Available on PS2, Xbox and Gamecube, the PC version is a completely different and infinitely worse title
Marvel’s Spider-Man is a day away now, so I figured it was high time I checked out the undisputed king of Spidey’s web-slinging adventures in the digital form: 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Why is this title in particular regarded as the best Spider-Man game, and why has it been the go-to comparison game for every Spider-Man game in the past 14 years? Let’s find out.
If you jump into this game right after Spider-Man: The Movie, you’ll notice that the game has had a bit of a dip in terms of graphical quality. The textures and detail seem worse than it did in the previous game. But then you consider just how much this game has to render. Considering the massive city Spider-Man 2 has, I can perfectly forgive the dip in quality, as the trade-off in terms of the decent draw distance, better and smooth animations, and sense of scale combined with a smooth framerate make up for the minor dip in texture quality.
The story here follows an expanded version of the plot of the movie, so a lot of familiar plot threads and famous scenes from the movie are recreated to pretty great accuracy. From Octavius’ transformation into Doc Ock, the train fight, Harry’s hatred of Spider-Man, everything here is recreated well. Just like the last game though, the game expands on the film’s plotline by having some new plot threads focusing on some of Spidey’s rogues gallery, such as Quintin Beck’s attempts to embarrass Spider-Man and his subsequent change into Mysterio, and a storyline involving Black Cat, and yes, this did begin the trend of Black Cat appearing in every Spider-Man game ever. There’s even some cohesive narrative with the first game, as Shocker’s storyline continues from, which is a nice touch. All in all, the story here is pretty well done, as it builds off of Raimi’s fantastic flick beautifully.
The best part of Spider-Man 2 has to be its web-swinging mechanic. It was revolutionary for its time, having webs actually need to stick to buildings, and having great physics that made web-swinging feel truly incredible. Treyarch weren’t just content with web-swing either, as you could run up walls, charge up jumps, web zip and even do air tricks for a little bit of an air boost. All of these combined to make traversal in Spider-Man 2 feel like a treat.
It also helped that the rendition of New York on offer here was well done too; otherwise the web-swinging would have been for nothing. The game renders the entire island of Manhattan, and there’s plenty of skyscrapers and other high buildings to swing off. There’s also a lot to do in New York as well, as there’s a host of randomly generated crimes and other incidents that you can tackle for points. The game even banks on this randomly generated crime mechanic, as at the end the game announces that you can keep playing and stop crime for as long as you want. It’s also a good thing that the combat in which you stop crime with is also solid, as there’s plenty of combos and moves on offer, and Spider-Man’s athleticism is on full display, although it can get a bit button mashy after a while. There’s also the infamous Pizza missions you can tackle if you want to avoid the story mode.
You might want to avoid the story for a while too, as it is incredibly short and can be beaten in a few hours, even if it is a thrill ride for that time. It seems the devs knew this as well, as the game has a pretty dodgy progression system that I didn’t get as a kid, and understand but still don’t really like now. The game is split into chapters, and each chapter usually has a story mission. But then you also have to earn a certain number of hero points from crimes, and may even need to buy an upgrade from the upgrade store to progress. It feels like tacked on padding to increase the length, which actually helps point out how short the story is.
While the voice acting is a little on the corny side, the game has some solid audio. Sound effects are top notch, from the traffic moving to the thud of Spider-Man’s fists. The music is also pretty great, with dramatic cinematic style pieces during tense sequences, and combat sequences having some great guitar riffs and other mid-2000’s metal style tracks to it. There’s also the infamous Pizza theme, which is no doubt stuck in your head now. Also, did I mention BRUCE CAMPBELL IS THE NARRATOR? Yep, the king himself narrates the entire trilogy of the movie based Spider-Man games, giving his sarcasm and wit to the story, and he sounds as great as ever.
There’s no wonder Spider-Man 2 is the peak standard for Spider-Man games. While the graphics were a step down from its predecessor, the game was revolutionary thanks to some great web-swinging mechanics, as well as a fun and potentially infinite post-game content with its randomly generated crimes. It also helps that the story was a great expansion of the films with appearances from a bunch of well-known characters. Sadly, the game is very short, and the padded and stunted progression system emphasises that fact. Despite that, there’s no doubt that short length was experiences with a full grin on your face, as it is certainly short and sweet.