It’s a general conception that superhero games aren’t exactly the best games in the industry. In fact, it’s a running gag in the PC world, where short of a very small list, there hasn’t been a good game in many years.

Spider-Man did its hardest to break that mold when the game came out two years ago for all three consoles. Activision and Treyarch took the Spider-Man license and produced what was reviewed to be a pretty good action title, much to the surprise of some critics.

But the game had some faults. They weren’t game-breaking faults, but there was a list of things that could’ve been done differently to make the game better.

Not too long after the completion of the original game, Treyarch started work on its sequel. The developers visited the message boards and made constant notes about the parts of the original game that were liked and disliked, and used that information to make a bigger and better sequel.

Spider-Man 2 is the result of that information and development time.

How good of a game is it though? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.

The first time you start up Spider-Man 2, the first thing that’ll jump out at you is how much you can see of the city of Manhattan. The developers took the engine that powered the original game and drastically revamped it, allowing one to view the entire city at once without any mystical fog or popup rearing its ugly head. In other words, if you climb up to the top of the Empire State Building, or perhaps the Statue of Liberty, you can see the entire city sprawled out before you.

In addition, you’ll be able to travel from the aforementioned Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty and back again without a single ‘Now Loading’ screen stopping you in mid-swing. In fact, you’ll be able to travel all of Manhattan, including going indoors in most places, without ever seeing a pause in the action. The only time you’ll ever see a pause is when you change locations entirely – going from the outside into the Daily Bugle, or during the load of a cinema scene.

How does Spider-Man 2 pull that off without breaking away from the locked 60fps it runs at all the time? This leads into the only two negatives I could find after spending many hours with this title – there is some popup of non-essential objects (cars and people basically) as you swing at high speeds, and the texture work isn’t exactly the most detailed out of the library of Xbox titles.

Personally, I’ll take the seamless and never-pausing world of Spider-Man 2 any day of the week.

Animation-wise, the developers have nailed down Spider-Man’s movements perfectly. Spider-Man is very fluidly animated, and as a result, the character is always in motion. He’ll smoothly transition from running to swinging to running along a wall to wall-climbing and back again without the slightest break in his animation.

Your enemies (and yourself) are governed by rag-doll physics, which means that every limb has a sort of weight to it, and in the process of animating the character, it feels more realistic than animated. This definitely comes to light once you get into combat. With only a few button presses, you’re sending enemies flying into each other, into walls, and off of buildings. It’s a bit exaggerated at times, but then again you have the strength to utterly destroy your opponents if you didn’t ‘pull your punches’ as Spider-Man puts it.

This game also supports Progressive Scan on the Xbox console, but none of the more advanced features like Widescreen or 1080i.

Overall, I’m extremely impressed by the graphical capabilities of Spider-Man 2. I’m so amazed at the underlying engine, that I expect developers to contact Activision and Treyarch to find out their secrets.

When you ask somebody about excellent voice acting in a console game, the game that is most commonly mentioned is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. After listening to the voice work in Spider-Man 2, people will begin to mention this title as well. Why is that?

For starters, all the voice actors from Spider-Man 2: The Movie reprised their roles in Spider-Man 2. So you won’t be hearing any generic voice actors doing their best to impersonate the voices you’ll be hearing in the movie. As expected, each actor does a fantastic job playing their character for the game. Spider-Man spouts off humorous quips about the game, while Mary Jane is constantly complaining about the lack of attention she’s being given.

However, once again Bruce Campbell takes the cake in the voice-over department. He’s back as tutorial guy, telling you how to play the game, and insulting your abilities when you can’t pull off the latest move. He’ll also show up as you find each of the 213 hint markers scattered throughout the game, telling you of some interesting facts about the game and Spider-Man in general.

The only negative for the voices is that some of the comments Spider-Man and his cohorts make will be repeated from time to time. This is especially noticeable during extended boss combats. It’s not annoying, but it is noticeable.

The music is a smash hit as well, setting the tone of the game perfectly at all times. It’s also of high enough quality and energetic enough that I’ll be looking for the game soundtrack in the future. It’ll make nice jamming music while I drive around town.

The Xbox version supports Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, so if you have the setup, you’ll find it heavily used. Attacks can be heard from all sides, and you’ll be able to track down citizens yelling your name in distress from where their voice comes from.

One final note – keep an ear open during one of the many boss conversations for a line from the infamous Zero Wing. You know, the game that started the ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’ phenomenon. I almost split a gut when I heard it.

As stated by the score above, Spider-Man 2 controls almost perfectly. After only a short while mastering the controls, you too will be able to pull off the most impressive set of acrobatic moves as you travel to and from the city. Imagine starting off with a simple set of swings, keeping yourself just feet off the ground, and as you approach a building, you let go of your web to actually run up the side of the building, then quickly vault off and continue swinging in another direction.

All this is done by a very intuitive and precise control scheme, with many buttons having overlapping usage depending on if you’re running, swinging, or fighting. The controls are as follows: X attacks (and starts/continues many fist and foot based combos), Y uses your web, B evades attacks or sticks to the wall, A jumps, R swings your web, and L sprints. Back brings up the ingame Map (with no loading time going in or out), Start pauses, Down on the digital locks on a camera to the nearest enemy/objective, and Up or the Black button starts/stops Spider-Man’s enhanced reflexes.

