Throwback Thursday: Spider-Man 2 

“Hi, my name is Spider-Man and I’ll be your superhero today.” 

It’s really no surprise that the new ‘Spider-Man’ game from Insomniac Games is receiving so much excitement and anticipation. ‘Spider-Man 2’ set the expectations high for all web-slinging adventures! Never before have players had the chance to swing around New York City. Despite the average story and repetitive side missions, ‘Spider-Man 2’ was an instant classic because of the freedom created through swinging your way around the open world sandbox.

The Swinging Noughties 

The biggest improvement from the original ‘Spider-Man’ game was the open world sandbox to explore. The city itself was incredibly inviting: high sky scrapers which boasted amazing views; roads full of busy cars and pedestrians who occasionally needed the help of Spider-Man.

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The city was crafted perfectly for our dynamic protagonist. The streets allow perfect opportunities to
gather speed while swinging, while the skyscrapers give the platform to rise above the world.

It’s really hard to describe the joy that traversing the city brings. Often in open world sandboxes getting from one point on the map to another can be a chore; something which most games even try to overcome by creating fast-travel. But not ‘Spider-Man 2’. It embraces travel – makes it one of the most important aspects of the game. The actual controls for swinging are simple yet effective (with a choice of a more assisted system too). On PS2 simply press R2 to shoot your web and propel into the air, from which you jump to rise further and shoot your web again. While swinging you can control the direction of Spidey, allowing you to master some of the sharp corners you can expect.

Honestly it’s arguable whether any game since has made traversing the map as simple, yet engaging, as ‘Spider-Man 2’.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” 

New York is incredibly lucky that Peter Parker is such a great guy. Whenever there is a pedestrian in need of Spider-Man’s help a green icon will appear on the map. Now you can of course simply ignore these indicators and continue swinging (which is the fun option, right?) but responsibility calls…

These side-objectives become very familiar very quickly. “Save that person from falling.” “Take this person to the hospital.” “Stop that car!” “Help out the police.” “Save those people from drowning.” Did Peter Parker realize just how much responsibility he would have? And how repetitive his responsibilities would be?

Apparently the developers were aware of their game’s shortcomings with these side missions. They are presented in a very tongue in cheek way with a lot of dry humour. Spider-Man has a range of responses for these pedestrians in need, my favourite being the quotation at the top of the page. These really help capture the lead’s humour. Also the villains (usually stereotypical thugs) are so stereotypical they pretty much border on parody.

‘Spider-Man 2’ is a game that will happily break down the fourth wall. It’s part of the charm and appeal of the game.

“Sometimes…to do what is right…we must be steady” 

The main story missions focus on Peter Parker’s struggle to balance an ordinary life with that of a superhero. At times Spidey will realize he’s late for a meeting with Mary Jane, or late for class, or late for a meeting with Dr Octavius. Basically you’ll be late most of the time and need to swing quickly to a location, usually just to find some crime which needs dealing with, making you even more late.

images-3After the early chapters the story develops a little more. Of course it is loosely based on the movie, but there are some extra villains that you can expect to confront. There is a lot more variety in these missions. Sadly most of them include some aspect of combat, which is not a strong point for the game. The narrator in the tutorial actually mocks the notion of people being angry that there’s only 1 button for combat. But it is very limiting, and tricky due to the camera angles that at times have a mind of their own.

Of course your Spidey senses come in to play and tingle (glow above your head) when you need to block or dodge. The combat feels quite clunky, and it can be frustrating to try and dodge with more than one enemy to focus on. Personally I prefer using the web to sling the enemies into the air or against walls/cars. However some more challenging enemies will be able to avoid these attacks. There are many opportunities to upgrade your combat, but it really doesn’t have the same impact that it should.

The voice acting is great though. The characters are designed to look just like their movie counterparts, and sound like them too.  Hearing the familiar voices of Toby Maguire and  Kirsten Dunst (to name the two biggest names) really helps with the realism of the story, it helps to combine the mood of the movie with the game. The story isn’t the driving force of the game, but it’s well presented and easy to engage with.

“This is the city I protect: New York City. It’s my home, my playground, my responsibility.” 

It’s easy to see why this is such a beloved game. The Spider-Man character is so unique in gaming. The ability to swing across a city is something which never gets old, and that thrill of soaring down the streets full of skyscrapers hasn’t been matched since. It may be a little repetitive at times, the story may be average, but the freedom offered in ‘Spider-Man 2’ is truly special and makes it a must-play.

 

Written by Stan Cohen

Time to wipe those cobwebs off your old consoles!

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