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Spider-Man 2 is the closest any game has been to successfully bringing our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to life. Although the game consists of a linear storyline which follows closely to that of the film, the game delivers the freedom to stray from it and take the opportunity to explore the big city of Manhattan. The ground is no longer covered in fog, and there is no invisible force field that prevents Spidey from landing in the streets. He is now free to roam the busy streets of Manhattan, amongst the cars, innocent civilians, and future evil doers.
As Spidey, the player gets the opportunity to go medieval on those future evil doers. This is aided by the transplanting of Neversoft's ingenious free-roam objective system from Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4. This adds depth to the gameplay; whereas previous superhero games always forced the player from point A to point B, Spider-Man 2 allows the player to choose side-objectives to help everyday denizens of New York. When triggered, those with exclamation points above their heads will ask Spidey to help them out. These tasks range from helping a child catch his runaway balloon, to stopping a gang from robbing a security van. Completing these tasks successfully will not only earn much kudos, but also add hero points which can then be used in the "Spider-shop" to buy items varying from new combat moves to trivial items such as new costumes. There is also talk of "unlockables," as well as hidden items located all over Manhattan, which adds more replay value to the already fantastic game.
Since Spider-Man 2 contains such an enormous interactive world, Activision has taken the pain-staking effort to recreate and remodel the entire island of Manhattan. Considering the fact that the buildings and locations are constructed to a realistic scale, this gives players the experience of climbing up the Empire State Building or taking a stroll in Central Park. Not all of these locations will be accessible from the beginning, of course, but they will be available as the story progresses. Nonetheless, the sheer scope of the areas that can be traveled length-wise as well as height-wise is simply astounding.
Speaking of buildings, a noteworthy issue is the web-swinging. An enormous graphical flaw was pointed out in the last game concerning how Spider-Man would swing through the streets with his web clinging to invisible surfaces. This error has been corrected with Spider-Man 2's advanced physics system. It is now a requirement for the web to connect to a physical surface in order to continue swinging. There is now a reticule that appears onscreen that will guide the player to the next available building Spider-Man can sling to. The path Spidey travels while web-slinging will depend on the momentum and the physics of his pendulum-like motion. There is also the ability to hang motionless between two buildings so that the player can catch a look at his location. Due to the sophisticated physics system, and the capability to perform midair flips, web-swinging becomes not only a method of traveling, but it becomes akin to a graceful art form.
The new web-swinging system wouldn't matter as much if the camera that follows Spider-Man was not cooperative. One of the greatest enemies in the first Spider-Man: The Movie game was not only the Green Goblin, but the erratic camera system. In fact, I was one of those players who could not play the game for more than five minutes lest I get a pounding headache due to the constant camera angle change. I am glad to say that the camera system in Spider-Man 2 has been vastly improved. The pace at which the camera follows is a bit slower so that a sudden direction change in the player's movement doesn't send the camera into a chaotic spin.
While the web-slinging physics has been reworked to near perfection, there are some abilities that have been exaggerated to show off Spider-Man's talent. The human spider can now dive off the tallest building and safely web-swing himself at the last minute to prevent from going "splat." He can leap a story high into the air to quickly get himself out of danger. He can grab a criminal with his web-line in the air, and execute a series of mid-air attacks that defy the laws of gravity. He can perch himself on top of street lamps, or cling onto roofs of moving vehicles. In many ways, it's logical to say that Spider-Man does whatever a spider can.
What kind of superhero would Spider-Man be if he didn't use his extraordinary powers to fight crime? And what an arsenal of extraordinary powers he has. The combat system this time has given Spidey the assurance of whipping an enemy's butt six ways to Sunday. I mean, c'mon, in addition to the previously mentioned mid-air smackdown, he can even do a 15-feet dive into a pile-driver with his enemy in hand! He can also grab multiple enemies with his webbing, and swing them around over his head until he chooses to send them flying into walls. Spidey can disarm his assailants easily, as well as counter and block attacks. If all that's not enough, he can trigger his Spider-sense which slows down the environment so that he can better react to the situation at hand.
Due to the secrecy of the film, the storyline and the main villains in Spider-Man 2 remain confidential. Activision is trying to incorporate other well-known villains but it is Marvel's final say. There was a problem with repetitive missions in this demo but this was an early version to demonstrate the gameplay. However it should be mentioned that hopefully the banality of repetitive missions does not plague the final version. Spider-Man 2 will remain a single player experience, and is slated to be released next year simultaneously with the film in theatres. With the game looking remarkable as it is at only 30% complete, Spider-Man 2 will most definitely be one of the top-notch games to look out for next year.
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