Easily Marvel Comic’s most recognisable and popular superhero, unsuspecting teenage nerd Peter Parker was first bitten by a radioactive spider and learned the true meaning of power and responsibility in Amazing Fantasy #15, which was first published in August 1962. Since then, the Amazing Spider-Man has featured in numerous cartoons, live-action movies, videogames, action figures, and countless comic book titles and, in celebration of his debut and his very own day of celebration, I’ve been dedicating every Friday of August to talk about everyone’s favourite web-head!
Released: 16 April 2002
Also Available For: Game Boy Advance, GameCube, PC, and Xbox
There was a time when it seemed like every single cinema release had to be accompanied by a videogame adaptation; big-budget movies, especially, were often released alongside a hastily created videogame tie-in that often failed to properly capture the spirit of the film they were based on. As the flagship character of Marvel Comics, Spider-Man has a long and varied history with videogame adaptations across a variety of platforms so it was perhaps no surprise that Sam Raimi’s 2002 live-action $825 million blockbuster would be accompanied by a videogame tie-in. To be fair, Spider-Man benefitted from that fact that it was developed by Treyarch, who had previously had success with the character; indeed, much of Spider-Man’s combat and level progression was based on Treyarch’s previous Spider-Man game. This was reflected in the game’s reception as Spider-Man became the fifteen highest-selling videogame of 2002 and enjoyed high scores across all platforms. While some reviews criticised the game’s claustrophobic indoor sections and short length, it was generally regarded as the best Spider-Man videogame at the time of release. I remember buying the game for the GameCube after seeing the movie, having been won over by the game’s trailer and the film itself, but being underwhelmed by it after playing it to completion so I’m curious to see how it holds up today after the success of Spider-Man’s subsequent videogames.
After being bitten by a genetically-enhanced arachnid, high school senior Peter Parker finds himself endowed with the proportional strength and agility of a spider, and, when his beloved Uncle Ben is killed due to his irresponsibility, Peter puts his spider powers to good use as a masked crimefighter. After failing to capture and study this “Spider-Man”, who overcomes a variety of costumed menaces and robots, Doctor Norman Osborn transforms himself into the web-slinger’s most dangerous threat yet: the maniacal Green Goblin!
Spider-Man is a third-person action game with a primary focus on beat-‘em-up action but which also includes a fair amount of web-slinging and a little bit of awkward stealth and extremely simplistic puzzle solving. As you might expect, players assume command of Peter Parker; the game begins right after Uncle Ben has been shot and at the very beginning of his crimefighting career as Spider-Man, and players are given a number of standard options when it comes to combat: X lets you jump and you can press it again in mid-air for a double jump, while Square throws a punch and Circle unleashes a kick. You can mix and match these button inputs to execute quick combo attacks (which you can review from the pause menu), and pressing either button near certain objects will allow you to pick up and throw them at your enemies. Of course, it’s not all about beating up random thugs across the city; at any time, you can press R2 and Spider-Man will start slinging webs (yes, they just attach to nothing, get over it) and won’t stop until you press X or slam into a wall. You can hold down R2 to speed up your web-slinging, though this does limit your turning ability, and you can press R1 to quickly zip upwards or straight ahead on a web zip-line; you can also press L1 to lock onto enemies, which is super useful when you’re swinging around and asked to attack enemies in mid-air.
Spider-Man will automatically save himself with his webs if you fall while traversing the city rooftops and will automatically climb walls when close to them, though you can press the left analogue stick to enter a crawling state and the camera does tend to get very jerky and annoying when you’re clambering around on walls and ceilings as your perspective can get turned around pretty easily. If you’ve played the fantastic Spider-Man (Neversoft, 2000), you’ll be immediately familiar not only with Spider-Man’s combat and web-slinging but also with his web-based attacks. Pressing Triangle sees Spidey shoot out a quick web, but holding it allows him to web enemies up; if you press up, down, left, or right on the left analogue stick (or directional pad, if that’s your preference), Spider-Man will send out a high-impact ball of webbing, yank his foe towards him, wrap his hands in webbing to increase his punching power, or create a web dome to shield himself and send enemies flying with a press of X. You can also switch to different control styles that see you utilise the other face buttons for these commands, but you’ll find that these web attacks consume your web fluid (represented as a blue bar under your life meter), which is very strange considering Spidey had organic webbing in the film. Spider-Man can also dodge incoming attacks by using the left stick in conjunction with X to hop out of danger, though I found this to be awkward at best and unreliable at worst, and you can even press in the right analogue stick to look around and set your target for a zip-line.
