A sticky situation.
Any readers with acute arachnophobia should turn their browsers elsewhere. GR is about to kick out more eight-legged goodness than Charlotte's Web by checking out Spider-Man: The Movie, an action game not unlike the movie in its impressive effects and technology.
However, it's obvious that this game was made relatively simple in order to satisfy all audiences. True, Spider-Man has become a trans-demographic icon. Still, I had hoped the gameplay wouldn't be as repetitious and straightforward...and oh, those painful load times.
The game is loosely based on the movie's story. You've been bitten, Uncle Ben is...well, you know (if you're a Spidey fan or have seen the movie), and you begin by searching for the baddies who were mean to your uncle. This results in you realizing that great power calls for great responsibility. You criss-cross a few threads of red, blue and black fabric and voila! The famous Underoos are born.
In your new get-up, you'll battle against several mainstay Spidey villains, which incidentally were not in the movie. It's another case of time versus authenticity. You can't very well have a game that parallels the movie's two-hour running time, not at $50 bucks a game. So Vulture, Shocker, Scorpion and others are here to stretch things out and distract the Wall Crawler from his final confrontation with the Green Goblin. The story is loose and kind of thrown together, but sufficient.
The basic gameplay is about the same as the previous PSX Spider-Man games. You use your few punch and kick combos to lay waste to small groups of like-modeled enemies. Find the gold spider icons to learn new combat techniques (some of which are very Spidey & comical). Pick up keys and other items necessary to advance to the next area, where you will do battle with the next small group of assailants.
The blue and red Spidey icons make a return for replenishing your webbing and health. This is interesting because in the movie, the Web-slinger has organic webbing that doesn't need to be artificially produced and seems to be unlimited. Having to refill your web cartridges is something carried over from the last games and the traditional comic book Spider-Man. Why this idea was retained is beyond me.
The main character moves like you would expect. He sticks to all surfaces and can spin many different types webbing (shields, web covered fists, webs for pulling and swinging enemies, etc.). When you see him swinging through the city, high above all the buildings and you're wondering what the heck that webbing is sticking to, just remember (if you're old enough) that this is very much like watching the old Marvel cartoon show. It's also less cheesy than the old live-action show. You gotta appreciate that!
The best feature of Spider-Man: The Movie is the terrific feel of the game's outdoor areas. It's great fun swinging from building to building while fighting enemies at staggering heights. Conversely, indoor levels are less spectacular. It's back to fighting small groups of unintelligent foot soldiers with your various punches and kicks.
Controlling Spidey can be a little tricky at first, but easily learned. The biggest problem has always been the camera. The camera moves independently of the character; you still can't lock it to your back, classic third-person style. You have the ability to turn it 360 degrees via the right analog stick, but it can be incredibly annoying in the heat of battle. To help with this they offer a lock-on button, which keeps one enemy in your sights at all times. This is definitely helpful, though it's not very smart and seems to lock onto enemies randomly and not just your closest attacker.
The lock-on does provide some very cinematic aerial battles, since the camera pans to follow the enemy. You get a lot of really dynamic and dramatic angles that are simply too cool.
While all the versions pretty much play identically, this PS2 version is the least likely to be asked to the Prom. Compared to the others, Spidey's PS2 world is grainy with jagged edges. There is a lot of noticeable slowdown from numerous onscreen NPCs. Spidey himself seems to be a bit anorexic, possessing fewer polygons than the GC and Xbox versions. The PS2 version also has the longest load times of all the platforms. This incarnation really shows the limitations of the PS2.
At least there are plenty of goodies to unlock (costumes, movies, comic covers, etc.) to keep you coming back for more once the credits role.
Spider-Man: The Movie for the PS2 doesn't hold up to its console brothers. Its graphical flaws and long load times keep the superhero from escaping the web of PS2 programming problems. Still, swinging around as Spider-Man has never really been this cool before, and this version is still worth a rental.