By Michael Martinez
Cost: $8.50 and 8 hours
All right ladies and gents, time to dust off that PlayStation 2 or Xbox that’s been sitting in your closet and swing into a comic classic. From the current Marvel domination of Hollywood, to DC’s ever expanding TV shows and outstanding Batman: Arkham games, comics have taken all forms of media by storm. Taking a step back through time, there is a lesser known superhero game: Ultimate Spider-Man. This game lived in the daunting shadow of the Spider-Man movie games, coming out right after Spider-Man 2, but is nonetheless well worth the pocket change to pick it up.
The immediate thing anyone playing this will notice when picking up this game up is the striking art style. Dubbed by the developer Treyarch as “Comic linking Animation technology”, a form of cel-shading similar to what you’ll see in the Borderlands series. The comic book feel doesn’t end with the visuals, as the rest of the game screams it every chance it gets. Even though it’s now two console generations old, this game still has simplistic yet colorfully vibrant charm, which is incredibly pleasing to eyes.
While the start can be a bit slow getting into the swing of things, the game soon starts throwing campy, yet ridiculously fun, scenarios at you.
One mission has Spider-Man taking on a 15 foot-tall robotic Rhino as he plows head first through buildings and tosses cars around like nothing. Another will see you swinging after and battling a hulk sized Green Goblin that can shoot balls of fire out of his hands.
As fun as the rest of the game is, the cherry on top of it all is getting to play as Venom. After every handful of missions as Spider-Man, the game’s narrative changes perspective, putting players in the role of the symbiotic monstrosity himself. Venom’s missions all take place at night, as opposed to Spider-Man’s that takes place during the day, making him all the more menacing as he launches himself across the cityscape.
Far stronger than Spider-Man, Venom can chuck cars across the city, jump clear over tall buildings in a single leap, and devastate enemies with his long-reaching tendrils. All of these powers make Venom feel like his own character, and playing as him is an entirely different experience than when playing the web-head. After the game’s conclusion, free roam mode is unlocked for Venom, which essentially amounts to just rampaging across Manhattan trying to avoid the ever increasing authorities until the heat goes down, a lot like Grand Theft Auto’s famous five-star system.
Unfortunately, a number of missions can be quite repetitive in structure and some have random spikes in difficulty that will often warrant a handful of retries to get through successfully, especially the numerous chase sequences. An occasionally uncooperative camera, and the random glitch here and there, only make this issue more obvious.
The story itself isn’t one you’ll likely be raving about either, but it is a great representation of the Ultimate Spider-Man universe overall and one that any Spider-Man fan will enjoy, even if the voice acting can be bit corny at times. These issues aren’t anything that will ruin the experience though, and for so cheap, Ultimate Spider-Man is worth every penny.
While most of today’s interpretations of comics have taken on a darker, more realistic tone, Ultimate Spider-Man embraces the beautiful campy insanity of its source material. Sean Marquette, who voices Spider-Man (as well as Mac from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, so there’s a nostalgia trip for you), adds to this with his cheesy, but funny banter that the comic Spider-Man is known for. This, mixed with a story written by Brian Michael Bendis, the author of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic series, creates a light-hearted fun experience any Spider-Man, comic book, or superhero fan, will love.