All of these controls and gameplay mechanics can be reviewed in an optional tutorial mode, where the legendary Bruce Campbell snarkily talks you through all of Spider-Man’s abilities, and you’ll find question mark hints occasionally dotted around levels to help you out as and when. Like the 2000 game, Spider-Man is basically divided into two distinct gameplay styles: one sees you out in the city, swinging about the place, and the other sees you confined inside buildings. When out in the city, you’ll need to make use of a compass to navigate towards your next objective or keep track of your current target; you need to use this in conjunction with a Height Meter that shows your position compared to that of your objective, which can be a very clunky system as it’s not always clear where you need to go. Basically, just follow the compass direction until it flashes white, and then try to orientate yourself up or down to get to where you need to go, but invariably your compass will be absent when inside buildings. When web-slinging around the city, you’ll be tasked with hunting down thugs and putting a beating on them until you find information on where you need to go, racing after a target as they fly away from you, hunting down bombs or taking out robotic drones (often against a tight time limit), rescuing civilians from harm, and using your webs to secure water towers, bridges, and other objects to stop them from hurting civilians. When trying to keep track of a specific target, you really need to make use of the lock-on feature or else it’s very easy to lose sight of them and thus fail the mission; I also found that spamming Triangle was the fastest way to actually attack enemies in mid-air, but of course this will drain your web fluid. Luckily, the pick-ups that refill your health and web fluid will respawn so you can swing back over and grab them if you need to, but this will cost you time and probably see you fail your objective. Checkpoints in Spider-Man are few and far between; you can only save your progress after completing a level and, if you die or fail your mission, you’ll have to restart from the beginning of the level, which can lead to you repeating frustrating sections again and again.
When confined to the interior of buildings, the game introduces a clunky stealth element; when Spider-Man is in certain shadows, the face on his heads-up display will turn dark blue and he’ll be hidden from enemies. This is essential to safely sneaking past cameras and enemies in many levels; though you won’t fail the mission if you’re spotted, an alarm will be raised and mechanical Super Soldiers will relentlessly chase after you, forcing you to quickly zip away and find a shadowy area to wait out the alarm. One of the most common tasks when in these claustrophobic areas will be heading through or acquiring keys to unlock doors; these doors can be difficult to identify as the areas are so bland and boring, and the enemies holding the key tend to be a little tougher than the usual mooks. Other times, you’ll need to use X to activate consoles, sometimes in a certain order, acquire codes from active PCs, web-zip past steam vents or through laser trip wires, and zipping up into vents to awkwardly crawl around and progress further. These levels also have much more focus on grounded beat-‘em-up combat, but the game quickly emphasises that discretion is the better part of valour and you’ll be tasked with deactivating security walls and laser traps in order to progress a little safer. The game comes with a number of different difficulty modes that obviously make enemies tougher and increase the game’s challenge; completing the game on higher difficulties also allows you to unlock additional content, which can be further unlocked by acquiring points for your combat, stealth, and level-completion strategies.
Graphics and Sound:
Obviously, Spider-Man is a videogame tie-in that came out on the PlayStation 2, so you can’t expect super high-quality in-game or cutscene graphics. However, Spider-Man is reasonably impressive and I can see why people would have considered it the best Spider-Man videogame at the time; New York City is rendered as a large map and even subject to rain and lightning storms and rendered in both day and night-time depending on the level you’re playing. However, it’s not a sprawling open world with numerous side quests or non-playable characters to interact with; although you can see traffic moving down below, you can’t go down to street level and the city is basically completely lifeless save for thugs, bosses, and a few civilians in need of rescue.
