Activision and Treyarch recently gave a demo of Spider-Man 2, the upcoming game based on the latest film in the excellent Spider-Man movie franchise due later this year. Spider-Man 2 stays true to the same basic spirit as its predecessor, and it offers a game experience that mirrors the plot of the film. It also adds some extra content, such as villains from the comics; however, an awful lot has changed in the game. Whereas the previous Spider-Man game offered a rigidly linear experience that sent you from one level to the next, Spider-Man 2 features a much more open-ended approach that lets you go at your own pace. Rather than make your way through distinct levels, the game lets you explore and interact with nothing less than an entire chunk of New York that's been re-created in the game for your web swinging pleasure.
You'll once again take the role of Peter Parker's tight-wearing alter ego Spider-Man, and set out to keep the innocent safe. While the game's story will once again mirror the film's plot, with some creative license taken, thanks to the addition of some villains from the comic, details are pretty scarce on the specifics. Based on the movie trailers that are out, Peter Parker's attempts to separate his personal and work life are complicated-- made more so by the appearance of Doctor Octopus, a mechanical tentacle-wielding fiend who's hell bent on causing all sorts of trouble. But he's not the only problem you'll face. New York's dynamic crime rate in the game will give you plenty to do as felonies are committed regularly. The game will now make use of a mission-based structure revolving around trigger points you'll find spread throughout the city. You'll see characters with different colored icons above their head that, once you interact with them, will set events in motion that will either be random missions you can take on, or story-specific events that will move the plot forward. Furthermore, you'll find over 100 challenge markers spread throughout the city that will present you with skill-based tests of your mastery of Spider-Man, such as timed runs through the city.
The game's open-ended structure is supported with impressive style by Treyarch's eye-popping re-creation of New York that renders all of Manhattan from the financial district to Harlem. The city is a living environment that you can fully explore; there is a constant flurry of activity both on the city streets and the skies above. While there are a lot of the same game mechanics as in the original game in terms of how Spider-Man's powers are implemented (you'll still swing from webs and crawl on walls), the way they have been implemented has radically changed for the better. You'll find very few limits on how you can use Spider-Man's abilities now, thanks to Treyarch's imaginative options. A physics and momentum system has been added to the game, allowing you to use gravity to your advantage when webslinging. The game now takes into account where your weblines attach. The team has even thrown in some dual-webline swinging for the discerning webslinger. You'll also be able to leap to incredible heights by building up power--you won't be leaping over tall buildings in a single bound, but you'll get pretty high. As for combat, the original Spider-Man's simplistic mechanics have been replaced with a versatile combo system that allows you to use Spidey's webs to start combos, perform air juggles, and even use running on walls to your advantage. As you go through the game you'll earn points you can use to unlock more complicated, and appropriately devastating, combos. As if that weren't enough, a timing-based mechanic allows you to use his Spider-sense to perform counters on your foes.
The graphics in the game are looking sharp in the Xbox game that we saw. The new Spider-Man character model is more detailed than in the previous game. The costume on virtual Spidey is much closer to his movie counterpart, with the webbing on his suit featuring a reflective sheen. The animation is well done and much closer to the dramatic contortions seen on film. You'll also see a good array of effects during combat to simulate his Spider-sense and reflexes. The city is a massive, impressive-looking metropolis that features a respectable amount of detail. But, as nicely done as the city looks in the day, the nighttime version of it is truly a sight to see. The light coming from the various buildings and the different effects used are very well done. The interactive touches, such as moving helicopters you can latch on to, are very cool and do a great job of selling the whole experience.
Spider-Man 2 is currently slated to ship this June in time with the release of the film. Look for more on the the GameCube, the PlayStation 2, and the Xbox game in the coming weeks.