Ultimate Spiderman: Limited Edition
-Regular edition also on: Xbox, GameCube, DS.
Spiderman and Venom run rampant through the streets of New York City, desperately looking for something to do.
Ultimate Spiderman is obviously based on the re-imagined comic series of the same name. I have never read the newer comic, so I figured the game would give me a good perspective on things that had been altered in Spidermanís Ultimate universe. Some of the changes Iím fine with while others Iím a bit taken aback by. For example, Peter Parker is just a 15-year-old kid. I tried to get used to Spiderman being so young and having such a high-pitched voice, but I donít think thatís something I can really get used to. And if Peter is fifteen then Mary-Jane must be fifteen as well, right? So, should she really be wearing that cleavage baring outfit? And while some villains are cooler in the ultimate universe, others are a little questionable. However, Iím not here to gripe about or praise any changes in the Ultimate series, Iím here to talk about the game.
Ultimate Spidermanís story takes off from the ultimate retelling of the Venom saga. The commercials promised I could play as my favorite Spiderman villain, so that was the big draw for me. The last time I got to play as Venom was in the excellent Marvel VS Capcom 2, which still takes me for a ride one in awhile. Before that was Maximum Carnage for the SNES; a side-scrolling beat-um-up where you could also play as Spiderman or Venom. It was a decent game, but was harder than hell. Disappointingly, in Ultimate Spiderman you canít be Venom whenever you want (the commercial leads you to believe otherwise). Youíll be able to play as him a few times during the story, but itís only when you beat the story mode can you cause carnage on the streets of New York City as Venom at anytime.
The game is riddled with cameos and battles with villains and heroes such as Rhino, Green Goblin, Electro, Boomerang, Carnage, Sandman (if you catch it), The Human Torch, and the berserker enraged Wolverine. Silver Sable and S.H.E.I.L.D.ís head honcho Samuel L. Jackson, err, I mean Nick Fury, play a big part of the story as well. Also introduced in this game, before even appearing in the comic, is the Ultimate version of third tier villain Beetle. Well, heís not a lame villain anymore. His costume is pretty kick-ass.
The cel-shaded graphics have a great style and look like theyíre straight from the comics. As the story progresses, comic panels will pop up almost seamlessly during the gameplay making it feel like you are playing a comic book. There were a few times however, where the PS2 hiccupped a bit during the game-to-panel transitions. Along with the terrific panel-to-panel story comes some excellent voice acting, but there were times when Peter Parkerís voice got a bit annoying. This mainly occurred during the boss battles when Spiderman would keep spitting out the same one-liners over and over. The best one-liners were saved for the Human Torch. His jokes are funnier and make reference to some of the nuances of the various Spiderman universes. There was one thing that Spiderman said that totally surprised me, though. I don't remember when he said it but he said a line straight from the Dave Chappelle Show. "What did the five fingers say to the face? Slap!" It was the most bizarre thing to hear coming from a Spiderman game. Sigh, maybe in the Ultimate universe Chappelle's Show is full bore into season three.
Since Spiderman is a scrawny yet fit fifteen-year-old and Venom is a walking tank, the two have different play styles. Spiderman swings through the city with great ease and finesse while Venom performs incredible leaps that leave holes in the ground. Fighting moves and combos for both characters are very easy to perform. The combos mainly rely on just hitting the same button over and over, but you can hit a different one at times for a slightly altered combo. And unlike Spiderman, Venom also has the strength to hurl cars and Hummers wherever he wants. One of Venomís best and worst attributes is that he is constantly losing energy from the Venom suit. In order to replenish his health he must feed on screaming innocent bystanders, which is one of the best ways to regain health in any game.
Although the story is very good, itís over before you know it. This portion of the game can be completed in less than five hours. Game time is lengthened by random petty crimes that pop-up as Spiderman swings through the streets and other optional missions throughout the city. However, these optional missions lack any kind of variety as they only fall into two categories: race and combat tour. The races are only against the clock are get pretty boring. The only races worth doing are the ones against the Human Torch. When you beat him, Spidermanís swing speed becomes a little quicker. The combat tours lead Spiderman around the city to beat up gang members. These are fine for a little while, but then monotony sinks in and you realize that all youíre doing is fighting the same few guys over an over. You do have to complete some of these missions in order to keep the story missions going, which is a cheap way to lengthen an already short game. If you are one of those Spider-fans that need to collect everything in the game, well fret not. Placed throughout the city are comic cover icons, landmark tokens, and secret tokens. When you collect these you unlock more stuff in the unlockables menu such as the comic book covers to Ultimate Spiderman, and alternate costumes for Spiderman to wear in the game. Bad news true believers; if you want to play as the black costumed Spiderman you need to complete 100% of the game.
It doesnít help that Venomís sequences are also short and fairly un-substantial. You donít feel as though youíve been given sufficient playtime with him. When you do finally get to play as Venom at anytime, well, there isnít really that much to do. There are races, which are a bit different than Spiderman, but theyíre still just races. The other thing is a Grand Theft Auto style survival against the forces of the city. The more havoc and destruction Venom causes, the higher his point meter rises, and the more cops and S.H.E.I.L.D. agents show up to bring the big guy down. Itís fun, but like the rest of the game, loses its appeal after awhile. Plus, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents will just suddenly appear wherever Venom lands when he does his super jump. Pop-up background elements are pretty inexcusable these days, but pop-up enemies? That is way over the good game design line.
If the story was longer and there was more to do than just races and beating up the same guys, Ultimate Spiderman could have been so much better. Still, playing as Venom is the best part of the game, even if it doesnít last that long. Rent it and play though it in a night or two or just go buy it if you're the ultimate Spiderman fan.
Limited Edition Extras
The PS2 was the only console to get a limited edition version of the game. Why? I donít know.
Packaging: The most noticeable difference is the packaging. The LE version comes with a shiny Venom slipcover which looks pretty cool. Even better though is the cover insert for the game case. The front is red chromium with Spidermanís symbol while the back is purple with Venomís symbol. Itís simple yet very cool. Itís a little sad when the best part of a game is its packaging.
G4 Special: Making of ultimate Spiderman: Like all the G4 specials that appear on games this shows a brief history of Spiderman, the companies that worked on the game and a PR piece for how great the game will be.
Interview with Stan Lee: If youíve seen any kind of interview with Stan Lee where he talks about Spiderman you wonít find much that is new here save for the few moments he talks about the game.
Character bios: Think these are a waste of time like the film biographies used as filler on DVDs? Well, they almost are. These give a very, very brief description of four characters set to a music track as you watch the heroes and villains run around and do stuff.
Developer tricks and tips: Some developer guy gives you a few pointers on how to beat a couple bosses. This should be skipped because you donít want to know how to beat a guy right away do you? It would just shorten the game even more.
Ultimate Spiderman comic: The game also comes with a comic that reprints a little material from the Venom saga of Ultimate Spiderman.
While the packaging is cool and the comic is nice to have, the rest of the extras are too spectacular.
If you bought any version of Ultimate Spiderman at Best Buy then you probably received a bonus DVD entitled Venom Revealed: The Making of a Villain. It has a nifty lenticular cover that switches between Venom and Spiderman. On the DVD is a very short making of segment on Venom that wonít really tell you much more than what youíve already learned from the G4 special (If you have the LE version that is). Also included are trailers for Ultimate Spiderman, X-Men Legends II and Fantastic 4.
Venom Revealed bonus DVD: 3.0