The interiors are where the game really fails to impress, however; you’ll explore such dynamic and exciting areas as…a bland warehouse, the sewers and subway tunnels, and the high-tech Oscorp building. This latter is easily the most visually impressive and interesting of all of the game’s environments, inside or out; while it is a bit confusing as every area looks grey and bland, it’s given some variety with some blinking lights, laser traps, and different rooms containing consoles and power generators. Another interesting area is a bank, though you’re only really in here for one boss battle, and you’ll even be treated to a very mediocre interpretation of the balloon parade from the film, which includes a single inflatable panda bear and a sequence where you crash down through skylights while battling the Green Goblin, and of course conclude the game in a showdown on the Queensboro Bridge.
While the game’s thugs and enemies aren’t much to shout about, being largely generic and unimpressive, Spider-Man is rendered quite well despite every character model appearing as a stiff mannequin. Spidey does little hops and flips when climbing over ledges, assumes comic-accurate poses when left idle, and even busts out fancy animations when web-slinging that closely emulate the film. The game uses both pre-rendered and in-game graphics for its cutscenes, with the pre-rendered ones obviously being the more impressive of the two; the in-game models don’t even move their mouths and the voice acting is more miss rather than hit. Tobey Maguire, especially, sounds more wooden and awkward than ever, especially when trying to deliver quips as Spider-Man, and the game is sadly completely lacking Danny Elfman’s awesome and iconic score. The music that does play during levels is generally suitable enough, if a bit generic, but it does clumsily and noticeably loop, which just screams of low production values, and of course you’ll be faced with the long load times symptomatic of that era of videogaming.
Enemies and Bosses:
Spider-Man is faced with a number of nameless, faceless, disposable goons as he swings around the city and tries to use his powers responsibly; at first, he’s tasked with tracking down Uncle Ben’s killer, who here is interpreted as part of the Skulls gang, so you’ll be beating up unscrupulous street thugs in the early going. Some of these have pistols to defend themselves with, and they’ll also put up a block to defend themselves against your attacks. These thugs get a reskin as guards working for Oscorp who must largely be avoided and webbed up to stop them from raising the alarm and bringing in the Super Soldier robots. Wile Osborn’s miniature Spider Slayers are annoying robotic enemies who zip around on claw-like lines and try to roast you alive, these Super Soldiers are a massive pain in the ass. They relentlessly hunt you down, blasting at you with explosive bolts that are near-impossible to avoid, and the levels can be so restrictive that you’re better off just restarting the level rather than trying to desperately find shadows to hide from them.
Spider-Man’s first mission is to hunt down Uncle Ben’s killer; after beating up a bunch of his fellow gang members, Spidey finally tracks him down and faces off with him, only to be blasted full-force in the face over and over by the murderer’s shotgun! The killer sets a precedent for the game’s boss battles in that he, like all of the other bosses, is spry and tough enough to shrug off, dodge, and no-sell all of your web attacks except for the web-hands, so you’re best bet is to zip up to the ceiling and stay out of his sight, blasting at him with your impact webbing or dropping down to deliver a beatdown when he’s suitably confused. After a quick side quest where you swing around towards red balloons to take snapshots of Spidey for the Daily Bugle, you’ll need to rescue security guards being threatened by Herman Schultz/The Shocker. Once they’re safe, you’ll pursue him into the sewers and subway tunnels, where he’ll send blasts of concussive sound at you that you’ll need to dodge using your web-zip; this isn’t too much of a challenge to overcome and, afterwards, you’ll get to face him in combat. The Shocker launches projectiles of sound at you and can protect himself with a devastating whirlwind of damaging soundwaves, but was actually easier for me to pummel into submission than Uncle Ben’s killer.
