Monday, July 19, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Do Whatever A Spider Can...

It’s no surprise that a man like me who is both a fanatical gamer and a brazen comic geek hailed the arrival of “City of Heroes” as a godsend. I am far from alone in this, as the on-line superhero RPG has become a monster hit in the few short months since its’ initial release. And yet I was somewhat disappointed with the game, good as it is, for one simple reason: I couldn’t recreate my favorite childhood superhero.

You see, City of Heroes doesn’t allow for wall-crawling or web-swinging… and it’s impossible to get Lightning Reflexes and Web Bomb (a grenade that sticks a baddie to the ground) in the same character. So it looked like I would have to put my dreams of playing Spider-Man on hold until the first major update of the game. Or so it seemed, until I played Spider-Man 2: The Game.

Based off the movie in a very liberal way, Spider-Man 2 is brought to us by Treyarch and all the other companies responsible for the Spider-Man games for Playstation as well as the available for all systems Spider-Man: The Movie – The Game (or whatever you’d like to call it). The game is billed as allowing you to go anywhere and be able to do whatever a spider can. While most games fail to live up to their own hype, Spider-Man 2 exceeds it.

The game world is a scale model of New York City, complete with prominent landmarks. You can web swing through Times Square, crawl along the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge and climb to the top of the Empire State Building antenna. One can easily spend hours just swinging through the city, looking around. Thankfully, the game encourages exploration and you can earn “hero points” by finding certain markers for reaching the top of skyscrapers, meeting a physical challenge and even uncovering criminal hideouts!

The level of detail in this game is truly amazing. Thousands of people walk through the streets below you, cheering you on as you swing low or calling you a menace as needed. But they aren’t just there for the sake of detail and adulation: they are there for you to save.

As you swing around, you hear cries for help or get a “spider-sense” sign that there’s somebody who needs help nearby. You don’t need to answer every call for help, though there is no reason why you shouldn’t. After all, you’re a hero! And aside from the feelings of peace and contentment you get from stopping a robbery or retrieving a child’s lost balloon, every person you help racks up more hero points.

These hero points allow you to “buy” extra powers and abilities. Some of these are combat enhancers, which make you able to web-swing faster, dodge quicker and fight better. Some are special attacks, like doing a kick at the end of a web-swing that lets you plow over several enemies in one fell swoop. And some are just plain fun, like a feat that allows you to do acrobatic flips as you go into freefall after breaking out of a webswing. So it really is to your benefit to run around, see everything and help as many people as possible.

Thankfully, you don’t go into this blind and without assistance. The Man With The Chin Bruce Campbell has been brought back “at great expense” to once again play the helpful(?) narrator and tutorial guide. There is one change though. Rather than get everything over and done with in one simple tutorial mode, Bruce’s voice will be there throughout the game, giving you advice even as he mocks your competence, at a series of question-mark points scattered throughout the city. Finding these not only gives you helpful game-play tips and a cheap laugh: you even get hero points for seeking out help!

The animation is top-notch and makes even the first Spider-Man movie game, a quantum leap for its’ time, look clunky and unnatural. The voice acting is also top-notch, as well it should be… for not only has Tobey Maguire returned to lend his voice to Spider-Man in the game, the voice cast also boasts Alfred Molina and Kirsten Dunst. Dunst is especially welcome here, as Mary Jane’s strong presence in the first game with another actress doing the voice was especially jarring and out of place.

I haven’t gotten too far into the main plot of the game yet. I’ve been having too much fun just running around, exploring and saving people! But from what I’ve seen, this will be far from a simple retread of the movie plot. Without giving too much away, the opening stages will see Peter rushing to class, rushing to work and rushing to his birthday party as in the start of the movie. Things take a quantum leap from there, however, as Peter runs away from a meeting with Mary Jane to stop a museum robbery only to run into a figure who will be a familiar and welcome sight to all of us fans of the Spider-Man comic.

All in all, if you have a computer or a gaming system and have a cool fifty bucks American to spare, you couldn’t do much better to invest in a copy of Spider-Man 2. All fans of good action games as well as every Spider-fan out there will love this game. I could write a lot more about it but I can’t. I hear another child screaming about their lost balloon...

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

No comments:

Post a Comment