I do love a good Spider-Man game. For my money, the best one money could buy was the Spider-Man game on the PS1, however subsequent games brought in some fun innovations. Spider-Man 2 on the PS2 had the rendered version of Manhatten, and the reworked web slinging mechanics, which was great fun just web swinging around, although the missions themselves didn’t work too well, often distracting from the web swinging fun.
With this latest game, the developers decided to take a step backwards with the gameplay style. Out goes the free-roaming Manhatten, and back in comes a more traditional level structure. And I have to say, I think the game is all the better for it, as it allows them to build up a stronger narrative that the free-roaming makes trickier to do.
However, they’ve also introduced something else that I don’t think any other Spider-Man game so far has done. Rather than focus exclusively on the traditional Peter Parker Spider-Man, the developers decided to embrace the Marvel Universes in all their shapes and forms, and have set the game across 4 distinct universes in the form of Amazing, Ultimate, Noir and, much to my delight, 2099. Its another reason for abandoning the free roaming aspect, as coming up with four distinctive cities would’ve been a huge undertaking and possibly not worked as well, with the players having to get acquainted with all four, rather than learning every nook and cranny of the previous digital Manhattens.
There’s a lot of love gone into developing these different Spider-Men. For a start, just that the game brought them all in was terrific, but then they brought in some great voice acting talent as well, as various Spider-Man voice actors from previous cartoons all get to play each of the distinct Spider-Men. Neil Patrick Harris (who voiced the character in the 2003 MTV cartoon) takes on the main Amazing Spider-Man, Josh Keaton (who voiced the 2008 Spectacular Spider-Man) providing the voice of Ultimate Spider-Man, Christopher Daniel Barnes (from the brilliant 1994 animated series) voicing Spider-Man Noir, and the one I got a real kick out of was hearing Dan Gilvezan voice Spider-Man 2099. A voice very familiar from my youth, as he voiced Spider-Man in Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Just brilliant!
The script as well is full of nice nods, with Spider-Man 2099 in particular quickly building up his world by mentioning Alchemax and the Public Eye being some of the first baddies you need to beat. As Madame Web augments each of the Spider-Mens powers (explaining the game’s implementation of Spider Sense), you’ve also got Noir mentioning that she’s upgraded his web slinging and wall crawling powers (I’ve only read issues 1 and 2 of that series, so I have to assume they were traditional powers that this incarnation lacked).
So far, I’ve completed the tutorial levels, and the Kraven and Hobgoblin 2099 levels, so I’m not that far into it, but my first impressions are overwhelmingly positive. As well as the above, you’re automatically invited into the game by a great voiceover from Stan Lee. Something that’s been omitted from the last few Spidey games I’ve played, and was really welcome to hear. From the tutorials, most of the Spider-Men are pretty similar, however as you go on, you unlock additional powers and bonuses that’ll start to to set them apart more, building on their unique backgrounds For example, Spider-Man 2099 gets accelerated vision powers, while Ultimate Spider-Man gets strength bonuses from the symbiote suit he’s wearing (to differentiate him from Amazing Spider-Man and explained in the plot as being Madame Web’s doing).
Totally different though, is Spider-Man Noir. Weaker than his counterparts, this Spider-Man is much more stealth oriented. To a large extent, its in these sections that the impact of Batman: Arkham Asylum is felt, as the designers have clearly borrowed from its gameplay. You’re invited to stick to the shadows, zipping from vantage point to vantage point with your webbing, silently taking out enemies using stealth attacks in much the same way as Batman.
The main difference though is Spider-Man Noir is a lot less tough than his caped counterpart, so if you get into a fight with even one enemy goon, odds are you’re taking a kicking unless you can get out of there. Batman was more forgiving in this regard in that you could tend to fight your way out of smaller groups (as long as they didn’t have guns). I could see this having the potential to get a bit frustrating depending on how these levels are laid out later in the game, but at least in the initial tutorials its fun, and helps add some variety to the game.
There’s also thought been given to replayability. The game includes what it calls, the Web of Destiny, which effectively charts the various challenges available in the game throughout the various levels. Completing challenges unlocks the next set of challenges, but also gains you points and opens up new sets of unlocks you can purchase to add new abilities to the Spider-Men, boost their stats, or provide them with a range of different costumes.
Its not all roses in the game. There’s a familiar bugbear with these games which again raises its head which is the in-game camera. The viewpoint for the game is the traditional third person, however as you start quickly web swinging around and changing direction, the camera can get confused which can sometimes get you a bit stuck until you can find a ledge to rest on and get your bearings. For me though, the great, solid fun that the game has been so far outweighs this.
So overall, so far I’m really enjoying the game. The audio is top notch and has loads of recognisable voices, the graphics are great, and the different dimensions have their own identities and keep things interesting. From what I’ve seen I’d really recommend the game.