Spider-Man’s next test comes when Adrian Toomes/The Vulture robs a bank; Spider-Man first chases after the Vulture by progressing vertically up a tower that catches fire and sees you slipping through holes and under stairs to zip your way upwards, then you need to chase after him as he flies away through the city and puts citizens at risk. Finally, the two face off in the skies around the Chrysler Building as rain and lighting fill the arena; Spidey must fire webbing at the Vulture while avoiding his charges and attacks in order to force him to land so he can put a beating on him, making him the easiest boss of the game by far. Afterwards, Spidey crosses paths with MacDonald “Mac” Gargan/The Scorpion, who just randomly appears out of nowhere; at first, you’ll need to protect him from Oscorp’s miniature spider-bots but then he turns against you and forces you to fight him. This is quite a tough fight even on Easy mode as the Scorpion leaps and scrambles all over the place, blasting at you with his tail, and grappling with you whenever you get close to him. It’s best to keep your distance and fire off impact webbing from afar, and then dodge his attacks so you can hit a few combos on him and put him down. Fittingly, the Green Goblin is the game’s most recurring villain and, though you won’t encounter him face-to-face until you’re halfway through the game, he more than makes up for it in his appearances; the first time you face him, you need to avoid his glider attacks and missiles and rescue Mary Jane Watson from the aforementioned panda balloon before battling him head-on.
Whilst on his glider, the Green Goblin is basically a tougher version of the Vulture as he flies around tossing pumpkin bombs and firing bullets and missiles at you, forcing you to fire off your webbing or striking at him when he comes close. Afterwards, you’ll have to chase after him and web up parts of the environment that he damages, before forcing him through a skylight for some ground combat. These fights are easily the toughest of the game as the Green Goblin bombards you with pumpkin bombs, blinds you with flashbangs, and can easily choke the life out of you and snatch you out of the air. Your best bet is to stick near the respawning health power-up, dodge his combos and hit some of your own, and blast him with impact webbing whenever you can. Afterwards, you’ll be forced to swing across the city against a time limit disarming his bombs, which is an annoying mission thanks to the janky compass and drones flying around the city, then destroy fifty of his Razor Bats before taking a detour through Oscorp and battling a giant mech. Before you can attack this directly, you’ll need to desperately swing around the enclosed arena destroying shield generators and being pummelled by missile turrets, constantly spawning drones, and avoiding the mech’s gigantic laser. Thankfully, there’s plenty of pick-ups in the area and the mech goes down pretty easily with a few web shots once the shield is lowered. Afterwards, you’ll have to chase after the Green Goblin as he flies off with Mary Jane and tosses explosive traps in your way, before finally facing off with him on the Queensboro Bridge. After getting Mary Jane to safety, you then need to repeat the same tactics as in the first couple of fights against him but now in the same battle; swing around firing webs at him to ground him and then dodge his melee attacks to land a few combos, but watch out for his big bomb blast attack. By this point, you should know how to dodge and go grab a pick-up when needed, and I know I found finishing the Green Goblin off actually easier than the first fist fight with him. After you end him, Mary Jane awkwardly gives Spider-Man a big ol’ snog on top of his mask while they stand over the lifeless body of Peter’s best friend.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Unlike in pretty much every modern videogame, Spider-Man is not blessed with regenerating health; as a result, you’ll need to pick up red and red-and-blue Spider Icons to restore half or all of your health. Also, like in the 2000 game, Spider-Man can run out of web fluid so you’ll need to grab blue and blue-and-silver Spider Icons to refill this bar. As mentioned, I find this an odd inclusion as Spider-Man had unlimited organic webbing in the movie but I guess it makes sense to keep him from being too overpowered. Luckily, these restorative pick-ups respawn after a while so if you find yourself struggling against a particular boss, you can usually backtrack or swing back around to collect a pick-up and keep yourself from losing a life. If you search around your environments, you’ll also find gold Spider Icons that will unlock additional combos to add to your repertoire, but that’s about it in terms of power-ups; you don’t earn experience points and can’t upgrade any of Spider-Man’s abilities or pick up temporary power-ups, meaning you basically end the game exactly as you started it but with maybe a few additional combos.
