Sunday, July 29, 2012

Spider-Man 2 (PS2, GCN, XBX) Retro Review

While the rest of the world is enamored by The Dark Knight Rises, SuperPhillip Central continues its enchantment with the best webhead to ever don a spandex suit, Spider-Man. The subject of today's review is Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox. Best Spider-Man game ever? We shall see.

Does whatever a Spider-Man video game can.

I have made no attempts to hide my adoration for Spider-Man. He's my favorite superhero in existence. The boy behind the spandex suit might be self-conscious, awkward, and not quite the ladies' man, but when he wears that suit and starts kicking villain butt, all inhibitions swing away. The Spider-Man 2 movie is called by some as the greatest superhero movie of all time. That's fine and all, but should you take the video game that released alongside the film out for a spin?

The Spider-Man 2 video game loosely follows the story of the film. Dr. Octavius is working on an experiment that allows him to harness the energy of a miniature sun. When things go awry, Spider-Man is there to save Octavius and get him out of danger's way. However, in the event, Octavius's wife dies, and in the aftermath he snaps and blames Spider-Man for his wife's death. Now, Spidey has to contend with a new villain, Doctor Octopus. This is all the while Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker, has to deal with being Spider-Man and possibly giving it up so he can go back to a normal life. Enter Black Cat, a sultry antihero who wants Spidey to do the exact opposite and give up his life as an ordinary human being. This dynamic lasts throughout the game, and it is a very interesting one. Throw in some side story content such as encounters with the Shocker, Rhino, and Mysterio, and you have all the elements for a wild ride. Three actors from the movie reprise their roles: Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, Alfred Molina as Doctor Octavius/Octopus, and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. Meanwhile, Bruce Campbell provides the voice of the tour guide, offering humorous gems here and there along the way.

Unlike the previous poor game based off the first Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: The Movie, Spider-Man 2 is an open world sandbox game that is similar to Grand Theft Auto. Of course, Spidey isn't pulling people out of their cars and driving them. The game works on a chapter-by-chapter basis. In order to reach the next chapter, you must complete all story-related segments as well as earn the required amount of Hero Points. Hero Points are gained by completing missions, side missions, and just beating on thugs and henchmen. As Spidey swings around New York City, on his sub-map you will see green circles with exclamation marks in them. Going to the location and talking to the citizen in peril will start a side mission. These range from stopping an armored car robbery, to transporting an injured denizen to the hospital, to saving all of the crew members of a sinking ship. The latter of these missions is nigh impossible to pull off because you have to possess near-perfect precision because if a crew member falls into the water, the mission is failed. There are also random "crimes" like a person driving around with a bad case of road rage that needs to be stopped or a child's balloon that needs retrieving from the air. Successfully completing these missions net Spidey with some Hero Points.

"Get a job!" "You have no idea."
The actual main missions of Spider-Man 2 have plenty of variety once you get to them, but a lot of the time it is simply getting to a destination within a time limit to start things off. Also, if I have to follow Black Cat across the rooftops one more time, I'm going to snap - either myself or the disc. Regardless, some missions have Spider-Man taking pictures of the Big Apple's skyline. Some have him interrupting a shady business deal in a back alley. Some put him in a coliseum-styled showdown with Quentin Beck, the man that would eventually become Mysterio. Others have Spidey shutting off switches to turn off a dangerous machine that threatens to explode if it is not contained, or dealing out damage to a band of art thieves in a museum. Nonetheless, the actual story of the game isn't as long as you might expect. It only lasted me about six hours.

From Soho to Manhattan, NYC is yours to explore.
But there is much more to do than just play through the story. There are certain achievement-like tasks to accomplish like stopping so many robberies, completing all of the game's races (swinging through a number of checkpoints in order), collecting so many secret tokens that are placed around the city, and beating a certain number of enemies. The game can last you days, but I never found the motivation or desire to do so. There are really no major rewards for doing so.

Unlike past installments of Spider-Man games, Spider-Man 2 has players exploring an expansive city. Web-swinging is a fine science in this game. You need to have a building or object near you to swing off of (no attaching webs to the sky in order to swing). By holding down the jump button, Spidey can leap higher into the air while swinging. If you're having problems dealing with web-swinging, there is an option to choose the much simpler Easy Swinging as opposed to Normal Swinging that necessitates more mastery of the controls and mechanics.

Spidey's idea of going for a ride on a helicopter.
Outside of transportation and getting to places fast, Spider-Man can also use his web abilities to take out opponents. From ensnaring foes by tying them up within web to pulling them towards you with a tug of the web, Spidey has a robust arsenal of web-related moves. Then there's the flurry of combo attacks that come into play (most of which are purchased via NYC's many Upgrade Stores) to try out many various button combinations. His battle maneuvers aren't relegated to just offense either. When an enemy is about to attack, the webhead's spider sense comes into play, displaying a flash over Spider-Man's head. You can nimbly evade punches and gunshots with a well-timed press of the dodge button.

All in a day's work for the webhead.
Spider-Man 2 looks absolutely dated as of now. Even the opening cutscene, which is a camera shot that sprawls through Manhattan, shows obvious traces of pop-in, trees spawning from out of nowhere, and poor textures. Most of the character models outside of the main cast are pretty bad as well, but at least they are more detailed than the ugly and dirty mess that was Spider-Man: The Movie. For the time it came out, Spider-Man 2 was an impressive game, and in some regards it still is. The draw distance is rather far; just standing atop the tallest building in the game and looking below and beyond is quite the sight. So as much as I have ragged on the game's visuals as being outdated, there are some graphical aspects that still amaze to this day. As for the sound, while you're taking New York for a spin, a stirring orchestra backs up the action. Other times, you get this generic-sounding rock music. The score basically covers both extremes. As for the voice acting, the known Hollywood talent present does its job well, and the cast that rounds out the numerous parts also sound great. Sure, there are a few eye roll-worthy performances here and there, but it is generally more than satisfactory.

Take a moment to relax and take in the sights.
Spider-Man 2 manages to be a Spider-Man game that requires a fair bit of finesse to master the web-swinging mechanics. This may put off more casual Spider-Man fans, as might the glitchy-at-times combat. (The final battle had Doc Ock convulsing so much after a punch that I thought he was having a seizure.) Achieving 100% completion in the game is a lofty ambition, but it is one that I think most players won't bother doing as there is no major reward for completing this arduous and time-consuming task. It is simply not worth the struggle. Despite these problems, Spider-Man 2 is one of the better superhero games out there, and one of the better Spider-Man games period. Spider-Man 2 does whatever a video game can, and it does it rather well.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

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