Saturday, January 28, 2006

PS2 USM: BBS (Big Ball of Suck)

Maybe I'm becoming too cynical a blogger as my first instinct when I sat down to write this review was to find a way to blame Brian Bendis for the awful final product that is the Ultimate Spider-Man video game. Honestly, Bendis's contribution gets listed in the "good" column of the game's traits.

Like so many crappy entertainment experiences, USM is all style and no substance. The vastness of Queens and Manhatten alone, complete with recognizable landmarks both real (Empire State Building, Times Square) and fictional (Baxter Building, Latverian Embassy, Dr. Strange's house), makes the game worthy of a rental. The physics of Peter's webswinging is impressive and the dialogue (provided by Bendis) is amusing and adds a level of depth to the city. Swinging from rooftop to rooftop, you'll hear little snippets of conversations like, "Yogurt is for little girlies!" or "How do I look in this outfit?" that makes you feel like every day life is going on beneath you while you're saving the world.

Unfortunately, the world saving is where things go sour.

Supposedly, Spider-Man has a plethora of moves you can access in combat by pressing varied combinations of punch, kick, and jump. Regardless, you only need one: jump-jump-kick. Every fight against every major bad guy boils down to the same formulaic scenario.

Spidey finds out some villain is on the loose. You have to chase him through the labyrinthine city streets and alleys, making sure to keep within a certain distance lest he get away. Eventually, the bad guy will make a stand and fight. You jump around waiting for whatever opening is presented and jump kick him a few times until he throws you off. Repeat about twenty times until the bad guy is sufficiently hurt to run away again, then chase him to another place where he'll take another stand and you do the "jumping around waiting for the opportunity to attack" thing again.

Part of the problem is Spidey can only punch and kick, so when you go up against someone like Green Goblin, you have to punch and kick him roughly two-hundred times to defeat him. Compare this completely sarcasm free estimate with the fact Green Goblin throws fireballs (with miraculous accuracy) and jumps on top of you with his fire-engulfed body or that Beetle throws grenades and shoots a laser, both of which will kill you in about 8-15 hits.Take the battle against Rhino (or R.H.I.N.O. as the Ultimized version is known) as an example. It begins when you go to school and Mary Jane tells you she heard a news report about a big rhinoceros tearing up the city. You go hunt him down by following the path of destruction, saving people left in its wake. You finally catch up to him in a construction yard where you have to jump around, eventually landing on his back, and beat on him. He charges you and the your goal is to lure him onto the wet cement of a building foundation. Once he's stuck, you leap over to a crane with a wrecking ball and knock him out.

Only he isn't knocked out, he's knocked about two hundred yards down the road. You have to chase him again until he gets to a used car lot. This time, there are sparks flying from the hole you smashed in his back. He smashes up the cars and charges around while you jump and dodge him, waiting for the sparks to go away. When they do, you jump on his back and punch as many times as you can before the sparks come back. Then you jump and dodge him, waiting for the sparks to go away. When they do, you jump on his back and punch as many times as you can before the sparks come back. Then you jump and dodge him, waiting for the sparks to go away. When they do, you jump on his back and punch as many times as you can before the sparks come back. Then you jump and dodge him, waiting for the sparks to go away. When they do, you jump on his back and punch as many times as you can before the sparks come back.

Yawn... where was I?

For Green Goblin, replace sparks with firey aura. Beetle flies around out of your reach so instead of waiting for something to go away, you have to wait for him to show up. With Venom, if you stay too close to him for too long, you get a migraine and become vulnerable. There are variations, but the upshot always winds up being that you have to jump around and avoid the bad guy while they attack with a much more potent weapon than your fists and feet. Also take into account that when you get hit once, Spidey lays on the ground long enough to get hit at least once more.

Playing as Venom is fun. He's all about power. However, much as Spidey's only really effective move is the jump kick, when Venom is in a fight, anything other than a tentacle attack is a waste of time (which is a shame because the move where he grabs people by the back of the head and smashes them face first into the sidewalk is awesome). Unfortunately, the Venom sequences are always too short. They all involve some immediate threat, never allowing you to roam around the city as Venom, and as soon as you defeat that threat, you go back to being Spidey.

Overall, this game has a lot of potential to be great, but lives up to very little of it. Rent this; buy X-Men Legends 2.


Blogger CalvinPitt said...

Well, that bites. The last time I played I beat the Rhino, and now I find out everything is going to be a rehash of that. And I was having fun.

I thought I had heard that if you beat the game, you can play any mission as Venom. But maybe that only means boss battles and the like.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

When you finish, you can free roam as Venom. There are no missions (there are a few races) just jumping around from building to building, throwing cars, and sucking the life out of people. Once you start smashing things, cops will come after you and eventually SHIELD agents. The point of the "game" is to see how many points you can rack up before SHIELD finally guns you down.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Yeah,it really bugged me that they took what was cool about Spidey 2 and dumbed it down but left the bad in there.I loved spidey 2.Ult was just..meh. COntrols were dull, same missions over.and.over.


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