Spider-Man 2: The Game
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Treyarch
ESRB Rating: T for Violence
For: PC, PS2, GC, XBX, GBA
Version reviewed: GC

When speaking of an open-ended style game, one?s mind immediately goes to Grand Theft Auto 3, the progenitor of games that focus on freedom as a major factor in game play. Why shouldn?t we think of GTA3? The game revolutionized the video game industry, like it or not, questionable moral ethics or not, and it did feature a fully realized, open-ended environment. Don?t like story missions? Go on a rampage, and see how many wanted stars you can get; you might even get the chance to steal a tank, which is considered, among some of my GTA-playing friends, the Holy Grail of the game. Despite that, GTA3 and GTA: Vice City also represented a very real crime element in video game form, and in so doing also deprived itself of any morals whatsoever. Prostitutes, drug running, hits, killing sprees, and grand theft auto were, and are, the name of the game. GTA3 has been the top-selling PS2 game in history, netting over 3 million copies sold; a record for a violent video game. Ahh, but this isn?t a commentary about violence in video games, and though I could go on a tirade for hours about the topic, it would very likely anger people and cause several completely unnecessary debates. No, this is a review about Spider-Man 2, a game that takes GTA3?s concept of a completely open-ended city and puts it on steroids, allowing you to stop random crimes, save civilians in distress, and deliver pizza?? Yes, this game?s got it all, and it?s not afraid to use it. So go ahead. Take New York for a spin, and don?t look down.

Graphics

For a game that focuses much of its play time in the city of New York itself, allowing for free-roaming gaming that doesn?t even require the player to complete a single story mission, Spider-Man 2?s graphics are disappointingly mediocre, but far from bad. Player models are sloppy looking up close, featuring blurred faces that the dated N64 could do more with, and blocky frames that shake and vibrate when in motion. Not only does this not look good, it just gives the general impression of an unfinished product that pales in comparison to similar action fare, such as Beyond Good and Evil, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. On the other hand, the actual plot driven movie scenes that are not rendered with the game?s engine are all very well done, with almost photo realistic models of Kirsten Dunst, Toby Maguire, and Alfred Molina, who plays Doctor Octopus in the movie. The other time that quality is evident is during the actual game play, when the character models are further away, and the player sees everything moving at a much quicker (and smoother) rate, allowing for seamless web-slinging, extremely well animated brawls, and cool looking jumps and dives, of which there are many. Finally, the Minority Report: Everybody Runs physics engine is put to good use, allowing you to literally fling enemies around with web and see them flop like the rag dolls they are. Now, if you read my review of the aforementioned game, you might remember that I didn?t like it because of crummy graphics, a poorly used story with tons of potential, and, of course, the appropriateness factor, which found John Anderton murdering Precrime officers by the hundreds while trying to prove he wasn?t guilty of murder. Uh, yeah, right? Check, please?

Game play

If a game?s fun, I really don?t care about graphics, and I don?t need a story (though it sure helps); this is one of Spider-Man 2?s greatest strengths. It?s just plain fun to be swinging around the city for as long as you?d like, and you don?t even have to stop to pick up some random crime?just swing to your heart?s content, because there?s tons in this remake of New York City, The Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, the ol? doozy? Anyway, the point is, anyone would be hard pressed to find things to run out of in this game, and Treyarch wanted it that way. While the story missions, most of which are plot-centric and follow that of the movie?s closely, are optional, when you do get around to doing the story missions you will most likely find that the game is short and easy. However, I am going to stress once again that the game is fun, and it really doesn?t matter how short the story is, because (here I?m going to borrow a phrase from my former pastor) if you?re like me, and I know I am, then you will like going around the city, completing the occasional mission, and mostly just having a good time. After all, the game is really open-ended. Want to go on a date with Mary Jane? Just head over to her apartment, and then you will have to swing like a madman to reach your meeting spot. Want to take pictures for the Daily Bugle? Talk to Robby, one of the editors, and he?ll give you a photography assignment to complete within a given time limit. Almost anything that you could think of, save something illegal, you can do. While there isn?t that big of a factor of going inside buildings and stuff, it does come into play when you buy new combos and stuff (which was one of my bigger complaints with Minority Report: Everybody Runs, but not with this game for a reason that you?ll see in a moment). In Minority Report you found cash on the ground, and then went to the Black Market to buy new combos and health, as well as new weapons and ammo. Here, you earn Hero Points by saving innocent civilians from New York?s crime element, or just their own stupidity and/or dumb luck and then use those to buy said combos and special moves, including awesome looking air acrobatics that only Spidey can do. Did I mention you can even deliver pizza? This has to be one of the most fully realized games that I, personally, have ever played, and while it suffers from a disease that some refer to as waytooshorttitis (Maximus Shortus), it still manages to make you continue to play long after the story mode is done by having more missions that must be completed, even if they aren?t story missions.

