Activsion & Treyarch have a rebuild their popular Spider-Man franchise after the pages of the Ultimate comic book series. Not only can play as a quick witted Spider-Man, we can run around as his symbiote buddy Venom. Spider senses tingling? Well I'm sure they will be after our review of Ultimate Spider-Man.
The first thing you should know about Ultimate Spider-Man is that the story has changed. If you're not familiar with the Ultimate comic book by Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley then you might be cursing as the screen saying "That's not right", "What?!", "Venom a cure for cancer??!", "MJ knows Peter is Spider-Man!" So sit back and accept this new Parker for what it's worth.
Ultimate Spider-Man surprisingly does more then just play the web slinger himself, Treyarch decided to gives us his nemesis Venom as a playable character. Venom is one of the coolest characters from the Spider-Man universe and is heavily rumored to be the villain in the next Spider-Man movie. The venom back story is a little more complicated then Peter and it involves his high school friend Eddie Brock Jr, Peter's father and a suit that can alter some ones state of being. Venom's in game missions usually pretty straight forward with an emphasis on destruction. Like the Incredible Hulk, Venom is a wreaking machine that can destroy anything in his path. Even with all his strength the big fellah has weaknesses and Venoms major flaw is that his health slowly dwindles away. You would think that was a bad trait, but it not because it's so much fun regaining his health. Ready for this? To regenerate Venom's health you have to feeding on live human bodies. whoa! That's correct. Eat Brains! It's pretty cool sucking up your first victim and for those who have played Spider-Man 2, it's a treat. I guess Venom absorbs human life energy more so then eat brains but it's the same feeling. Venom has some other cool features like being able to attack with his "stretchy" arms and move and jump quicker then Spider-Man. Although he doesn't have the ability to web sling Venom can jump amazingly far and cover long distances with good speed. Venom is a beast and it's awesome that you get to spend part of the game as this monster terrorizing the streets of New York . I was pretty impressed with how they handled the character and it helps breathe some extra life into the franchise.
Like Spider-Man 2 they have recreated their version of New York to be a free roaming environment which includes several different areas including Spider-Mans home in Queens . The city is larger then Spider-Man 2 which says a lot considering it was freaking huge! Instead of a more realistic look the city seems to have jumped straight form the pages of the comic. You wouldn't think it would be very detailed in cell shaded, but it is and even more so then their old city build. It's a lot of fun to swing around in which is handled nicely in Ultimate Spider- Man.
In the gameplay department we have some significant changes from Spider-Man 2, the major difference would have to be that it's more story driven. Ultimate Spider-Man can be considered an improvement in presentation, story driven gameplay and the inclusion of many other Marvel characters, but it really feels like they took a leap forward in the wrong direction. Not to confuse anyone Ultimate Spider-Man is an awesome game and a great experience although it feels a little restrictive compared to Spider-Man 2. They lessened the amount of side missions and limited them to rarely happening. Instead you can mainly compete in races or fight a gang of thugs by activating it at an icon. If you just want to cruise around as the web slinger you're going to be disappointed because it gets boring.
Ultimate Spider-Man also takes a hit because they removed some other features besides the side mission/ mini games. One thing which is gone is the ability to purchase new moves to upgrade your character. The upgrades now come naturally after you clear a certain amount of levels, although it's good you actually get some new moves the natural progression approach don't hold the same level of satisfaction as customizing your own version of Spider-Man. They also did away with the indoor environments like bars, gyms and book stores. This wasn't a huge part of Spider-Man 2, but I expected them to expand on this idea and bring more into the next game. It was always pretty cool kicking in the doors to the gangs' hideaway and taking out the trash! I have no clue why these two features where removed from the game other then it was rushed or to stream line the direction of the game. Without all these extras the gameplay is more focused towards the bread and butter, but once your done it's will probably just sit on the shelf.
Besides all the negative points this game is a lot of fun. The missions are fun and they have are some what challenging if you aren't used to swinging across the city. They have cleverly pieced together the story and in game missions so it feels more like cinematic experience. There are still a bunch of unlockable coins to find like that will unlock art, comic book covers and alternative costumes. Another nice touch is the ability to switch freely between Venom and Spider-Man, but this only is activated when you clear the game. So if you wait until your finished the story-line those coins might become a little easier when you can jump on the scale of Venom. Treyarch's Ultimate Spider-Man will please most fans of the hero and might just sprout a few fans of the Ultimate comic book series.
Graphics & Sound
Ultimate Spider-Man is off the hook in the graphics department. The new comic book panel looks amazing and fits the style of the game perfectly. The new 3D Comic Link Technology creates something new like you have seen before. It's very clever, very hip. Matching this panel look is the use of cel-shaded graphics that look amazing for the in game action. The lines aren't as thick as they use in other games and I think this helps create a life-ike world that seems drawn. Recreating a city was the biggest task graphically, and they did a great job with all the locations, right down to the small touches. Ultimate Spider-Man's New York runs second only to Grand Theft Auto's vast countryside. It's sad to see the Xbox ending in a way because the graphical performance in the games has improved so much from the first batch of games. Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the most interesting cell shaded games to be released on the Xbox platform.
The sound in Spider-Man is adequate but doesn't stand out as much as the graphical aspects. At least they did away with that kid with the balloon. That had to be one of the most annoying lines in a game ever! The explosions are loud and sound great and Spidey has all the quick one liners we expect. The voice over talent did a great job with all the characters and the really fit with the image on the screen. It all ties in nice and becomes one hell of a final product.
Venom vs. Wolverine! Wait one second! Venom = Cool. Fighting Wolverine as Venom = Freaking Awesome. I really didn't think I was going to enjoy playing Venom compared to swinging around as Spider-Man, but now that I have completed the game I would have to say Spidey Who? Well, that's not totally true because Spider-Man has his moments and his one liners can be pretty funny, can't diss Spidey too much. The terrible twosome make a good team, which helps Ultimate Spider-Man be a little more awesome then it would have been playing solo. Ultimate mojo for this re-invented Spider-Man.
Ultimate Spider-Man is a beautifully put together game that will make a lasting impression on anyone who witnesses it in action. Unfortunately they have lost a lot of features that helped make last years game so special and traded them in for a more cosmetically approved storyline. You will not be disappointed with end product and the Venom sequences really help break up the gameplay. Overall, Ultimate Spider-Man is a success and we hope Treyarch has enough time to give us two Spider-Man games a year.
Gameplay: 8.5, Graphics/Sound: 10, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 9 Final: 9/10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy |
Oct. 9th 2005