Spider-Man is undoubtedly one of the most famous superheroes in history. He’s been Marvel’s flagship character since the 60s and has appeared in literally every form of entertainment, including a tumultuous broadway musical. His slogan regarding great power with great responsibility is easily one of the best known phrases in comics. In truth, everyone’s favorite web-slinger has long since gained cultural immortality. This weekend’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is simply another entry into the already monstrous Spider-Man pile that’s bound to entertain some and upset others. To take a look back at Spider-Man’s long history in the video games would be an immensely daunting task as the hero has appeared on nearly every console multiple times. Yet I couldn’t let this movie go by without remembering at least one game, so this week I’ve decided to focus on my favorite: Spider-Man 2.
That’s right. My favorite Spider-Man game is based on the movie that came out ten years ago. There really is no special circumstance that warranted this game’s development either. The Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man was hugely popular in 2002 and the 2004 sequel was basically a necessity. Plus everyone knows that if there’s a movie based on a comic book hero, a game must follow that’s released for every single console available. It also doesn’t need to exactly follow the corresponding film’s story. Spider-Man 2 the game had our hero fighting the Rhino, Mysterio, and the Shocker on top of battling Doc Ock. The environment was completely open-ended and Spidey could swing around surprisingly detailed locales like Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, Ellis Island, and Liberty Island. Completing side missions granted you special abilities which gave you new means to take down typical thugs.
Video games based on movies and vice versa have a bad reputation. Why you ask? Well to put it simply, they’re almost always cash grabs. The quality on either medium is typically subpar and tarnishes the source material. An excellent example of this was Atari’s E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial which was based on the critically lauded film of the same name. The overwhelming failure of that title contributed greatly to the 80s industry collapse and it proved to people that a game can’t just rely on brand recognition to succeed. No matter what fancy name you plaster on a movie game or a game movie, crap will always be crap. Super Mario Bros.: The Movie anyone?
Yet Spider-Man 2 was actually a legitimately great game on its own accord. Despite over 20 games coming out before it, this was the first to actually gave our webbed hero complete reign over his environment. Every entry before this was either a side-scrolling beat ‘em up or had technological limitations where Spider-Man couldn’t explore the streets and rooftops at the same time. Spider-Man 2 completely threw this out of the window to great effect. While swinging across the expansive city of New York, you could witness a robbery happening at street level and swoop in to save the day. This expanded exploration also gave the look and feel a Spider-Man game is supposed to have. Spider-Man’s a hero who thrives in a full urban environment. Constricting him is like saying Superman can only fly for brief instances.
The expanded technological capabilities of sixth-generation systems also gave a necessary update to combat mechanics. On the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2 specifically, web-swinging and combat was done on a three-dimensional plane. This simple change completely did away with the rigid feel of past games whenever henchman crossed your path. Now Spider-Man could swing around from all directions and even use the environment to his disposal. This permitted cool special attacks like webbing a bad guy to a lamppost and letting them dangle until the cops showed up, exactly what you’d expect our hero to do. You had to actually shoot webbing at buildings to successfully swing too. Older games just allowed you to shoot wherever and magically traverse miles in seconds. With Spider-Man 2, you could have a long swinging streak end simply by running out of tall structures. Being Spider-Man really doesn’t get more honest than that.
Spider-Man 2 was my absolute favorite comic book movie when it first came out. Though that has since been replaced by many of the latest fare, it still ranks high on my personal list. Yet that fandom didn’t initially translate to me buying this game. It was already well-known to me how shitty video games based on movies are. In a move fueled by caution, I rented the game from my local video store to actually see what it was like. Long story short, I absolutely loved it and bought the store’s copy when it went out of business. As someone who played the older Spider-Man games, the open environment in Spider-Man 2 was an absolute breath of fresh air. For me, it was exactly how a Spider-Man game should be.
Like I said before, video game adaptations of a movie are usually horrendous. Under no circumstances should you buy one over much better games that are also available. Spider-Man 2 the game was that very rare exception where both the movie and the game were well-received. It was a tie-in that, quite honestly, could have existed without the film connection. The changes it brought to a Spider-Man game are present in every title since and you never see that in these circumstances. To this day I haven’t played a movie video game as good as this one, though the X-Men Origins: Wolverine game actually comes close (it was better than the movie, shockingly). Unsurprisingly, there’s already a game available based on The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It doesn’t even come close to Spider-Man 2 according to reviews, but I honestly don’t think any movie tie-in will.