Sound

The sound in Spider-Man 2: The Game ranges from junky to okay to awesome, with the junky being the pedestrian?s voices, which are just plain awful, repetitive, and at times melodramatic. Perhaps the worst example of bad voice acting in the game is the random situation where a little child?s balloon gets away, and you hear the child screaming for his/her balloon, which is one of the most annoying and grating situations in game play that I have ever been in, and made me want to literally slam the controller down, and run away screaming. When the game decides to have okay sound, it is during scenes where music plays, or when you swing through the city and hear the air whooshing past you at high speeds, cars honking their horns and police sirens going off. If you decide ?Hey, I?d like to hear something that is at least worth my time,? then turn your attention to door 3, wherein reside Toby Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Alfred Molina, three of the actors from the movie, and the only ones signed for the game. While Toby Maguire comes off a bit flat at times as Spidey, and Kirsten Dunst just sounds awkward, Alfred Molina again becomes villain Doc Ock, channeling despair, anger, revenge, and redemption all through the game, just as he did in the movie. Strangely enough, I felt that while most of the sounds weren?t all that good, the voice acting from the actors was on par with that of last fall?s superb The Return of the King, if not just a little below it, and they helped immerse the player into the Spider-Man 2 experience. They also redeemed the sound department from a low score.

Control

The controls on Spider-Man 2 could have used a bit of work, given that combos are hard to pull off (but don?t get me wrong, they?re completely worth it), and the learning curve is a little steep, but for the most part, Treyarch has developed yet another fine system of controls, after obviously recovering from the travesty that was, and is, Minority Report: Everybody Runs (which has become that game that all games that are junk will be measured by). If you choose to use Normal Swing mode, in which you have more control over the Webhead, but also a much steeper learning curve, you can actually swing through the streets of New York in a fashion that looks almost identical to that of the movie. Because of this, I completely and full-heartedly recommend that you use the above mentioned swing mode, as it allows for one of the most solid and fluid feeling game controls possible.

Appropriateness

Where this game falters the most is the appropriateness, especially in terms of violence. Sexuality is barely present, only making its unwelcome appearance in the form of Mary-Jane?s clothing, and Black Cat?s clothing, both of which are revealing. This is a game that is about fighting. There are other aspects to the game, of course, but for the most part, you, as Spider-Man, are battling villains such as Shocker and Doc Ock, fighting their minions, and stopping random crimes from happening. Because you are fighting in the name of all that is good and not evil with plans for world domination, the game doesn?t get marked down much for violence. You are not allowed to kill anyone in the game, so you can only knock out enemies that you battle. This is one of the best parts about the game, because in between your runs through story mode, most of the time you spend is spent saving people and such. It?s a good aspect to a game with excellent moral values (save for that of any Christian values, but this is a mainstream game, so that wouldn?t be there). The Lord?s Name is never taken in vain, and there is no profanity either. It just tops off what is sure to be one of the year?s best games.

Final Ratings

Graphics B Game play A Sound C+ Control B- Appropriateness B-

Overall 80%