Ultimate Spider-Man ReviewCain Dornan
Taking the classic Spider-Man franchise in somewhat of a different direction, Ultimate Spider-Man pits players once again into the role of our much loved web-slinging hero. This time, however, the game has taken a completely new, and possibly more effective, visual appeal that uses cartoon book-like visuals by utilizing cel-shaded visuals. The end result of this new visual pathway is a game that sticks closely to the games comic book basing, offering a mixture of personal problems and city-saving duties that please in some areas but disappoints in others.
Ultimate Spider-Man follows the experiences of a teenage Peter Parker; a troublesome cocky youngster who is bitten by a radioactive spider that grants Peter with numerous spider-like abilities that allows Peter to swing through the air on webs, climb any building or object and sense dangers with a mysterious spider-sense. Those who are familiar with Spider-Man comics will be well aware of the background story, with Ultimate Spider-Man only briefly covering the past and how todays events had come into play through a short opening cinematic. Apparently, Peters father was working on a scientific creation that would apparently cure cancer with the father to Peters childhood friends, Eddie Brock. After the mysterious death of their fathers, Eddie obtains the chemical that their fathers were working on. Upon coming into contact with the blackish chemical, Eddie undergoes a transformation that turns him into a hulking, large-mouthed black creature who is, as you may have guessed, Venom. With your old childhood friendship in tatters, Venom quickly becomes one of your major enemies that will make a regular appearance throughout the course of the game unless, of course, you take on the role of the muscular creature, but more on that later.
The game opens with a battle against Venom, which simply involves beating the crap out of him with a mixture of punches and kicks until he finally falls. Once the battle is over, you are free to begin wondering the large re-creation of New York City. Like Spider-Man 2, Ultimate Spider-Man allows you to freely swing, jump, run and web-zip virtually anywhere you wish to venture, allowing you to explore numerous back alleys and climb towering skyscrapers to achieve a birds-eye view of the city. While some draw-distance issues do plague the Playstation 2 version in particular, the level of detail of the city and its surroundings is certainly satisfying, which aids in immersing players into the unique cel-shaded world that developer Treyarch has created.
Ultimate Spider-Mans cinematics are presented in a comic book fashion, with characters and events being displayed in multiple boxes that are delivered complete with explosive writing that dictates an action or an important event that is occurring. If an explosion occurs, for example, a large Boom will appear on screen, which sticks true to the games comic book basing.
Ultimate Spider-Man sets out its missions in a rather frustrating and repetitive manner. The game offers both essential storyline-driven missions and random activities that are spread throughout the city. Whilst these random missions appear to be completely optional at first, the disappointing truth that they eventually become compulsory quickly sinks in soon into the game. Basically, once you complete a key story mission, you are required to travel around the city and complete a number of the random missions in order to unlock access to the next mission that contributes to the games storyline. These random missions usually involve swinging from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible or bashing a group of gang members. Being forced to participate in such missions in-between the actual interesting story-based missions is simply annoying and completely unwanted, as it distracts from the potentially solid storyline, which results in the game becoming a boring affair at regular intervals. There is nothing more frustrating then completing a number of the bland random missions to only achieve a minute-long cinematic and then being forced to complete more random missions again.
One of the major aspects of Ultimate Spider-Man that sets it apart from previous incarnations of Spideys world, apart from the immediately noticeable graphical change, is the inclusion of characters from the Marvel universe. The appearance of the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four, for example, allows for an interesting quick race around the city, attempting to prove that fire can move faster than what spider webbing can. If you prove him wrong, you will soon meet up with a furious battle against Wolverine when you take on the role of Venom and throw Wolverines prized motorbike through a pub wall. The appearance of these famed characters are often completely random, rarely having anything to do with the games storyline or contributing with the progress of the game in any way. It seems as though Treyarch has simply thrown in these characters for the hell of it, as if it is nothing more than a simple marketing gimmick.
Occasionally, you will take on the role of Spideys enemies, namely Venom. Whilst controlling Venom, you are involved in a storyline that differs slightly from the one in which Spider-Man is involved in. Venoms main enemies, for example, is not limited to Spider-Man, as a team of determined mercenaries are hunting him down to retrieve the highly-valuable black suit. Controlling Venom only occurs occasionally, however, it does offer much needed variation from the quickly repetitive role that is experienced when controlling Spidey.
Ultimate Spider-Man offers solid character animation and detail that looks remarkably as if they have been taken directly from out of a comic book. Characters animate in an over-sensualized yet believable fashion, swinging, jumping, hitting, running and talking satisfyingly well.
Solid voice acting complements the visuals, with each character offering appropriate voice acting that perfectly express the characters personality, their current emotion and the situation in which they are in. The inclusion of in-game chatter, in particular by Spidey himself, often offers amusing lines that occasionally brought a smile to this reviewers face.
While the game does manage to successfully re-create the classic Spider-Man comics in video game form, the frustrating and quickly repetitive gameplay seriously lowers the enjoyment that can be gained from the game. Being forced to complete repetitive random missions in-between each of the interesting story-driven missions is simply unwanted, causing many players to quickly tire of the process and lose interest in the game. If youre a dedicated Spider-Man fan, youll manage to garner some enjoyable gameplay time with Ultimate Spider-Man, while others may be hard-pressed to endure the boring random missions every fifteen minutes.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.