Ultimate Spider-Man Review

Most of the Spider-Man hoopla and consequently games of late have focused on the movie adventures of the web-slinging hero leaving the comic book source of their inspiration in the shadows. Ultimate Spider-Man sets out to rectify this oversight by bringing the comic of the same name to life on your Xbox. For those of you unfamiliar with Ultimate Spider-Man the setting is a little different than that of the films. Ultimate Spider-Man is set in one of those “alternate universe” constructs that comics love to come up with to let the writers “re-imagine” heroes without the need to stay true to the legacy of years of prior adventures in previous issues of the comic. In this case Peter is still in high school and works for the Bugle as a web designer (the Internet kind, not the spider kind), which leads to plenty of issues in balancing the duties of a super hero (and one new to the job) with the typical trials and tribulations of a high school student. Now that we have that out of the way, on to the game…

Spider-Man takes on Rhino.
The first thing that you will notice about Ultimate Spider-Man is that it does an incredible job of bringing the comic book to life. Cel-shading is used very effectively to make the game appear as if it is taking place within the pages of the comic. Cutscenes which feature a mix of animation and comic panels further reinforce this feeling. Ultimate Spider-Man has got to be one of the more successful, if not the most successful, attempts at capturing the feel of a comic book in a video game to date. The lines are crisp, the colors bright, and the level of detail is just right for a comic book look and feel. Comic books are a static media, but while I’m on the subject of graphics I’ll go ahead and mention that the character animation in the game is very smooth and fluid. Spider-Man looks great as he’s swinging down streets at high speeds or leaping from rooftop to rooftop and Venom

So the game looks great and its presentation is top-notch, but how does it play? Well, the game is developed by the company that brought you Spider-Man 2 last year, Treyarch, so if you played that game you have a basic feel for this one. The game takes place in a virtual New York City, complete with landmarks, traffic, and people going about their business. You’re free to explore the city, slinging webs anywhere as you swing your way down and over the streets of New York. Special hotspots are marked on your mini-map and when you walk into them you’ll trigger events such as story-based missions, crimes that you can bust up, and races to name a few. When it comes time to fight you have a punch and a kick button as well as the option to tangle your foes in webs. Spidey sense makes its way into the game in the form of a flame-like pattern that pops up over Spider-Man’s head just before you’re about to take a blow. A quick hit of the jump button and you’ll dodge the attack before it can do any damage. Ultimate Spider-Man does not have much of a fight system, which is strange for a game with so much fisticuff fighting in it. A lack of combos or special attacks turn most battles into button mashers where it doesn’t really matter whether you punch or kick as long as you get your blows in.

Unlike Spider-Man 2, though, this game’s story was not constrained to following the plotline of a movie and so you’re treated with a well-written original adventure. However, the real twist in Ultimate Spider-Man is that you’ll have the chance to play as Spider-Man’s nemesis Venom. If you’re unfamiliar with him, Venom is basically a former friend of Peter’s who donned a secret military suit that gave him incredible powers but also consumed his mind in the process. Venom is now a violent and destructive monster who’d like nothing more than to see Spider-Man dead and no longer the friend Peter once knew. Anyway, when you’re playing as Venom you will have a different set of powers. Rather than shooting webs, Venom gets around by leaping – the leaps over a tall building in a single bound kind of leaping. Like Spider-Man he can also wall-climb to go right up the side of a building or obstruction. Venom also has the basic hit and kick attacks, but he can also reach out and grab enemies with his tentacles. And in a really, really big departure from Spider-Man and his heroics, Venom needs to keep his suit powered by eating people. Yep, you’ll need to munch on the good citizens of New York.