Reviewed: April 8, 2005
Released: March 18, 2005
Vicarious Visions loves Spider-Man. They did a topnotch job bringing the web-slinger to the DS and making the most out of the touch-screen input and now they are up to their old tricks to bring Spidey to the PSP in all its glory.
Spider-Man 2 is an impressive achievement considering that it was built from the ground up specifically for the PSP. Sure, it borrows a few elements and themes from the movie and previous games but even if you have seen the movie a dozen times (after all, it came with your PSP) and have played the console version, you are guaranteed a wholly unique and entertaining experience.
Spider-Man 2 falls somewhere between the first and second console games in style and scope. It falls drastically short of the scale of the recent console version with its massive living city, free for the exploring. As for story, it borrows heavily from the movie, both in cast, events, and even some stunning CG recreations of key moments.
Spider-Man 2 is a true 3D game, at least for most of the game, which presents some interesting challenges when you consider the lack of a right analog stick that you would typically use for camera movement. In fact, anything negative I could say about Spidey would have to be about the controls, but considering what V.V. had to work with here, they did an amazing job.
There is a comprehensive tutorial that teaches you everything from basic movement to web-slinging to combat. This all takes place in a grid-like construct like something from TRON or the Enterprise holodeck. Donít get discourage at the steep learning curve that can take you upwards of an hour before you truly feel comfortable with the control scheme.
Really, the only thing missing is the right analog stick and the game design compensates by allowing you to lock onto targets with the L trigger. This effectively controls the camera by keep you and the target in frame at all times so instead of controlling the camera directly you actually control the focal point of the camera, which is all you really need to do to kick butt and play the game.
Shooting webs and swing around is as easy as a press of the R trigger. You can stick to walls and ceiling and the camera will rotate to work with you on these moves as well as turning foreground objects transparent so you can get your bearings.
Combat is handled with traditional kick and punch moves and these can be combined into numerous combos and further enhanced with web shots, cocoons, and you can always latch onto a baddie with your web and yank him around.
Level designs are meticulously crafted to encourage combat and exploration along with puzzle solving. One early mission has you scrambling around a warehouse using your web to seal up leaky pipes before the boiler overheats and explodes. Later, after Doc Ockís experiment goes awry you must save several bystanders from impending doom, then shut down the fusion reactor.
The story in the game borrows heavily from the movie but doesnít follow it religiously. Youíll get a chance to fight infamous villains like Rhino, Shocker, Vulture, and Mysterio. All 19 levels are totally original to the PSP and packed from start to finish with intense action and classic Spider-Man style.
The movies are eerily realistic, almost like the designers took actual film footage and put a filter on it to make it look rendered. I watched the Spider-Man 2 UMD movie then popped in the game and compared the scene with Doc Ock doing his demonstration and it was just freaky how good these movies looked.
The gameplay is fantastic with large outdoor levels and massive cityscapes and highly detailed indoor levels full of interactive objects and plenty of bad guys to knock around. The character modeling and animation is really good for the most part but the Spider-Man model rises above the rest with some of the best textures, animation, and shadowing Ė yes, even better than the Xbox.
The animation flows like a silk web with Spidey going from a walk to a run to a leap to multiple swings before landing on a wall and crawling into an air vent. Youíll never see a break or hiccup between any of these unique movements; itís totally seamless.
The special effects will dazzle you. There are rich lighting effects, particle blasts, distortion effects from heat, vaporous steam, and rich colorful textures that give this game a surreal aura, almost like a comic book coming to life.
The soundtrack is lifted right from the movie with several lengthy snippets from the original score. The in-game music cues to the action and is upbeat creating a perfect backdrop for all the brawling Spidey will be doing.
Speech is outstanding with solid performances from cast members, Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Alfred Molina. Even the supporting voices manage to reach the bar set by the professional voice cast. I do have to ask, "What happened to Bruce Campbell?" The tutorial just isn't the same without wisecracking Bruce.
Sound effects are all perfectly created and placed to complement the visuals and bring them to life with realistic environmental noise and solid combat sounds of punching and kicking, things breaking, webs shooting, goons groaning. Headphones might not do this sound package justice.
Spidey is arguably a short game no matter which difficulty mode you choose. On easy mode you can finish the game in 5-8 hours and you can probably double that for hard mode. Unlike the console version with itís living city and sandbox playground, once you have finished the linear set of story-based missions on the PSP there is little reason to revisit the adventure.
There are some hidden secrets that might appeal to the hardcore gamer or completionists out there but chances are once you finish this it might sit on the shelf for a while. Regrettably, this might make Spider-Man 2 more suited as a rental than a purchase.
Spider-Man 2 was one of the first games I got to review for the PSP and it certainly shows of the capabilities of the system. I was worried about a 3D game with no direct camera control but the designers manage to pan and pivot the camera at just the right time and the target lock gives you surprisingly good control over your view. The controls are intuitive and the combat intense.
Whether you end up owning this game or just taking Spidey on his rounds of the city cleaning up crime for the duration of a rental period, make sure you at least play it and see how good a superhero game can be on a portable system.