Hippo Manchester
October 6, 2005

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Ultimate Spider-Man

(XBOX/PS2/GC)  Activision

***

by Glenn Given

Last yearís movie tie-in, Spider-Man 2, took the increasingly common Grand Theft Auto-style free-roaming approach and it proved uncommonly appropriate to the license. Swinging Spidey around Manhattan was a blast. Peter Parkerís graceful yet herky-jerky glide through the Lower East Side was enjoyable enough in and of itself to make you neglect the plot-progressing mission in favor of skyscraper-diving and bridge-rappelling shenanigans.

Ultimate Spider-Man returns to this format with a few twists while sacrificing little in the way of gameplay. Drawing more from the comic books than the films, developer Treyarch was free to include more super villains, a greatly improved plot and a complete re-stylization. Spidey and his beloved NYC now pop with wonderfully cartoonish semi-cel-shaded textures and effects. Additionally, at certain points in the game, you gain control of the arch-villian Venom, who, while similar to Spidey, has his own distinct feel and control. Venom is stronger, replaces the web-swinging with super-leaping and has the ability to regenerate his health by feeding off innocent bystanders. Switching back and forth from good to evil as you progress helps keeps your interest piqued through the too-short story. Both characters are a joy to maneuver with responsive controls that have been simplified slightly from the previous title. You lose a bit of flair but the overall movement experience is far more elegant. Add to this an impressive array of super-villain encounters and the requisite web-swinging races, villain chases and pedestrian-saving and Ultimate Spider-Man is a treat that belongs in any gamerís library.