Do you remember wanting to be Spider-Man? Crawling on the walls, shooting gooey webs out of your wrists, and knocking out baddies with your super human strength? Maybe you just wanted the beautiful girl. In reality, the closest you ever came to this marvelous feat involved the horrible costume your mom made you for Halloween, and the “cute” pair of red and white under roos that had Spider-Man strewn across your butt. Fortunately, the guys at Activision understand your dreams, and have delivered the goods to your Gamecube with Spider-Man 2.
In Spider-Man 2, you play as the super hero Spider-Man (wow, really?) as he embarks in his daily struggle of saving the world, and saving his job. The story of the game is loosely based around the movie, with a few additional plot twists to render a more game oriented experience. Familiar faces, Mary Jane, J.J, Doctor Octavius, and other assorted characters lend a hand in furthering the story through various cut scenes and tasks in which you participate throughout the game. Most of the voices used in the game are from their real life counter-part from the movie. This feature adds to the accurate portrayal of each character's usual disposition, but the story never seems to hit an emotional nerve.
Spider-Man 2's claim to fame is it's open ended gameplay; similar to that of Grand Theft Auto and countless other recent games. You navigate the streets by either walking, or swinging from buildings. Obviously, walking is not the reason you are playing this game, so let's talk about your web-slinging abilities. Spider-Man 2 utilizes the two trigger buttons to shoot webs, which allow you to stick to various areas of the map, and move from building to building. You can continuously shoot webs while in mid-air to increase your height, and speed across the city in a very fun and action packed manor. Impressively, the unique character animations used in web slinging are very smooth, and the frame rates stay constant as you encounter lush terrains and skyscrapers. This well polished feature often left me ignoring the missions of the game, and spending my time swinging across the city. The mechanics of the web swing are not without fault, but they add innovation and experimentation to an otherwise linear game.
If one area of Spider-Man 2's gameplay could be criticized, it would be within the repetitive tasks you do throughout the game. You can hardly fly pass one building without hearing a plea for help because a woman's purse has been stolen, or a car has been jacked. Completing these sub-missions helps you gain “hero points” which can be used for character upgrades, new abilities, and completion towards main missions. Initially, these incidents make for enjoyable sub tasks to take on, but later become an annoyance because of their monotonous nature. Essentially, the main missions are variants of the sub-missions, and often remind me of the tasks in the Tony Hawk series of games. Since the game is made by Activision, the company partially responsible for Tony Hawk, it is easy to see where this association stems.
Another point of criticism lies within the game's rather bland fighting engine and AI. Fighting is restricted to button mashing,and light dodging. Even with combo moves, and upgrades in place, you never seem to feel as though your character is advancing . As an added “bonus” Spider-Man 2 allows the player to break into “spider reflex” with the push of a button. This mode, used by many before, is essentially bullet-time. Other than the heated battles with the poor enemy AI, your spider reflex will very rarely be used, and is a feature that never needed to be implemented into this game.
In the graphics department, Spider-Man 2 never really excites. As aforementioned, the frame rates in the game are solid, but that is due in part to the lack of detail and individuality given to the environments. That is not to say that the game looks bad, it's just current console hardware wouldn't be able to handle that much detail rendering at decent speeds. The character design outside of Spidey is rather bland. When talking to pedestrians or anyone for that matter, you can hear them speak, but their mouths do not move. A simple feature such as comic style thought balloons would have made watching and listening to conversation much more bearable.
The audio in Spider-Man 2 has it's peaks and troughs, but remains consistently effective. Interestingly, the game relies only on sound effects while exploring the town. The only real music in the game plays when you enter a battle or a cut scene. The lack of music while exploring allows you to hear the wind rushing by, civilians screaming, and the sound of cars below. Activision sets the mood very properly, and has established a great sense of freedom and atmosphere by deciding to limit the use of music within the game.
In conclusion, Spider-Man 2 is a great way to waste a few hours of time. Even though the game does not support multi-player, and takes 10 hours to complete, you can still find a great deal of replayabillity in locating the hundreds of hidden items throughout the map. If you are not a fan of action games, or open ended gameplay, Spider-Man 2 won't change your mind. For everyone else: put on the tights, have mom buy you a new pair of under roos, and go out and..... well, have your mom buy the game too.... you don't want to go outside looking like that.