With a Great License Comes Great Responsibility
The city is beautiful partially thanks to a massive draw distance. If you perch yourself on the tallest sky scraper you can find, you can see the entire city from one end to the other, and that's saying alot because the city is huge. Just sitting up there and knowing that any spot on the screen is a real place that you can go is a wonderful feeling. The animations for Spidey himself and the main characters are very good, but the rest of the characters and especially the civilians are mediocre. The game runs very smoothly, and the camera does an impressive job considering all the angles it has to cover as you crawl and swing through the city. There are several cutscenes, but only two of them are CG, and when they get in real close on some of the generic characters in a regular cut scene, it can be pretty ugly. Overall though, the game is presented well.
This game captures the essence of Spider-Man unlike any of the previous games. The fighting system has been massively upgraded allowing for elaborate combos, bullet-time style Spidey Sense, and much more control over your web slinging. They've also implemented some real world physics to the swinging portion. You can't simply throw a web into the sky and have it magically attach to something. There has to be a building near by. So if you're swinging along 80 stories high and then you come upon Central Park, you're probably going to be hurting. They do give you the ability to lock-on to enemies and you earn tons of new moves as you progress through the game. My favorite move has to be the ability to tie enemies to nearby light posts then beat the shit out of them like a punching bag. The learning curve is low, and once you get the feel for swinging through the city, you won't want to stop.
The sound in Spider-Man 2 is a mixed bag. Bruce Campbell returns as your tour guide, but instead of only being in the tutorial, he follows you through the entire game giving you hints in the sarcastically brilliant way that only Bruce Campbell can. I was impressed with the amount of voice overs that Tobey Maguire recorded in order to fit with the extra storylines that the movie doesn't cover, but his and Black Cat's are about the only voice overs that are worth anything. The rest of the characters either sound unenthusiastic or not close enough to the real actor's voice or both. The civilians are the worst, but it's almost as if Treyarch did it on purpose. The bad outweigh the good on the voice acting, but the music is pretty good. The familiar orchestral themes are weaved into the game as before, which make swinging through the skyscrapers that much more beautiful.
Okay, the core of the game's storyline is fairly short. I beat it in right under 8 hours. But before you dismiss spending $50 on it, I only had 49.8% of the game complete. There's a ton of stuff you can do in this game and for the most part it's open ended. The game progresses in Chapters, and each chapter has specific goals that you must achieve before it moves on to the next chapter. You don't have to do those objectives immediately though. They hardly ever force you to do anything unless you trigger it. Much like GTA, the game keeps track of an insane amount of stats as you play including Citizens Jostled, Farthest Drop, and my favorite...Gallons of Web Juice Used. Sure, the stats don't help you at all, but it's still pretty cool. Aside from that and the core story, there are a ton of things to collect. Over 100 Skyscraper tokens, 75 or so Bouy tokens, lots of Secret tokens, and plenty of race-style tests. Usually these type trinkets and collectibles are tedious, but in Spider-Man 2, flying around the city is so god damn fun that you'll be looking for more reasons to do it.
A game is truly fun when you can play it with no objective and have a blast. Spider-Man 2 is like that. The only thing I didn't really like was the idea that Spider-Man buys new skills in a convenience store. Other than that though, I had no issues with the game and enjoyed it thoroughly. After I beat the game I sat there for another hour just swinging around finding new stuff. It's just that damn fun. Sure, the street missions where you save people get a little repetitive, but doing them is still fun thanks to a great combat system. I'm by no means a fanboy. I don't think I've ever actually read a Spider-Man comic, so don't take this high praise as bias. Where other games are tedious and force you to do things, Spider-Man 2 is fun and open. It's a game that anyone can enjoy.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***