There’s two different travel options as well – Easy or Normal Swinging. Easy is a simple, one touch operation as far as web swinging goes. Push and hold R to swing. Release and push again to continue your travels. Normal requires you to push the Jump button to let go of your swing, allowing you to get a much finer control as to how you travel. It also allows you to shoot out two lines at the same time, which can be used in a variety of ways as you progress through the game.

During combat, you’ll be presented with a multitude of options to attack your opponents. Want to vault over their heads and yank their weapons out of their hands? Would you rather wrap them up in your webbing and assault them at your leisure? Or would you rather turn your opponents into a human punching bag and send them flying around the room? These moves and many, many more are available to you, and all are very easy to use with a minimum of training on your part.

Finally, I have to say that I completely agree with the developers when they say that the game is an absolute blast even if you do nothing more than simply swing around town. Without the extremely responsive and precise controls, this would not be possible.

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, doing the things that a Spider can… But what can this Spider do? Lots of things.

You’ll quickly notice that upon finishing the entertaining training segment with Bruce Campbell that the entire city is open for your exploration. Want to do the main story missions and progress through the game? Go right ahead. Would you rather wander the city and see the sights? Or would you rather help the many citizens in need? The choice is entirely yours.

Starting off with the story missions, you’ll find that there’s a plot that closely follows the story of the Spider-Man 2 movie. While some things have been changed around to give additional longevity for the game, you will spoil the movie if you happen to play through the game before seeing Spider-Man 2 on the big screen.

What does this plot involve though? Without giving much away, it follows Peter Parker (as Spider-Man) as he travels through Manhattan, fighting crime and keeping the city itself safe. Along the way, he’ll encounter a few friends and villains not shown in the movie, making sure there’s never a dull moment around.

Following the movie plot closely, Spider-Man now has unlimited webbing inside those webshooters of his, drastically changing the core gameplay verses the previous game. Instead of constantly watching over your slowly diminishing web meter, hoping for a magical powerup around the next corner, you’re allowed to use your web powers with wild abandon.

Does this change how the game is played? Most definitely. It’s also entirely for the better.

For starters, the number of combatants you’ll encounter at once has increased. Instead of facing thugs in pairs, expect to encounter them in packs of four or more right from the get go. Thanks to Spider-Man’s abilities however, they’ll never be too much of a threat. You’ll just have to disable a few of them first before fighting the others.

And what a list of fight moves you’ll have under your belt this time around. Odds are if you’ve ever seen Spider-Man pull off a move before in a comic book or on the big screen, it’s incorporated into this game. From uppercuts, to roundhouse kicks, to charged punches that send an opponent flying, to the simple act of swinging an opponent around on some webbing, odds are you’ll find a series of combo hits that’ll make you happy.

In addition, the unlimited webbing allows you the freedom to explore the city however you want. You’ll be traveling down the street, shooting webs that actually connect to the buildings themselves, enjoying the realistic physics engine that always keeps you on your toes as you swing by, when you hear the call for help on the streets below. If you want, you can help that citizen out, or you can keep on going, ignoring the yells far below you.

So, what kind of missions do you have access to other than the main story ones? As said above, the citizens are always in need of their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. From simple muggings, to car chases, to bank heists, there’s always somebody who needs help. Or you can find those who need a specialized need, like rescuing somebody who’s about to fall from a building, or transport an injured citizen to the nearest hospital.

You can also pay a visit to the Daily Bugle for a list of photos that you need to take. Be quick though – there’s always deadlines to meet. Or do you think that becoming a pizza delivery boy is the best way to collect those all important Hero Points? Instead, you can also pay some much needed attention to Mary Jane, and do your best to visit her more often before you lose her for good.

What are the aforementioned Hero Points used for? Not only do you need so many of them to finish off many of the game’s missions, but you’ll be spending them as quickly as you earn them in the many comic book stores scattered throughout town. You’ll be able to purchase new moves and combos, enhance your powers like being able to swing faster or to keep more hostiles webbed at once, or you can purchase acrobatic stunts for Spider-Man to perform to charge up his Hero Meter faster.

Want to know more about that Hero Meter? In its most simplistic form, it allows Spider-Man to show off his super reflexes by making the world go into slow motion around him. While this power is in effect, you’ll be able to dodge moves easier, inflict more damage upon your enemies, and basically look really cool while doing it.

Overall, you’ll have a ton of fun playing through Spider-Man 2. While some of the more generic missions can get repetitive after a while (how many times can you stop an armored car robbery in this town?), the plot missions are involved, giving you many varied tasks to do as you save Manhattan from destruction at the hands of the supervillains running amuck.

For your hard-earned $50, you can expect about 12 to 15 hours of gameplay just following the main story missions. In addition, you can easily double that if you do all the optional missions and challenges scattered throughout the city. More so if you’re not as skilled as the developers are, as some of the harder challenges are very difficult.

The hours will fly by as you play, as you’ll be having too much fun to keep track of such menial things such as the time of the day. All you’ll be experiencing is pure gaming bliss.

Spider-Man 2 is not only an outstanding superhero game, but an outstanding game overall. Any fan of the superhero genre must swing on by their local retailer and pick this game up immediately. Congratulations to Activision and Treyarch for producing such a fantastic title, one worthy of the Spider-Man name.