Spider-Man returns to home computers in a game based on the July 2004 feature film starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Unlike the console versions of the title, being developed by Spider-Man veterans at Treyarch, this Fizz Factor-designed PC adventure is aimed at a slightly younger audience (and has been rated "E" for "Everyone" by the ESRB). Players still need to guide Spidey through an interactive 3D environment, however, to face down supervillains such as Doctor Octopus.
Two years after Spider-Man crawled into popular culture with a blockbuster summer movie, Marvel is spinning another web for Spidey and his fans to enjoy. This time around, our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man squares off against Dr. Otto Octavius, who goes insane after a terrible accident leaves him with four cybernetic arms permanently attached to his spinal column. In true merchandising fashion, the game version (which is somewhat loosely based on the movie) takes the wall crawler through the Big Apple on his adventures in balancing between being a superhero with super villains about to do battle with, to being an ordinary guy with ordinary problems.
Spider-Man 2 is an arcade adventure, quite similar to its predecessor. It has been published on all major platforms (Xbox, PS2, GBA, Gamecube, and PC). The console version, designed by Treyarch, looks fantastic, and its non-linear concept makes it feel a lot like GTA. Unfortunately, this doesn't translate to the PC version of the game, developed by Fizz Factor. The PC game and the console game have nothing in common. The PC version is meant for younger gamers with the violence toned down and the language largely cleaned up.
The game starts with an interesting intro sequence, followed by a poor menu layout. Graphically speaking, the game is not in the least bit demanding, which is a problem, quite frankly. The game supports resolutions up to 1280x1084, but it really doesn't matter what resolution you play the game at - there are no advanced texturing effects of any kind, which gives the city of New York a very plain feel. Buildings look like painted cardboard boxes. Visually speaking, the game picks up in the latter half, but in all honesty, the only thing that graphically stands out is Spider-Man's animation. Many of the game's animations look as if they were pulled straight from the way Spidey moves in the comic books (which is a good thing!). The other characters you will come across, such as generic thugs, passers-by, etc., all look pretty ordinary. If you bump into them, they start yelling at you for being clumsy, and if you hit them enough times, they flat out disappear. I don't know if that's a bug or not, but it didn't make me want to save any of them from the impending doom that awaits them.
The action is essentially web-swinging and beating the crap out of your generic thugs. It can get repetitive, if not for the complete freedom of movement. You can web-swing or crawl on any surface, and it allows you to move around town quite easily. This is one of the most appealing parts of the game; it is very interesting to watch Spiderman glide through the air chasing his enemies. The game also features mini-bosses from Spidey's illustrious career, allowing you to square off with super-villains like The Rhino, Puma, Mysterio and, of course, Doc Ock, himself. Fighting them usually lasts longer than you expected, as each of them has a weak point for you to exploit. Unfortunately, by the time you find this flaw, you may get a bit bored with the fight. The game will try to help you, though, by giving you general instructions on how to deal with each boss before you encounter him. Fighting standard enemies is far from interesting as you only have two attacks at your disposal. The left mouse button serves as a normal punch, and right-click + left-click combo throws a front snap kick. You can also disable enemies by shooting a web in their eyes or by tying them up before attacking them. In any case, most things you do in this game, you will do with the left mouse button, and the game will decide on its own what punches or kicks to throw. This system is not very precise, being a real pain in the butt in combat. With each enemy you defeat, you gain a Hero Pool, which allows you to strike harder and move faster for a short period. Also, Spider-Man wouldn't be Spider-Man without his Spider-Sense, which alerts you of immediate danger. However, instead of the console Spider-Sense, the game essentially pauses, forcing you to perform a certain action in a very short period in order to avoid certain death (very much like Shenmue II).
Unlike its console counterpart, the PC version of Spider-Man is completely linear - completing a set of goals will take you to the next part of the city. During the missions, you will be surrounded by invisible walls, which will keep you in the vicinity of your current goal. Most of the time, you will have an arrow above your head, pointing in the direction you are supposed to be heading, if you somehow manage to get lost. Also unlike the game's console counterpart, the PC version of the game is saved automatically at checkpoints.
The sound effects are decent, however, I barely noticed the musical score - it was that forgettable. The voice acting for the main characters was voiced by their cinematic counterparts, but alas, they sound as if they are bored to tears, having to lend their voices to this crappy videogame. Only the level bosses stand out from the crowd, and add to that comic-book feeling. And I can say with 100% certainty, that Bruce Campbell steals the fucking show.
The game's content has obviously been aimed at eight to ten-year olds and not all the flaws I mentioned typically matter to a nine-year old who just wants to beat up some bad guys. But to us adults, who want our games to have some stones to them, look elsewhere. The crowning point to this very argument is this: This game can be completed, from start to finish in two hours. I am not joking. What's more is there's no incentive to go back and replay anything in this game. All in all, the PC version of this magnificent film, with an equally magnificent console game does not measure up to either side of its namesake. Ultimately, Fizz Factor's effort to bring Spider-Man to the PC...just fizzled.
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