Every Spider-fan knows that with great power comes great responsibility. Treyarch and Activision have shouldered both for Spider-Man’s debut on the PS2, and the results are, well, super.
Spider Sense & Sensibility
Based on the long-awaited big-budget film that hit theaters in May, Spider-Man combines aerial races and chases, hand-to-hand combat, and stealth in a thrilling mix that you simply won’t find in another game. The truth is that no other comic-book superhero moves, fights, or cracks wise quite like Peter Parker, cub photographer for the Daily Bugle by day, web-slinging crime-fighter by night. The game preserves those unique qualities and, like Activision’s earlier Spidey titles, gives gamers an immersive feeling of stepping into the red and blue tights and whipping around New York City by a thread. Spider-Man’s power, predicaments, and personality are not only well-represented, but also downright celebrated.
Like the movie, the game offers a glimpse into Peter’s life as he evolves from radioactive accident victim to high-flying hero. You’ll play the first few levels in an early Spidey costume, busting heads as you track down the man who murdered your uncle, before earning your proper costume. It’s not long before the game deviates from the movie’s plot, however, and classic villains like Shocker, the Vulture, and Scorpion warm you up for battles with the game’s and the film’s main nemesis, the Green Goblin. The game does feel a bit linear in this regard—once you beat one bad guy you’re on to the next, while waiting for Goblin to show up—but each encounter features new environments and techniques, so it’s never boring. It also offers a lot more gameplay than if the programmers had stayed completely faithful to the script.
The Air Up There
In fact, the gameplay itself seems to be constantly changing. From beating up thugs and sneaking around alarm systems to whizzing around on webs and chasing bad guys through the city, there’s just so much to do. Brawling, racing, stealth, and the game’s biggest improvement, aerial combat, help spice up the usual fare like locating switches and beating the bits out of robot guards.
The mid-air fights against the Green Goblin and Vulture are easily the game’s high points. Whereas earlier Spider-Man games forced you indoors an awful lot, this game lets you get outside and play, jumping on enemies from above and frantically trying to keep up as they zoom around your airspace. As you progress, you’ll also collect icons that enable you to unleash new combination attacks. The responsive and logical control setup makes it all easy; moving, swinging, and being Spider-Man feels great all the way through.
Tobey or Not Tobey
Spider-Man benefits from the jump in graphic resolution that the PS2 provides, too. Spidey simply flows, all sinew and athleticism, as he swings between skyscrapers and gives goons a good smackdown. Thanks to increased draw distance, the sense of scale for the aerial city sequences is much larger than it was in previous games. Even when there are multiple characters onscreen—such as when you’re fighting robotic spiders in a parking garage and battling razorbats while airborne—you won’t spot slowdown. Special visual effects like explosions and the reflective lenses on Spidey’s mask only make the game sweeter.
The audio is a treat. Not only is there copious use of original music from the movie soundtrack and some sharp sound effects, but film stars Tobey Maguire and Willem Dafoe also reprise their roles for the voice-overs. Maguire is a low-key actor, so his lines sound a bit lackluster at times—but Peter Parker’s trademark sarcasm is still evident. Dafoe is downright sinister as the Goblin. Fan-favorite actor Bruce Campbell narrates the training missions, and his smart-aleck tone is a welcome addition.
Spider-Man doesn’t redefine superhero games the way its predecessors did, but it does expand their scope a bit further and offers giddily satisfying gameplay in the process. Spider-Man could have been a cheap Hollywood cash-in; instead, it’s a rich PS2 game that rewards fans of the franchise.