It occurred to me recently that of all the superheroes that have made it onto consoles Spider-man has had the most hits. Generally, comic games can be pretty bad: typically leaching off movie hype or getting stuck with a lousy developer but Spidey has endured for a long, long time.
Back in the good old days of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis there was Maximum Carnage, released in 1994. This was a 2-d sidescroller in which you used Spider-man and later on Venom to take on a variety of villains from the comic series as well as the most ruthless thugs and bandits New York has to offer. Anyone who remembers playing this game knows that I don?t have to go into detail as to how fantastic it truly was. Graphics, gameplay and a badass theme song made this title a triumph.
A Spider-man title came out for N64 and Playstation in 2000 and it was the first time the web-slinger was brought to life through the beautiful spacious element that is 3-D. No longer would players have to simply move in the rightward direction for hours on end, no, now it was possible to shoot webs and swing through the air. To this day, and you heard it here first – no other title has covered such a broad number of the villains of the Spider-Man universe. Venom, Carnage, Doctor Octopus, Scorpion, Rhino, Lizard and Mysterio were all bosses. Nowadays, especially with the movie-based titles, no more than four of the top-notch villains make an appearance.
This game also had the best reward system of any Spider-Man game to date. First of all there were a ton of comics to unlock and you didn?t just get a picture to pull up on the screen of its cover (like so many of unlockables of today), but also a sweet, concise synopsis.
Even better than the comics, were the costumes you could unlock: the Symbiote, Scarlet-Spider, Spider-Man 2099 and even Cosmic Spider-man – now that is what I call a reward for pumping in hours of gameplay.
Recently, we?ve had the movie-based Spider-Man games. The first one received great reviews but frankly I?ve never understood why. I mean, the graphics were great, the CGI sequences were sharp and the environment became more spacious but I remember this game didn?t take me too long to beat. It was possible to play as Green Goblin after beating the game on the harder difficulty, which was a cool reward, but this didn?t necessarily make it a hit in my opinion.
Now, Spider-Man 2 deserves a round of applause. For the first time, the environment covered every inch of New York City; this undeniably set the new standard and perhaps this is really why its predecessor doesn?t seem so fantastic to me anymore. I own both of these titles and since I purchased the second, have never played the first.
Needless to say, I?ve noticed that the movie-based titles co-exist with movie plot lines in a very specific manner. That is to say, in the first spider-man game no mention was made whatsoever of Doctor Octopus as I assume Sony already knew he was going to be a villain in the next movie. From playing both titles and seeing how tightly-knit game developers and movie producers keep their continuity I?d wager the villain in the next movie is going to be the Lizard.
Anyways, back to video games, this week I rented Ultimate Spider-man (USM). I had held off renting this for a while simply because my little brother had played it a few weeks ago and managed to beat the story mode in less than ten hours. Thus, I was in no mood for playing a title that had been so hyped up only to be disappointed, however USM is?well, okay I suppose.
Part of the reason why people were so excited about this game was because the highly acclaimed writer, Brian Michael Bendis, wrote the story. This definitely makes a difference as the re-invention of the symbiote saga unfolds just like a comic book. And this idea is brought to life through sequences of comic panels in which heroes and villains duke it out by literally by leaping off the page ? definitely a nice touch.
Taking the aspect of using Venom, which was one of the main reasons Maximum Carnage was so great, the game seems to have a bit more variety. The control styles of Spider-Man and Venom are also quite different. Instead of swinging through the city like Spider-Man, Venom makes a 20-story leap, extends his arms to grapple onto buildings and surfaces to then lunge himself forward. I know it sounds like web-swinging but trust me they it’s different.
Smooth, crisp, cell-shading make the graphics exceptional and gameplay for the most part is decent. I say decent because I actually wasn?t impressed by Spider-Man?s occasional awkward web-slinging. At first I thought this might have been because I am so accustomed to the predecessor but even within the last levels of the game I realized it was actually because the buildings and environments in the game make it difficult. There don?t seem to be as many skyscrapers and the ones that are there are spaced so far apart.
After beating this game, which took less than ten hours just like my little brother, I was really disappointed. The option becomes available to switch between Spider-Man and Venom at will, but there is close to nothing to do after beating it anyways. I mean, there are costumes to unlock, which are for Spider-Man specifically, but the only one anyone would want to invest time in is towards the symbiote costume. And I should mention that to get this costume you have to fully complete the game, which means collecting a ton of tokens, which I think is an incredibly tedious task.
I?ve read a lot of reviews for USM and quite frankly, I think that this is a case where the game was so hyped up that people seemingly don?t care whether or not it?s good or bad – I for one, sure don?t think that a game that takes no time to beat deserves so much positive criticism. Don?t get me wrong, if you like Spider-Man you?ll like USM, but trust your spider-sense, you?ll regret buying it before renting it first.