Gameplay 7.1
Graphics 10.0
Sound 9.0
Value 8.0
Distributor: Activision
Classification:
M15+
Review Date:
October 2005
Reviewer:
Edwin Millheim

8.0


Ultimate Spider-man

Ultimate Spider Man is the third time the developer Treyarch has a go at the webbed wonder. While the saying goes three times is the charm, the same may not be said for Ultimate Spiderman the game. While the concept is very cool, the game falls a little short from a slam dunk. read on true believers. First off the ads for the game leave a little bit out of the whole…play as Spiderman OR Venom…during the game you have little choice in the matter. There are times when you play as Spiderman, and then times you play as Venom. It is not until you complete the entire game that you’re able to play as one or the other, or even switch between the two freely. Till finishing, you’re stuck automatically switching between the two characters as the story progresses. So you really have no choice until finishing the game.

The story follows Peter Parker from the Ultimate Spiderman series comic story line where Parker meets Eddie Brock who was Peter’s child hood friend. The two of them are linked together in some way. The common link was their fathers. Before their deaths, their fathers had been working on a bioengineered substance that molds to the body of its host. There’s not too much back story in the game in this regard, instead it vaults ahead and soon Eddie Brock is over come by the substance and it turns him into the being known as Venom.

The plot line resembles a friendship quilt more than anything else, at times in the beginning seeming forced, to just have an excuse to mix in another cameo by one Marvel character after another. But with so much happening it still hits the goal and you soon find yourself playing a little longer just to see who is going to show up next. The Human Torch and even Wolverine make appearances along with some villains who like the retelling of the Spiderman story in the Ultimate Spiderman are reworked and hopped up a bit. Case in point, the Green Goblin who is now more of a demon than anything else. Cool villains like Electro, Rhino, Silver Sable the Shocker and even the way cool Carnage show up also. Oh yes, S.H.E.I.L.D is even in the mix with Nick Fury at the helm.

If you follow the Ultimate Spiderman comic, you will find that the games saving grace is that it sticks pretty darn well to the spirit of the comic for the times it uses it. Unlike past Spiderman games, where it was more of an option to have to do races, this time the player is pretty much forced to do more city goals and the races just to make more story mode missions available and to even advance the story itself. Its like the developers got to a point and went, well crap this sure makes things kind of short in game terms…hey I got an idea, let’s do a bunch of tiny side missions that get repetitive, oh even better let’s make it so they have to complete these side missions before they unlock the next story event… like check point races, some combat missions against like New York gangs from the comic books and some really impossible double rescues against the clock...

Much like the other games there are places to go people to see, and getting around this town is still more or less fun. This time around the whole city environment covers Manhattan and also Queens.

While you have a lot of freedom like past games to swing around and explore, there are some limits. This time around there are invisible boundaries that stop the webbed wonder in mid swing or in his tracks and a little message pops up and says that the area is not yet accessible. Holy crap, so much for another ultimate spin around the town. While this is not a game breaker by any sense of the word it sure the heck is annoying. Since I am on annoying things, more than a fare share of story missions are freaking chase missions, where you have to chase after a villain and hope you keep up with them. While the first few are not so bad, it is not till you get to the Green Goblin chase when things really get annoying. There is no margin for error on this one since the least bit of falling back seems to trigger a failed mission screen, if anything can become a dreaded game breaker, this one mission itself can. Then when you make it past that one there is a chase with Venom and silver sable involved…I won’t give too much away but prepared to throw your Xbox controls across the room.

Just when you think that there is no way your going to continue to frustrate yourself on some of the missions, the boss fights reel you back in. What can I say it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions; your trapped in an ultimate web with the only way out is to beat this strangely addictive game. The bait is the boss fights, these are just down right fun and to be able to duke it out with some of these villains is rather satisfying.

Controlling Spiderman/Peter Parker or Venom is nothing like past games. The controls seem to be dummied down a bit, but none the less you’re going to find yourself desperately button mashing in some very tense and often hectic moments. Depending on your outlook this can be a good thing or bad thing…but it sure the hell is a boy your hands or going to ache thing. Combat is a bit simpler this time around as well, you still get to use Spiderman’s webbing, but this time it’s limited. No web balls, but you do get to web enemies up and even throw them around a bit using the webbing.

Venoms attacks are different in the respect that he uses tendrils and very powerful smashing and even picking up cars and tossing them at targets. Up close a nice clawing attack comes in real handy. Long range attacks call for whipping the ol tendrils out there, and they come in handy for multiple foes. Venom further has to contend with his life force dwindling away, causing him to have to drain life from enemies and innocent victims alike. (Here’s a tip…the enemies don’t provide a lot of life force at all, but innocent victims tank Venom’s life meter up pretty good.

