Thursday, July 29, 2004

Spidey's cool skills can prove addicting

Game review

By Anthony Breznican
The Associated Press

Yes, yes, we've heard it before, Uncle Ben - with great power comes great responsibility.

But the thing that makes the new Activision video game Spider-Man 2 so addicting is the freedom it gives you, as Peter Parker's web-slinging alter-ego, to just goof off around New York.

Those who loved the hit movie will be happy to test themselves in the action sequences against Doctor Octopus - battling him in the bank to protect delicate old Aunt May, pummeling him on a runaway subway train and finally grappling with his tentacles in a secret river hide-out.

The game features some of the stars of the film as voices: Tobey Maguire as our hero, Alfred Molina as Doc Ock and Kirsten Dunst as love interest Mary-Jane (although the odd-looking digital version of her is one of the game's few missteps).

Beyond the movie

But the Spider-Man 2 game takes the story further than the film, with scores of alternate missions in between the movie's story points: timed races, civilian rescues, feats of strength and bad guys to conquer, from regular street thugs to costumed super-villains. You can even help a little kid recover a lost balloon.

But for the most part, you don't have to do anything. The story elements of the game can be delayed indefinitely until the player chooses to activate them, giving you plenty of time to check out the sights around the Big Apple.

Want to climb to the pinnacle of the Empire State building? Take a swing down Broadway? Hitchhike dangling from a helicopter to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island? You can even pay your respects at Ground Zero, which is represented in the game by two clusters of skyward-aimed spotlights aligned along the former site of the World Trade Center.

New York is rendered in exquisite detail, and so are its New Yorkers - who yell insults at you if you bump into them, holler friendly greetings as you leap about or desperately flag you down for help. Whether you choose to help is your choice, but once you stop to talk to a person in distress you have to follow through and finish the mission.

Good deeds rewarded

Helping out the locals gets more fun as the game goes on, even though your standard-issue mugger/bank robber/gang thug doesn't change much throughout the game. With each completed mission, Spidey is awarded hero points that can be redeemed at various stores throughout the city for new abilities, like faster swinging, wall-running and fight moves (like swinging a crook around by your web or body-slamming him from the sky onto the pavement).

The game features numerous other colorful characters from the Marvel Comics universe, most notably Black Cat, the sexy, is-she-good-or-bad character who helps Peter track down the city's more notorious criminals.

Meanwhile, you'll cross paths with such enemies as the Rhino, the would-be alien Mysterio and the electricity-manipulating Shocker. Defeating them often requires just as much brains as brawn.

Overall, the game shares many of the same qualities that made Grand Theft Auto III a hit. The freedom to roam, to choose which adventure comes next, and the ability to swing, jump, climb and fall to any point high or low is what sets Activision's Spider-Man 2 apart from other superhero games.

This Teen-rated game (for mild violence) costs $50 and is available on PC, Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube.

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