maguire and Alfred Molina voice their respective characters rather well despite the fact that they don’t follow the film’s script word for word. While Kirsten Dunst finally voices Mary Jane, her performance is weak . . . fortunately the actor voicing the Black Cat more than makes up for it, though. Once again Bruce Campbell provides the voice of our tour guide and provides hints and tips all throughout the game. Yet there’s plenty of sound effects and pedestrian comments plus the film’s delightful score.
Spider-Man certainly put his fists -- and web -- to work in this game and thanks to his keen Spider Senses you have ample time to dodge bullets or the occasional giant rusty wrench. You can slow the action down enough to decide your moves in advance and this works just as good as Max Payne’s Bullet Time effect. The real challenge comes from those timed challenges that require you to get from Point A to Point B before the timer runs out.
New York City is a big place and swinging from building to building doesn’t get any more enjoyable than this. Gamers will be enthralled by the game’s attention to detail but even more in love with the fact that the game gives you a lot to do in the city besides sightseeing. There are also secrets to uncover and plenty of moves to purchase. It’s also great to see classic Spider-Man villains and friends like the fiendish Shocker to the sultry Black Cat.
Spider-Man 2 delivers an action-packed superhero game that will have gamers playing this one for weeks. The mini-missions do disrupt the flow of the game’s interesting but short story, but it’s an enjoyable distraction regardless of how repetitive they become. Activision and Treyarch have created something quite rare -- a game based on a major motion picture that has plenty to offer fans of Marvel’s coolest hero.