Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

April 24, 2005

Review: Spider Man 2 (PSP) - Cure for the itch...

Spider Man 2 comes hot off the tail feathers of both the blockbuster movie, and the critically acclaimed and defamed Spider Man 2 game for all of the major consoles. With a pedegree of quality movie based games behind it, and incredibly successful movies, does the PSP version of Spider Man 2 make the grade?

There are two major thorns that stick out of Spider Man 2. The first is the wonky camera; it rarely does anything properly. Constantly portraying the front or side of Spider Man in an attempt to try and show you what you want to see (which you never do) prevents the player from actually seeing whats in front of them, be it doors, enemies or switches. This weighs very heavily as a distinctly glaring flaw. The camera is movable, but you'll find yourself fiddling with the camera more often than you're battling henchmen. There's just too many closed corridors, obstusely angled stairwells, and corners to turn for the camera to be this wonky. Never is it useful, and never have I experienced a camera quite as bad as this. It's atrocious, and if I had the mysticism to teleport through time, I'd find every last programmer at Vicarious Visions and give them each a Prince Albert and circumchain them into a very public mess. Why do I have to suffer for your ineptitude? Get it right next time, this is unacceptable.

The last major flaw in Spider Man 2 - not so much a flaw, as it is just a major annoyance - is game length. I don't mean God of War 10 hours game length, or even Katamari Damacy 8 hours length...I mean 4 - 6 hours (if you just plain suck at this type of game) game length. You may very well finish this entire game on a single charge of the PSP. Never have I played a game that required such small time investments to complete. Now, such short gamelengths are not unheard of. Hardcore gaming experts have been completing games like Metal Gear Solid in under one and a half hours for years; though the preface to that statement is that the first time through the game required upwards of 20 hours to complete. There is no learning curve here. It's non-existent. The game is laughably easy, even on the normal difficulty setting, and since the missions are so short, there's nothing here that will tantalize you like sex vixen sirens of myth. Now, what this does do for the game however, is make it very replayable, and a seemless experience. You truly are fighting your way through the game non-stop, without pause for breath. Which in it's own way is fantastic.

What this boils down to though, is how it captures the essence of Spider Man. In Spider Man and Spider Man 2 (console version), the player is given the opportunity to explore and discover secrets and unlockables throughout the cityscape (especially in Spider Man 2's photorealistic virtual clone of Manhattan). No such exploration exists. The game encourages exploration even though you're given minimal chances to websling between skyscrapers and above helipads, and gives you no time to do so. You're constantly under the clock, whether it's disarming bombs, chasing Doc Oc or the Vulture, there's never a moments reprieve to just take everything in and find these secrets the game flaunts so heavily in their rather short load screens.

Regardless, Spider Man 2 is a solid actioner. Combat is fluid, (though combo selection has been minimzed from the monstrous list of super moves in the console version) and the targeting system is spot on. Level design is actually very well done, as there's never anything too perplexing about where and what your objectives are; then again the game is not entirely linear, which is great also. There are 20 missions to swing through, yet the action just moves so fast, and so furiously, the missions end almost as soon as they start. Which again, allows for some quick replay action, which is fairly desirable in this case since we are talking about a handheld machine, and time is of the (battery's) essence. Your ability set is upgradable, not unlike the Spider Man 2 RPG-ish system of character progression. You can increase health, strength, web, special abilities, and unlock some pretty neat gallery art and movie cinematics.

Graphically Spider Man 2 is no slouch. Clearly borrowing the renderware from Spider Man's second outing on the consoles, and the web slinging mechanics from his first, this game is a very efficient blend of both multi console Spider Man games. You no longer need an anchor to web your way through the city, though the charge jumping and combat system of Spider Man 2 pop their little heads in just for good measure. On top of the real-time brawl fests, the cinematics are completely redone. No revamping of the console counterpart's FMV sequences, these are home grown original, and they're beautiful. Often capturing the exact parts of the movie that best segue one moment to another (and some not even present in the movie). I'd go as far as to say the cinematic presentation of the FMV's in this game, rival if not surpass and exceed those of it's console brethren. That says a lot, and should be a huge selling point for early adopters of the PSP. Aurally the game succeeds to the same extent as the visuals. Great voice acting for just as great cut-scenes, and the breath taking score of the movie, really capture the look and feel of Sam Raimi's work.

In the end, Spider Man 2 is one hell of an action game. It's fun, it's fast, and captures the movies life as good as any other game to try. The only things wrong with the game is the fact that camera is atrocious (making some moments unbearably difficult), and the game length is unusually short (though understandable in the sense that pick-up and play is a desireable trait in any handheld game). If you're not turned off by crummy cameras, you'll find something to love in Spider Man 2. It's a guilty pleasure worth every penny.




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