Ultimate Spider-Man

Ultimate Spider-Man

Written by Shawn Kendrick on 10/27/2005 for PS2  

All right guys and girls it’s time to fess up. At one point in time during your childhood you wanted to be a super hero. That’s perfectly normal for a child; it’s no big deal at the time, kids are supposed to idolize people with fantastic powers. For us adults, well, we still want to be a superhero and we don’t have to ask our parents for money. Thus the reasoning for yet another installment of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This game fills a large demographic, ranging from actual teenagers all the way up to us overgrown, overworked teenagers commonly known as adults.

This latest chance to become our favorite web slinger is in the form of Activision’s Ultimate Spider-Man, for the PS2. This time around Activision bases the story line of the game on the comic book. Previously, the Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 versions were based on the recent motion pictures. As you would expect, from a comic book and/or movie based game, this is obviously an action adventure game. Likewise, it is chalk full of the standard fare of crashes, bangs, and booms like most games of this genre. All the fighting along the way ultimately leads to a showdown with the baddest of the bad guys. In this case his name is Venom.

As usual Peter Parker is acquainted with the person who eventually becomes the bad guy. Peter’s dad and Eddie’s dad were developing a suit.  It seems that the suit is part of a development gone awry. Naturally the Venom suit falls into the hands of the misguided young Eddie Jr. Of course the result is havoc being wreaked upon New York City.

Where this game differs is in the path that the player must take to the finale. Like the Spider-Man 2 version, this game takes on a very GTA-esque feel in regards to the ability to explore the city. This free form style is always welcome and I believe was pretty much expected in this version. The kicker to this installment is the fact that you have the opportunity play both major roles of the story line.

When playing the part of Spider-Man you have to complete various city goals in order to advance the story. After you complete the city goals you can then go to the next story mission. In addition to this, there are city events that take place. City events can include mundane tasks like saving a dangling person from a building or foiling a mugging.  There are also many extras, such as completing races and finding items such as tokens, landmarks, and comic book covers. These extras unlock secret content.

While meandering through the adventure, I found that the frequency of city events wasn’t enough to keep the pace of the game going. It seemed that these events were relatively fun and sometimes challenging. However, there simply weren’t enough of them to occupy our time between the long periods of roaming around the city looking for stuff.

The races on the other hand were numerous. The downfall to these were that they weren’t that much fun in my opinion. They weren’t exactly challenging either. The upside was that winning these races along with finding the plentiful tokens, etc, unlocks some pretty cool features. I don’t want to ruin any of them because the act of getting them isn’t exactly rewarding, in and of itself.

Now that we have all the side dishes out of the way, it’s time to get to the meat. The story missions are what this game is all about. All and all there are some pretty interesting villains that you have to defeat. Some could be a little more difficult but each and everyone is fun. 

When playing as Spider-Man you have to rely on your speed and accuracy when defeating villains. Your smarts, in the form of Spidey sense, also plays a key role in anticipation of your next move.

The uniqueness of this game is when the game switches you to the perspective of Venom. I can’t tell you how much fun this point of view is. This character isn’t as fluid as Spider-Man but his brute strength and quickness are an absolute blast. You have the ability, when playing this role, to overwhelm your opponents.with sheer force. Also the ability to suck energy from others has a certain gratification to it.  However, I should probably keep those thoughts between my therapist and me.

I have to admit, it was a little weird the first mission that I played from the Venom perspective, When the story forced me to battle and reluctantly annihilate one of my favorite characters of all time, I had very mixed emotions. The rush of power enabled me to get over it those mixed feelings pretty quickly, however.

Overall the controls of both characters are excellent. The learning curve for each is relatively small and one can be at a functional if not master level in a very short time. The controls of both characters are differentiated and have a completely different feel, adding a dimension to the game that is excellent at guarding against monotony. Although there are differences in the characters the variance is close enough that you can easily switch gears between characters without completely loosing all your muscle memory. That is if your like me and consider your fingers a muscle.

When playing as Spider-Man, the fluidity with which you can explore Manhattan and neighboring Queens is astonishing. Due to the taller buildings, the city is particularly dazzling. The web zip line function makes getting around the city extremely fast. This function is initiated by pressing the L2 and R2 buttons simultaneously. This is recommended for buildings with low rooftops. I found it useful however, after I had managed to get above the skyline, by either climbing or web swinging. Once Spidey is above the rooftops you can simply use the zip line to “pull” your self from building to building. It’s almost as if Spidey had the ability to fly.

Venom’s movements on the other hand are what my old baseball coach would call “herky jerky”. Though not fluid like Spider-Man, the movements of Venom are effective in their quickness and power. Fighting with control of Venom is simply badass. The tentacle attack was clearly my favorite function. This is accomplished through use of the triangle button. Naturally you would use it in combination with many other moves but even alone and in its simplest form, it was very effective at keeping enemies a safe distance away while doing damage to them.

 In terms of the look and feel of the game, I was overall impressed. This positive opinion did take some time, however. My first reaction was,” Damn this stuff is kind of comic bookish” then the obvious dawned on me. It’s a Marvel character, what did I expect? After I put the game in perspective I really appreciated the storyboards that explained the story. Stylistically, they were true to the genre and were enjoyable for someone such as myself, who appreciates comics but is by no means “into” them. 

The graphics of the game play were solid if not spectacular. The landscape of the city was somewhat boxy. The amount of area there is to explore compensated for this. The autos and pedestrians on the street were also uniform and non -descript. Overall the landscape has little if any improvement over previous versions.

One area of improvement in this episode is the fact that Spidey’s web actually attaches to structures. On previous versions the webs attached at some magic point in the sky. I realize that this is a comic book based game but this added detail does add some element of believability. This adds to the strong point of this game, which is its ability to maintain the integrity of the graphics of the main characters, while controlling them. Every time I play this game I am amazed at the realistic movements that these characters have. The truly astonishing aspect is in the fact that Activision created realistic movements in characters that are completely unrealistic. I’m not really sure how a guy should crawl up a building but I think it should look a lot like it does in this game.

The sounds of the game were average at best. I believe the attempt was to go retro with the old arcade style of music. I would have preferred some updated scoring to go along with the action. The sounds of the game were average, nothing stood out as particularly cheesy but then again nothing made me stop and look over my shoulder either. Those of you that play the Doom series know what I’m talking about.

The dialogue stayed true to it’s comic book form and was effective in telling the story. The voice of Mary Jane was somewhat overdramatic and at times for lack of a better word, annoying. Peter Parker’s voice over was solid, however the attempts at humor were pretty lame. This game has a T rating but I doubt any self - respecting teenager would identify with Peter’s angst deficient comments.

Over all this game is one of the better titles in the comic book genre. The maneuverability of the characters is top notch and just plain fun. This playability makes up for the lack of detail provided to us in the environment that all the action takes place within.

Although defeating the game is relatively easy the real reward is in the fact that you can then freely explore the city as Venom or Spider-Man after you have done so.  This adds the to replay value of the game, particularly in light of the fact that there is no multi player or on line playability available. I would recommend this game for fans and newcomers alike.

Activision builds upon the past success of Marvel Comic’s Super-Man franchise with this incarnation. Ultimate Spider-Man truly lives up to its name, providing the best version of the series to date. Now if only Batman could get his act together and be more like Spider-Man, our digital cities would be a much safer place or at least more enjoyable.

Rating: 8.5 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

Shawn has been an avid gamer for the last 20 years. Although he enjoys all genres of gaming, he holds a special place in his heart for shooters. Shawn also has a voracious appetite for sports games. Currently, he is thoroughly enjoying Tiger Woods PGA 2006. View Profile

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