We all expected it to be big, but no one expected the first movie to gross in excess of $400 million to go on to become one of the biggest blockbusters of all-time. Now the sequel is out in the theatres and along with it is probably the biggest surprise hit of the year. Super hero games usually suck but Activision seems to have found a groove with this franchise. As opposed to relying on focusing on the license and building the game around it the designers instead built an amazing game and then tweaked it to conform to the license, creating an excellent game that could stand on its own merits.
Spider-Man 2 follows along so closely with the storyline of the major motion picture that Sony asked Activision to limit the amount of preview copies as to not spoil any of the movie’s major plot points. If you’ve seen the movie you essentially have the core (which is Peter Parker dealing with real life and being a super hero) with a few neat side stories thrown in. Spider Man has successfully defeated the Green Goblin but some unexpected problems have arisen. His best friend thinks that his alter ego killed his father, he never has time for the people in his life and the townspeople are still unsure whether or not they can trust the webslinger. To complicate matters more, a scientific genius is on the verge of a major discovery that could make or break his very existence. Then there’s that whole crime solving at night, going to school and trying to be on time for class thing during the day. Making the game more than just a run-of-the-mill movie tie-in, the designers opted to toss in a cavalcade of elements that weren’t in the movie. Aside from the dozens of crimes that you can solve, this also includes game-specific events and characters from the comics such as Mysterio and Black Cat.
Activision pulls all of this together rather well with a unique approach to the action/adventure genre. Instead of unfurling the game as a linear sequence of events the game follows a more freeform approach. There’s a primary structure that has to be followed in order to advance the storyline but a new gameplay feature allows you to roam around the city on your own discretion. Think of it as Grand Theft Spidey
. You’re free to go wherever you want and explore the city on your own accord. As you do so you’ll encounter citizens who need to be saved and rescued. Accomplishing these missions will give you more hero points which can then be used to upgrade Spider Man’s abilities. He’ll be called upon to stop car chases, foil robberies, break-up ambushes and rescue citizens who happen to be dangling off of precarious ledges. There are a lot of different types of missions to engage in, but there’s generally only one of each kind. So when you need to stop an armored car robbery you’ll always see the same introductory cutscene followed by the line “if I could only get to my utility belt…” which seems to be a nod to Batman. It’s funny the first time but when you’ve heard it about 15 times it begins to lose its charm. Luckily the missions are fun enough so that they don’t become too monotonous; it’s just that variety is something that the designers should strive for in the next game.
As a fan of the comic I have to admit that it’s a little weird to see Spider-Man wandering around the streets and gallivanting about so freely. He’s a marked man that has a ton of enemies, for him to just approach civilians and strut around the streets seems to be detrimental to his well being. It’s strange that this happened too because the designers apparently took this into account. Pedestrians shout things such as “Menace!” and “Get a Job!” as Spidey swings over their heads, yet they never attack him or start confrontations on the street. These are just the musings of a fan of the franchise though. On its own the element is extremely fun and innovative. Sure the missions get repeated a lot but they never fall into the arena of tedium.
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