Generally speaking, the Marvel Comics legend Spider-Man has always done reasonably well for himself in the world of video games. That trend continues with the latest team-up from Activision and Treyarch in Spider-Man 2. Though the movie-themed game bites off a little more than it can chew with its attempt at an open-ended design, it gets a few key mechanics right and gives you just enough things to do to offset what would have otherwise been a pretty short, simple game. It's still worth checking out as a companion piece to the movie, even though its terrific first impression doesn't hold up throughout the entire length of the experience.
Peter Parker: Photographer by day. Crime fighter by night.
The main mechanic that makes Spider-Man 2 worth playing is the way you swing around the city. The game offers an optional simplified control scheme for easier swinging, but it's worth getting used to the more complex standard swing mode, because it's really the best part about the entire game. Spider-Man 2 gives you a large rendition of Manhattan to freely roam around in, and swinging from building to building--which looks convincingly similar to Spidey's thrilling webswinging sequences from the movie--is a good deal of fun all by itself. Your movement options make exploring the city entertaining for a while--even if the things you do outside of simply exploring don't really end up being all that exciting.
The game loosely follows the plot of the new film, which pits Spider-Man against the menacing Doctor Octopus. But since only one supervillain doesn't seem like enough for a game, Spider-Man 2 tosses in a few others, like the Rhino and Mysterio. The game is relatively short on story, however. Even the game's dull boss encounters seem to come out of nowhere. It has a handful of cutscenes to accompany the more important sequences, though most of these noninteractive sequences are simply used to briefly set up an action sequence. Most of these in-engine sequences look pretty bad because the character models really don't look so hot up close.
Unfortunately, much of your time playing the game will be spent uncovering relatively little content spread across an admittedly large environment. The game is broken up into chapters, and it feeds you objectives as you proceed. Each chapter also has an obligatory goal that earns you a set number of "hero points." These points are earned whenever you complete a basic task, like beating up some thugs, and they can be spent on upgrades that grant Spider-Man some new moves and combos. And while there are a number of different ways to earn the extra hero points you'll need, none of them are particularly interesting. The one with the most potential is the ability to seek out and solve random crimes in the city--but there are only a handful of different types of crime scenarios to be found.
The game forces you to take on a lot of extra objectives just to earn enough hero points to proceed.
In practice, you'll always find yourself running up to citizens in distress only to hear that there's an armored car holdup, a car being stolen, a shoot-out, a man about to fall off the side of a building, or a man in need of a lift to the hospital. Or, sometimes it's an ambush, and you'll just have to fight your way out of it. The short list of possible tasks means that you'll be doing the same things over and over again and that the element of surprise quickly disappears. And even though the circumstances occasionally change, these tasks do get old fast. Aside from this, you can also spend your free time in the city delivering pizzas or going on timed-race challenges that ask you to jump through glowing hoops (and things of this nature) to test your speed and dexterity. If you're the type of person that enjoys time attack modes, these types of missions will be right up your alley, but they aren't really all that relevant and also get old quickly, since you'll be doing plenty of webswinging during the rest of the game.
Actually, since you'll have to take on a handful of these types of extra tasks in almost every chapter in Spider-Man 2, they seem like they were designed to merely pad out the game's length. And, in fact, by forcing you to do these things, the game gets up to around the ten-hour mark before it reaches its conclusion. Without having to stop to deal with these extras, though, the game would have moved very quickly through its few plot points, and we would have been done in a few hours. Thankfully, these core story missions are more interesting. You'll have to take on master criminals, you'll explore a fun house, you'll have to navigate a hovering obstacle course to prove that you aren't a hoax, and so on. By and large, most of these challenges aren't especially difficult, so you'll likely get through each one on your first or second attempt.