|Ultimate Spider-Man (2005)
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox
Let’s face it: Spider-Man is the coolest superhero ever. The X-Men are great, no doubt about it. Batman’s had his moments from time to time. Sensational She-Hulk may be the sexiest green babe ever. And yeah, Aqua Teen Hunger Force is undoubtedly the most hilarious heroic group, but none of them - and not the rest out there - can compete with good old Spidey. Why is this? Probably because more than any other superhero, Spider-Man is still Peter Parker at the end of the day. The geek who gets pushed around and made fun of. The geek with a secret that no one can know about except those closest to him. Spidey’s human core and sense of humor is what make him the greatest superhero of all time. Everyone can relate to at least some part of Peter Parker and/or Spider-Man.
Aside from that, Spidey’s had the most video games released under a superhero franchise. Granted, not all of them have been great, with last year’s “Spider-Man 2” going for the “Grand Theft Auto” open environment and coming up short on fun. Actually, both of Spidey’s games based on the hit movies were more than a little disappointing. But now comes the most awesome and inspiring “Ultimate Spider-Man,” with an original story and design by the comic book’s writers Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley.
For those who aren’t into comic books or don’t keep up with Spider-Man across all his books, Ultimate Spider-Man is a series wherein Bendis and Bagley take Peter Parker back to his groovy, geeky status at high school, working the slave wages for J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle, and dating Mary Jane Watson. The series broke from the continuous story lines of the other Spidey titles and brought the superhero back to familiar territory where anyone can jump in and enjoy the stories. It’s perhaps one of the best spin-offs to come around in a long time for Spider-Man, and luckily that fun and refreshing approach extends right over into this video game.
In “Ultimate Spider-Man,” you play both the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Eddie Brock, Jr./Venom. Before Peter’s father died, both he and Eddie’s father were working on the Venom suit as a cure for cancer. Unfortunately, Mr. Parker signed over a deal to the bad guys and so Spider-Man is out to right the wrongs. Unfortunately, when he tries the Venom suit on himself, it begins to eat him alive and he returns it, only to have Eddie Brock, Jr. take it upon himself to wear the suit and wreak havoc in the big city. Get ready for the ultimate Spider-Man showdown.
“Ultimate Spider-Man” is a visual treat, done up in true comic book style, with panels inter-cutting both the story and game play. It’s a dazzling effect, putting the player smack dab into the middle of the comic book. The last time I can remember this technique being used to equal consistency was back in the Commodore 64 days when Accolade produced the classic “Comics” title. But here, it’s even more vibrant and exciting, creating an instantly addictive environment.
That environment is once again open-ended, but this time around it feels like an integral part of the game, and not just some gimmick to keep up with the Joneses. On top of that, players will come face to face with a slew of Marvel Comics characters, both good and bad. One minute you’ll find yourself competing in races against The Human Torch and the next you’ll be beating the crap out of Wolverine when you’re playing as Venom. Let me just say that Venom’s tentacle lash is a lot of fun, and whipping Wolverine with it alone is worth the price of this game.
There are also plenty of hidden goodies, such as extra costumes to unlock as well as comic book art. These are found via tokens lying about the city. The only complaint with “Ultimate Spider-Man” that I have that keeps it from getting a full five star count is the controls. They’re a bit sharper than past games, but controlling Spidey while swinging around the city is still a clumsy ordeal at times. But that’s the only quip, and it’s a very minor one. The one-liners, jokes, and general sense of smart aleck fun that always enveloped Spider-Man’s world are intact and feel just like the good old days at long last.
It’s to Activision’s credit that they brought in the guys who make the comic to help create the game. “Ultimate Spider-Man” feels like a good old pair of jeans or favorite pair of shoes that have seen better days that you just don’t want to live without. This is undoubtedly the best Spider-Man video game of all time, and certainly a lot of fun for old time fans as well as those just looking for a great action game that’s easy to pick up. It certainly can run for contention in a Game of the Year category, hands down. So welcome back, Spidey. Being you never felt better.