If you visit the game’s ‘Gallery’, you’ll be able to view movies and artwork for the game, and you’ll be able to revisit any level you’ve cleared from the main menu as you progress. As mentioned, you’ll receive points every time you clear a level; these are awarded for your combat variety, stealth, and the amount of damage you take. Once you hit a certain number of points, you’ll automatically unlock some additional content from daft stuff like big hands and feet and exaggerated ragdoll physics to skins for Spider-Man, such as his wrestler outfit and acclaimed artist Alex Ross’s rejected design for the movie suit. You can also unlock a Peter Parker skin and enter cheat codes to play as guys like the Shocker and other enemies, though they all play the same as Spider-Man and don’t change the story in any way.
However, if you beat the game on the “Hero” difficulty, you’ll unlock the ability to play as Harry Osborn under the guise of the Green Goblin! This eliminates the pre-rendered cutscenes and alters the plot somewhat as this story picks up after the conclusion of the game and sees Harry take up his father’s mantle to research his death, and gives you access to an entirely new set of abilities. The Green Goblin can’t web-sling or climb walls but, with a press of R2, you’ll hop onto his glider and can rocket around the place at will; you can fire bullets, missiles, and bombs while on the glider, but your weapons will overheat in time so you’ll need to wait for them to cool down. On the ground, the Green Goblin’s melee attacks are the same as Spider-Man’s but, in place of webs, you have access to pumpkin bombs and Razor Bats and can race around on rocket boots like a madman to send enemies flying! Honestly, this was an incredible addition to the game and is a great way to encourage a second playthrough that adds an extra layer of challenge to the game as the Green Goblin can’t hide in the shadows, but can jump on his glider to blast enemies with missiles even when inside the most claustrophobic environments!
I remember being so hyped for Spider-Man’s first big-screen adventure, and so won over by the trailer for the videogame that ran before the film, that I went out and bought this for the GameCube that same week (if not that same day). I also remember finishing it pretty quickly, and this second playthrough was no different; as is the case with almost every videogame tie-in to a movie, Spider-Man isn’t an especially long game; levels aren’t built to allow exploration and are incredibly linear, so all you’ll have to worry about is trying to cope with how bland and similar the areas can look in each level. There’s also not a huge amount really asked of you; maybe you need to activate a console here and there, or input a code to open a door, or rescue a civilian, but these instances are few and far between and the game soon falls back into a routine of either web-slinging or clunky stealth sections. “Clunky” is the best way to describe this game; Spider-Man controls like he thinks he should be using tank controls, the camera and mechanics make web-slinging and wall-crawling very cumbersome at times, and your combos and dodging abilities are severely limited, making everything quite basic and monotonous. This may explain the game’s short length, as it’s over before it can become truly mind-numbing, but some levels are more frustrating than others; the stealth system is poorly implemented and it’s disappointing to see Spider-Man restricted to claustrophobic interiors rather than free to swing around the city. Basically, the game is a reskin of the 2000 Spider-Man title but stripped back in terms of bonuses, unlockables, and variety; there’s some fun to be had here, mostly in how cheesy the dialogue and cutscenes are, but you’re not really missing much if you skip this one for one of the many other Spider-Man games available even on the PlayStation 2.
Could Be Better
Have you ever played the videogame tie-in to Spider-Man? Which console did you buy it for and were you impressed with it back in the day? What did you think to the web-slinging and combat mechanics? Which of the enemies added to the game was your favourite and would you have liked to see the likes of the Vulture and the Scorpion in Raimi’s films? What did you think to the game’s stealth gameplay and the unlockables on offer? Which Spider-Man videogame or movie adaptation is your favourite? Sign up to leave a reply below or drop a comment on my social media to share your thoughts on Spider-Man.