He is perhaps the most popular red-suit wearing, city-slinging, web-shooting, and one-line-cracking super hero in existence. Stan Lee's "Spider-Man", a super hero that is every bit as recognizable as Superman or Batman. A comic book super hero that has withstood the test of time for nearly 4 decades (marking his debut in August 1962, with an appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15). As Stan Lee's artistic creation gained popularity, so did the distribution of products with Spider-Man decals plastered all over them. Not only that, but there were cartoons and one particular one was a long running FOX series that dominated 'Saturday Morning' TV. And while it has absolutely no bragging rights, there even existed a live-action show that bit the dust after 3 years of showing on PBS. Yes, it was an educational show and when CBS bought rights to air it, the ratings stunk worse than the outcome at a square-dance festival somewhere in Japan - thus the show met the axe and was nixed. Our wonderful Spider-Man has gone through many adventures and when the videogaming medium had surfaced, Spidey starred in his very first game on the Atari 2600, back in 1982. 20 years since his interactive debut, the web-head has appeared on a number of consoles, ranging from the Atari, Commodore 64, Apple II, every Nintendo machine, every Sega machine, Playstation, and now the Playstation 2. As his 25th interactive adventure and his 34th appearance in a videogame, is this movie based title the best Spider-Man game to date?
When I first heard word of a Spider-Man game in development for the PS2, it was originally planned to be Spider-Man 2. But later on, Activision would retract and instead announce a game based on the upcoming movie that had just begun shooting at the time. I could hardly imagine the visuals I was in store for, and after seeing more than a fair share of screenshots and finally getting to see the game first hand, I can safely say I walked away happy. Upon first beginning my progress in the game, I was greeted with a completely open environment of New York City that allowed me to swing over to ANY building I saw. Below, there was no fog and you can see traffic among other structures, but don't expect any extraordinary detail - you just won't get it. You still can't interact with the ground level so don't bother crawling down a building in hopes of reaching the pavement safely, you'll just get a game over sign. Don't worry, though, there is a meter that displays your altitude and the lowest you can swing at. The city environment is composed of 30,000 polygons, quite an impressive feat to say the least. Spider-Man himself is made out of 2,000 polygons -- not quite as detailed compared to characters like Solid Snake, Auron, or Samanosuke (of Onimusha fame), but it gets the job done. The texture work overall is nice, though a good chunk does seem recycled from the 32-bit titles, which kind of diminishes the graphics score some, but it really isn't anything outlandish. The few complaints I have with the visuals are; an initially inconsistant frame rate, which plagues the game only in the first level; overly simple and repeated bad guy models (excluding bosses); a minor camera hick here and there -- though for the most part the camera is right on target. To end things off, the game has its fair share of CG sequences, some impressive, others generic, but nevertheless they seem to have a certain wow factor which needs to be said.
I won't lie when I tell you that the core gameplay elements really resemble the original two Spider-Man titles for the PSOne. If you've completed the 32-bit titles time in and time out countless times, you'll feel right at home with Spider-Man for PS2. It's story revolves around the Osborn chapter (not Ozzy, mind you), The Green Goblin to be more precise. Norman Osborn, founder of Oscorp has created technology and a suit that will give him super human powers that rival those of Spider-Man's, in addition to his very own gravity defying machine. The game in the beginning, of course, sets you up with the death of Peter's Uncle Ben. Using his newly formed super human powers, Peter Parker vows to find the man responsible for the death of Uncle Ben. From then on the game begins. You will face various enemies, such as The Shocker, The Vulture, and of course the Green Goblin. You will encounter Mary Jane Watson roughly half way into the game, and surely enough you will be required to save her. In fact, in many cases you will be required to help civilians fight off opposition by fighting along side them and keeping them alive. You'll even get to use your 'spider-sense' whenever something really urgent is occurring and needs attention immediately. The 'spider-sense' will take the camera and make it wander to wherever it is that Spidey needs to go, at the same time showing the route. Speaking of direction, if the gamer ever gets lost, there is a Spidey compass at the bottom of the screen with a directional arrow pointing towards the right direction. A new twist to the game is the acquisition and usage of combos that can be used against the enemies. There are many combos to come across, many of which can be found in more secretive places. In terms of fun factor, Spider-Man does the job right. I find the game to be incredibly enjoyable, and the sheer joy I got out of just swinging around in first stage is some of the best joy I've experienced thus far. The extra costumes, with their extra powers and whatnot, will definitely make you want to play through the game over and over again, because trust us (!) some of these secrets really are worth the trouble.
We are all quite familiar with Spider-Man's constant and compulsive one-liners that he throws in every now and then. Well for starters, Toby McGuire lends his voice not only to the movie, but to the game as well. His dialogue is complete with one liners and actual speech interaction with other characters. Willem Dafoe also lends his voice as the Green Goblin and Norman Osborn, as does Bruce Campbell for the narration. The voice acting is pretty good for the most part, hardly groundbreaking, but good. What I really loved was when I heard the orchestrated soundtrack. Swinging hundreds of feet above sea-level and listening to an orchestra really sets the mood for excitement and makes the experience seem that much more memorable. The sound effects are your everyday generic punches, slaps, and etc. Overall, the game sounds good, despite being simplistic in various areas.
Controlling Spider-Man was a breeze. There's really nothing to it, and the basic control elements work identically to those found in the previous two titles. As Spidey, you can zip, swing, shoot webbing, throw objects (which of course means the environments are really interactive), shield yourself using webbing, pull somebody towards you using your web and more. The analog sticks are fully supported and work really well. The left analog stick is obviously maneuverability and the right is for camera rotation (whenever you need to do that). Pressing R3 will trigger a spider icon that is used as a visual for aiming -- think of it as a crosshair. When the icon is red, you cannot zip to the place; but when it's green, zip away. The dual shock works well as well, and really there are no complaints, aside from a few minor camera errors on occasion.
I have waited to get my hands on Spider-Man for quite sometime. I've already proclaimed the upcoming movie to be the movie of the year. Sure I'm jumping the gun, but what the hell, the movie looks outrageously good! Thankfully, the game has eased my wait for the movie just a little bit, and to say the least I am very pleased with the way the game has turned out. I happen to enjoy the wonderful visuals, despite a few flaws. And I love the gameplay, especially the air combat -- which really puts emphasis on a lot and makes the game feel even more genuine. If you're a Spider-Man fan (as I am), and you enjoyed, or even loved the first two on the PSX, then by all means you must get Spider-Man for the PS2. You'll be sorry if you don't. Bar none, this is the best Spider-Man game ever.
4/19/2002 Arnold Katayev