I've just spent an entire day sitting in a room with pizza, chips, brownies, Mountain Dew and a copy of SPIDER-MAN 2 for the Xbox. While it's somewhat disappointing to have spoiled the movie story for myself, the gameplay may be the closest any game has ever come to putting a gamer into a superhero's tights.
SPIDER-MAN 2 plays out a lot like GRAND THEFT AUTO in that it is an open world. Treyarch has re-created Manhattan to scale, and while there is a story mode (broken into 15 chapters, each with its own objectives) there are many other missions to take on in the city as well. These can be random events (seeing a purse snatching), to talking to someone on the street, to delivering pizza, or catching up with redhead Mary Jane.
Getting around the city is quite a bit different from the GTA series though. Spider-Man wouldn't think of using a car it's all about web-slinging. About a quarter of the development time on the game was spent perfecting this system. It's as simple as pressing the R-trigger to shoot a web, and the A-button to release it.
This system takes all of a few minutes to get used to before it feels second nature. Suddenly you're slinging through the city at rapid speeds, jumping from building to building and working your way through town. It's an amazing feeling that captures the essence of Spider-Man. Remember how awesome it was when you saw the first movie? This game captures that, somehow.
I literally have spent a couple hours working my way around the city to the point where I just fly around. I honestly can't fathom going back to driving a car in the next installment of GRAND THEFT AUTO the world is just so much cooler when you can explore the whole city, meaning everything up in the air as well. Manhattan becomes a giant jungle gym for Spider-Man to play in, and it is a blast.
Each section of the game is divided into chapters, each chapter has several objectives, such as heading to the Daily Bugle, meeting up with Black Cat, or collecting hero points. Completing missions and beating up thugs gives Spider-Man these hero points, which can then be used in stores in the city to unlock new moves, or increase abilities.
The moves come in handy as the thugs in the game do get progressively more difficult. Eventually they'll block and you'll start to run into baddies such as The Shocker, as well as some nasty mechs that give a new meaning to hurt. The moves involve combos, which can be used to take a bad guy high into the sky, tie them to a traffic light, and just generally kick ass. The combat system works well and has a lot of intricacies to it.
The same thing goes for web-slinging. The speed of your slinging can be increased with upgrades, and the web zip as well as other nifty acrobatics can be purchased. As you continue to play the game, the technique for slinging through the city becomes more and more refined. Helpful pointers around the city (200 of them in all) are narrated by Bruce Campbell with his wit. In order to help you find all of the nifty little things in the game, a map that is a actually just the camera pulled up above the city. Upon resuming the game, the camera swoops back to Spider-Man.
There's nothing really wrong with this game it's difficult at times, but never too difficult and it always gives a sense of satisfaction when you complete an objective or figure out how to solve a puzzle. There were a few times when I was pretty stuck, and other times when a task seemed incredibly difficult, yet accomplishing the goal despite the odds made the victory that much sweeter, and generally the hardest tasks were at the end of a chapter.
If there is a single negative to SPIDER-MAN 2 it is the graphics. Obviously recreating Manhattan with no load times is a task that is going to tax a videogame console. Unfortunately, there is considerable pop-up and some ugly textures in the game. This is overlooked though, as after an hour or two of web-slinging you won't even notice the blemishes.
The music was composed for the game, and is dynamic based on the situation. The city has a nice ambiance to it (though I wasn't able to fully test this out). The principal actors contributed their voices to the game, but Kirsten Dunst seems to phone in her performance I'm not sure if this is just her voice or not. Regardless, she doesn't talk that much, so it's not a big deal.
After spending a day in the life of Spider-Man, I have to say that I'm sold on this game. I don't know that I can think of a game that does a better job than putting the player in the role of a superhero. SPIDER-MAN 2 surpasses all expectations and is the hottest title of summer yet.