Let me take this time to point out some of the meters that are used in the game and all are in conjunction to tasks and fighting in one way or another. The race meter shows up only during races against some one like the human torch. It shows who is in the lead and who is behind. The chase meter is almost the same, it shows how far or close you are to the target of the chase. Then there is the Threat Assessment Meter. This shows up in and around civilians who are in danger and shows how much time you have to save them, or stop a given threat. Then there is the strength meter…oh what fun the strength meter. I still have mixed feeling about this one. This meter shows up when there is anything to do with testing the characters strength. Pulling the left and right triggers alternately you have to keep the needle on the indicator in the green area for success. I think I like getting around town more than I like the strength test stuff.

Speaking of controls and getting around, the locomotion method has not changed too much at all. Web swinging is still fun. It does not have the thrilling feel of Spiderman 2 web swinging though. Everything seems to have been slowed down a lot. Web swinging is not as button intensive anymore and there is no double web slingshots anymore, no just a single web standard web swinging, there is still a kind of web zip line that propels Spiderman a bit faster from A to B, but it has its limits.

Venom on the other hand just leaps and bounds with some super duper jumping, covering what seem to be whole city blocks. A form of wall crawling is also used, but with Venom it’s more along the lines of wall gripping with his powerful finger and toe claws. Once in a while he can use his tendrils a distance much like Spiderman’s zip line.

Let’s talk about the look of the game. I have to say I was not too keen when I heard what was in store for this game. I was a bit worried before I even saw it. Cel- shading? YUCK! Ok, I was wrong the game looks great; the look and feel makes it like your playing through an interactive comic book. In fact the designers seemed to have gone to great lengths to make this 3d comic come to life with some stellar results. Everything has bright sharp colors, characters look incredible. The 3D comic feel includes cut scenes where the shots are framed in like a comic panel. It’s an Ultimate Style for an Ultimate game. Well, even with such incredible images comes some slight issues, there are times of minor graphic clipping, Spiderman or venom walk through an object such as an overhang on a building. One clipping issue I took advantage of to beat Rhino in the final battle of that part of the story. Rhino got stuck in the graphics of a car and I just pounded on the weak spot in the Rhino armor, the Rhino character being stuck could not counter attack.

The floating camera can have some issues too as it tries to keep track of a fast moving target, sometimes this is more trouble than it’s worth and I found myself disengaging the lock on target just so I could keep my own bearings. In tight spaces don’t even try to lock onto a target.

In terms of game performance, the Xbox version seems to work very well, having little to no frame drop, the PS2 version has some scattered frame drops, and by way of looks of the game the Game Cube version, while not a total dog, just does not look as good as the Xbox and PS2 versions. Game Cube graphics for the game just seem to be blurred in some areas. On flip side, because of the style of graphics for the game, it still has the best over all looks of any game across all platforms.

Sound is solid, with Dolby Digital cranking out the sounds in a surround sound system the game really rocks. The opening of the game cranks it up pretty well and promises an awesome sound track. During the game on the other hand the sound track seems to hold back depending on the action that is going on. Over all the music fits the game.

Voice acting is everything here, even more than other games, because if the voice acting sucks, well that kind of would have killed the game right off the bat. No worries here, the voice acting is well done. All the pithy one liners on down to character to character dialog all comes of crisp, smooth and believable.

In the end the game is a little on the short side. Even after all the times it could cause you to have heart failure due to some frustrating and oh so many chases, it’s a bitter sweet end and it leaves you wanting more. Ultimate Spiderman 2 anyone? Hey Treyarch are you listening out there? We want more. Bottom line folks, if you rent it, your going to want to buy it, so go get it anyway because depending on how long you invest in it, renting it may not give you time to finish the game due to the strict chase rules. Because even if I could still see them, if your chase meter shows them too far ahead, you get a failed mission pretty darn fast. Let’s hope the next one tones down on the harsh chase parameters.

I’m a Spiderman fan. I admit it. The game Ultimate Spiderman in title works well, but when there is way too much repetitive actions such as let’s go for a round of beating up gang members. It takes away from the game. A few more scenarios in this respect would have been more welcome. Sort of like, some gang members, maybe some mob guys, or some more bank robberies, yes there are a few other small time crimes to foil, like snatching purses or shopping bags…but it all comes off too repetitive. A bit more variety would be very welcome to the webbed wonder.

Ultimate Spiderman…a Spectacular Game, just not Ultimate. But still with the minor gripes the game rockets ahead in the realm of the Spiderman Experience. Well worth having in your collection.

Have fun, play games.

Edwin Millheim






 
 



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