Reviewed: September 22, 2005
Released: September 22, 2005
This is it True Believers! Any Spidey fan worth his salt has lined up to see Ultimate Spider-Ma, the newest installment in the life of the webbed wall-crawler, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait.
With an original story by Brian Michael Bendis and characters designed by Mark Bagley, hours of free roaming game play, and the chance to take on the mantle of Venom? Do you need to ask for more?
The controls of this foray into New York controls much like the last Spider-Man title, which is to say that you could spend hours just swinging around the city and not get bored. Itís just plain fun to be Spidey. Even better, theyíve added the ability to climb up weblines for getting around those pesky obstacles.
The fighting interface seems to have been given a little bit of touch-up as well, with Spidey bouncing off of every near-by object you can get in touch with, and the more you bounce and switch from kicks to punches, the more damage you do. Though a lot of the bounce moves were hard to pull off consistently, it was nice to emphasize Spidey as a fast, mobile sort of fighter, especially with Venom acting like almost the exact opposite.
Speaking of things big, dark, and evil, Venom in this title is equally fun to bust around the Big Apple with. He doesnít shoot webs, but boy, does he have ups, and he ignores that pesky falling damage.
In fact the only bad thing I would have to say about the controls for either of these characters is the actual wall crawling. Itís not bad, just it isnít terribly good either, and there were many times when I lost a race, or a chase sequence because I got stuck at some weird angle on a wall, or went around a corner when I meant to go up.
Another neat little trick theyíve installed in the game is a button mashing car lift. In many of the game sequences youíll have to save civilians from certain doom, be that falling from a high ledge, being trapped in or under a burning car, or any number of other villain induced miseries. To get them out youíll have to keep a pointer in a certain area on a dial by alternately pounding the L and R buttons. Fortunately, instead of just making it get the pointer to the top of the dial, they change the target around a lot so you donít get too bored with it.
Since Iíve already mentioned the character designs by Bagley, you know that all the characters are going to look great. (If you donít know who Mark Bagley is, read a comic book for Peteís sake, like it will make you any more of a nerd.) Bagley doesnít let you down either, with great re-designs of some classic Spidey villains. This is not to mention all of the mindless chumps you can paste to walls, the city itself, and all of the fun cut-scenes. This game oozes comic book style.
Speaking of style on of the things that I love about this game is that the city changes as you progress through the story. No, itís not some long epic, where you can see buildings erected, and watch the styles change.
What is nice here is that after someone like, say, Rhino, goes tearing through Queens, tearing up the concrete and blowing holes through buildings they stay torn up after the fight. If you swing back through that section of town, the damage is being repaired, but some buildings still have chunks taken out of them. It isnít anything that really adds to the game play, but itís a nice touch to make the city feel a little more real.
If thatís not enough for you USM also sports some great special effects, especially in the speed department. Just swing through town, or jump off the Baxter Building, youíll see what I mean. Blur effects arenít the only horn worth tooting either, the explosions and fire effects add just the proper punch to boss fights (Bull in a china shop? No, Rhino in a car lot) and Times Square at night glows like the neon spectacle that it should be (that is until Venom and Electro get there).
The animation is a little on the stiff side in some sequences, especially ones that are broken up by the ďcivilian rescueĒ mechanic. This is a minor part of the game though, and usually only on the screen for a few seconds. Where the animation excels though is with Spidey and all of his web slinging antics. This game really brings out the acrobatic side of Spidey with flips, springs, and slingshots that end up swinging you around the city at incredible speed. Donít worry; Venom gets his loviní too, gouging the sides of buildings as he climbs them, and leaving craters in the ground where he lands.
This part of the game I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with. The love part is that the voices chosen for this game are perfect. Spidey in particular is fantastic; his constant banter sounds natural, and, well, funny. I suppose it helps that heís being fed good material, but the actor takes a good thing and runs with it.
The hate part is that while there is a large amount of dialogue in the game, especially during chases and boss fights, you still get treated to the same lines over and over and over, so if you end up repeating any missions or Johnny Storm races youíll end up getting tired of hearing the same thing three or four times in a row. (Though I will say kudos for the Madam Web and Moon Knight references, theyíre funny the first time you hear them).
Music in USM is good, with a nice sort of techno/hip-hop thing going on that gets your head nodding. Is it worth making a soundtrack album for? No, but itís great background and suits the feel of the city very well.
Ok, do I really need to go into this? You have a story by Brian Michael Bendis where you switch off between Spider-Man and Venom doing their thing in NYC. Thereís a whole host of Spider-Man villains to tussle with, not including a city full of thugs and gangsters to take down. As if that wasnít enough to build a game around you have the whole island of Manhattan and Queens as your playground to run races, collect hidden items, and fight through.
Top all of that off with being able to unlock a Venom rampage mode after you finish the story, with its own races, etc. and you have one gigantic game. Not to mention the unlockable costumes, increased swing speed, comic book covers, and dozens of character cameos. Thereís more than enough content in this game for you to get your moneyís worth, with enough change left over for a bag of chips.
If you love Spider-Man, buy this game. If youíre so-so on the whole Spidey thing, but want a good action title, buy this game. If you hate Spidey but have nothing better to do with your money, buy this game. In short, buy this game. Itís one of the better titles to come out for the PS2 recently and you wonít regret it.