Ultimate Spider-Man Review

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Oops, I’m sorry, I can’t stop that song from playing in my head over and over again. It hasn’t stopped since I first got the PC review box in my hands. Speaking of which, my illustrious leader, the one-and-only Knightshade Dragon, has already reviewed this game for the PS2. I will try to be brief in this review, and focus on the PC differences. So, as you learn in programming, beg, borrow, and steal (well maybe not steal) what has already been done. Why re-invent the wheel? To be honest I don’t think I could set the setting better than Knightshade so I am “borrowing” his.

Moving forward to a more modern slant on the original web slinger story, Ultimate Spider-Man takes us back to Peter Parker’s young adult life. Peter Parker is just 15 years old in the Ultimate Spider-Man universe. He goes to Midtown High School in Queens New York and still lives with Aunt May. Peter’s Uncle Ben’s fate is sealed in the same fashion as the original story, but here is where the story diverges from the original.

A young Peter Parker focuses heavily on science as he works as a web designer for The Daily Bugle. Succeeding in following in his late father’s footsteps, Peter creates a powerful adhesive that allows him to fire a web much like a spider – with a costume that his long-time girlfriend Mary-Jane Watson keeps patched up, Spider-Man is born.

Peter and his friend Eddie Brock Jr. begin working on their late father’s final project – a cure for Cancer.  Peter steals the formula late at night and tries it out only to discover that the powerful black Venom suit that covered his body felt great for a short while but began to consume him from the inside. Eddie, after finding out Peter’s secret identity, and what Peter had done, takes the formula and runs into the streets.  The suit covers Eddie and he becomes Venom. The police take shots at Venom and back him into a downed power line. In a flash, Eddie and the suit disappear.  Peter is devastated by the loss of his friend, but works hard to balance his high-school life, his work, and his constant hero work. This is where our story begins.

As in the PS2 version, the cel-shading graphics are phenomenal! This game truly deserves the Marvel nametag on the box (well, that and because they have to). You are immediately swept away into the comic book universe. Fighting Venom in the first part, I had to just sit there and take a few beatings so that I could just simply study the amazing graphics. I have played a few cel-shading PC games before, like XIII, but this was definitely a cut above the rest.

Cut scenes are delivered during the story-mode elements of the game, and use comic book panels to fill in the gaps so to speak. They slide and whiz by you in different directions just like you would see watching a comic book animated series on TV.

The buildings were not very detailed, but it helped to maintain that comic book feel. Even the splashdowns into the local New York City rivers (not intentionally I assure you) duplicated what you would see on TV.

Lets not forget about all the bosses you fight like Wolverine. The detail on Wolverine’s face was simply amazing, and watching the “SCHNICT” fly by as he engaged his adamantium claws was just awesome! One thing did bother me, and that was the size of Spider-Man’s neck. It made it seem like Peter was a Bobblehead on a stick.

I did not experience any lag or frame rate issues at all. (BFG 6800GT OC 256MB) The PC version needs to run using 32-bit color. So if you can’t run that for whatever reasons you may want to play this on a console instead. Well, you will probably want to anyway, more on that later.

The sound effects are pretty good in some areas, but not as profound as I would like to hear. The sound of your web firing off to the left and to the right was very accurate. Landing in the water made a realistic splash sound as if the humiliation wasn’t enough. When the bad guys would fire their guns however, I was not impressed. It just didn’t have a realistic sound. It sounded more like a child’s cap gun from the 1970s (yeah, I am that old).

One thing that bothered me more than the Asian teenager’s rendition of the Spider-Man theme song in Spider-Man 2 was the same song playing over and over again during the search for tasks, tokens, and storylines in the city. Hey, how about some variety please?

The voice acting, just like in my other review this month for Myst V (shameless plug), was outstanding. You truly get a sense of the comic book humor, flames, and general banter. This is especially evident when you are competing in the races the game offers. Both competitors throw the smack talk around better than any Fantasy Football Forums I have read, or cough, written myself.

The ambient noises rounded out the playing atmosphere, but not enough to shock you or make you jump. They fit right in, and make you feel like you are in New York City although they could have added more New York flavor if you know what I mean. You can fully enjoy the audio experience if you have a 5.1 Surround Sound setup.

Ah, the controls, how does a game that was made for consoles perform on the PC? Well, as well as you would expect, not that good. The camera controls are the main point of suffering for the PC version.

The first time I fought Venom was a disaster. The default camera action obscured most of the fight, and I ended up having to just try some key mashing. I finally got around it by just focusing on straight ahead attacks, but it made the battle very difficult. The game will drop you a hint later that you can turn off the auto camera by pressing the “B” key, but that just made it worse. The problem is that you do not control the camera with your mouse you have to use keys. Try doing that while having one hand on WASD and the other on your mouse. Maybe they designed the PC version for Doc Oc?  Allowing the computer to handle it was the best you could hope for.

That aside, swinging from building to building was as simple as a mouse click. Skyscraper leaps were just a space bar or right click away. Most of the keys you will need build off the WASD home point as fighting as either Spidey or Venom used the “Q”, “E”, and “F” keys for their basic attacks. You can even make zip lines by pressing both mouse buttons.

The PC version allows three sets of custom keys to be set for any action, and you will probably find yourself trying to tweak the camera keys to your liking if you can find a way to effectively use them.

You can really tell that this game was meant to be played on a console or handheld.

There are four types of gameplay in Ultimate Spider-Man, Story-arc, Token Hunt, Races, and Random Encounters. The Story-arc is the best part of the game. From time to time you will have to sling, jump, or zip your way to one of the locations that move the story along. Usually these are boss battles with the likes of Venom, Wolverine, Rhino, and the Green-Goblin to name a few. The key is to find and exploit the boss’s weaknesses, which forces you to do a little trial-and-error strategy. Luckily the game makes it very easy for you to retry missions, races or random encounters that you fail by presenting you with a “retry” dialogue box.

Token Hunt is just that, hunting the city for tokens. Some add power-ups like increased web swing speed; there are the “hidden/secret” tokens that you need to collect, and the race tokens.

You can find the race tokens fairly easily by using your on screen map, which you can expand if you wish. Races in the beginning are fun, but start to become tedious. I was satisfied to walk away with a Bronze in most cases. You are measured by set times that equal Gold, Silver, or Bronze status. I believe the primary purpose of the races is to hone your Spidey and Venom skills. Like I stated, initially this is fun, but becomes rather boring as you play on.

Random Encounters show up on you map as red flashing blips. If you see one, you should immediately go to that point to save the day and be a hero. These encounters are typically timed so make sure you are prepared with a Napoleon Dynamite skill set.

The best part of all this gameplay is that it unlocks the ability to wear different costumes and eventually will allow you to view some pretty cool stuff as well as have the instant ability to toggle between Spidey and Venom. All of the unlocks, however, do not become available until you finish the game. Ah the carrot, there is always a carrot.

If you don’t have a console then the PC version is a pretty good alternative. There is probably a good 10 to 20 hours of gameplay to be had depending how quickly you get up to speed on the play dynamics. If you do own a PS2 or Xbox then play it on one of those. In fact, this is one of those titles you typically rent unless you have a real liking for web slinging.

The game does allow you to swing around to your hearts desire, but really, how long will that desire last? For me, I’m off to the next title out there, and I typically never look back. It has to be a real outstanding title for me to go replay something. I just don’t feel that Ultimate Spider-Man is one of those titles, especially the PC version.

I won’t say I didn’t enjoy the time I spent, however. Getting a chance to experience Spider-Man this way had its moments in the sun. Like I said before, if you can’t play it on a console then it’s a decent purchase.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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