July 20, 2004 > Spider-Man 2
by Jeremy Inman
You sit atop the Empire State building, enjoying the New York skyline from high above street level. Suddenly, a tingle in the back of your neck and the sound of sirens draws your attention to a car chase occurring a few blocks away. You dive forward from the top of the building, falling quickly toward the bottom, but before you hit the ground you fire a strand of webbing at a nearby building and take a long, sweeping parabolic swing around a corner. You release the web at the top of the swing, launching your self forward, sailing high above the chase. As your trajectory lowers, you grab a light post and swing yourself around it a few times, gaining the momentum necessary to fling yourself out over the street and onto the roof of the speeding car.
The crooks inside take potshots at you as you slam into the vehicle with your fists, but your spider sense helps you to avoid the bullets before they even leave the chamber. You incapacitate the vehicle, and the criminals inside attempt to escape on foot. Before they make it around the corner, you launch several strands of web at their feet, tripping them to the ground. They then decide to stand and fight, but you web the pistols from their hands and deliver a few acrobatic blows before stringing them up on a lamp post to wait for the police.
This is just one of many scenes that players will experience in Treyarch's Spider-Man 2. While most movie license video games, especially for sequels of blockbuster hits, will simply replicate the story of the film or the formula of the first game, Spider-Man 2, like its film counterpart, surpasses the original in leaps and bounds. The main draw of Spider-Man 2 is the ability to actually be Spider-Man in an open-ended, fully-rendered New York City. As Spidey, players can climb or run along walls, swing from lamp posts, jump from building to building, and of course, web swing through the city streets. In the first Spider-Man game, web swinging was accomplished by simply hitting the right shoulder key. This would cause old web-head to fire strand after strand of webbing in the direction that the player indicated with the left analog stick, and he would linearly in that direction. Often times, he would fire strands that didn't even connect to any surfaces, but instead exited from the top right corner of the screen, off into thin air.
In Spider-Man 2, tapping the right shoulder key in conjunction with a direction on the right stick sends a single strand out to the nearest viable target, such as a building, a tree, a light post or even a helicopter. The actual swing is governed by simulated physics and momentum that really provide the feel of swinging through the city streets as Spider-Man. Pressing the right shoulder key again activates a second strand, and players can leap from the end of the swing to gain even more speed and height.
The story of the film takes second seat to the experience of being Spider-Man out on his daily patrol of the city. The story version of the game, that players can choose to follow at their leisure, will take up about an hour and a half if played straight through. Aside from the storyline involving Doctor Octopus, the game makes a few changes and additions, like interjecting a meaningful side story involving Spidey's black leather-clad female friend, Black Cat. This provides some inside into the Spider-Man character that elaborates on some of the themes in the film. Even the main characters, Spider-Man, Doc Ock, and Mary Jane are voiced by the actors from the film, and longtime friend of Sam Raimi and cult favorite Bruce Campbell narrates the games many tutorial sections.
Overall, Spider-Man 2 is the closest anyone will ever get to actually being Spider-Man, and truly captures the rush of the film and the comic by allowing the player the freedom to swing through New York, fighting crime like only a spider can.