First Look: Spider-Man on the PlayStation 2

Activision gives us a peek at its game based on the upcoming Spider-Man movie.

Activision recently gave us a look at its PlayStation 2 game based on the Spider-Man movie due out next year. Developed by Treyarch, which is known for its ports of Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk 2, and Spider-Man from the PlayStation to the Dreamcast, the game will feature a new game engine to take advantage of the PS2 hardware. The development team has taken a look at the original Spider-Man engine and used it as a blueprint for the PS2 game. Spider-Man on the PS2 is set to feature many of the gameplay strengths of the previous Spidey titles and aims to offer some new elements as well.

The game's main plot will mirror that of the movie, but it will also head off on a few tangents to offer some variety. Treyarch has expanded on the main action in the movie by throwing in a few extra villains in addition to the main antagonist of the film, the Green Goblin. In addition to the Goblin, you'll do battle with the Shocker, the Vulture, and an assortment of thugs.

Gamers who played the original Spider-Man on the PlayStation or DC will be pleased with the game's handling. All of Spidey's moves have been brought over intact, allowing you to pull off all your punches, kicks, and web attacks just like before. The fighting system has been tweaked a bit to give players more variety in their combos. A simple combo tree allows you to link a variety of physical and web attacks to finish off opponents with flair. The webbing now offers a bit more flexibility as well. Spidey will be far more mobile when swinging from a webline, as he'll be able to twist and shift direction on the fly. In a nice nod to the comic, you'll also be able to drop down from ceilings using a webline. This new feature will allow you to sneak up behind an enemy and or nail him or her with a web. While not essential to do, it just looks cool.

While the game offers the same style of gameplay as its predecessors, there have been some slick additions. In some cases, you'll have to actually pick people up and move them out of harm's way. A segment we saw had Spidey coming to the aid of a hapless man in the train station who stared in horror, like a deer in headlights, at a chunk of wall hurling toward him. Using your "Spider sense" will become a larger part of the game as well. A subway level we saw had Spidey using it to make his way through the subway while avoiding blasts from the Shocker. The coolest additions we saw were aerial combat and a feature akin to The Matrix's "bullet time." In a segment that found Spidey battling the Vulture amid the city's skyscrapers, the action slowed down slightly to allow you to better aim and attack. The slightly slower pace made the battle more manageable and engaging.

Although the game is still early, the graphics are coming along pretty well. The engine does a solid job of rendering the various environments we were shown, including a train station, a subway, the aerial battle with the Vulture, a night sequence in the city, and the interior of a complex. While a bit shimmery, the graphics were solid and displayed lighting and weather effects. Spidey moves much more fluidly and sports a nice polygonal upgrade. His web attacks also sport an organic look that's reminiscent of Todd MacFarlane's work when he did the comic. The various characters Spidey encountered all looked cleaner as well. The frame rate chugged a bit, but the game is still a long ways off from optimization. Treyarch is aiming to have the action to move at a solid 60 frames per second when the game ships.

Spider-Man is set to be released for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox on May 3, 2002.

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