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'Spider-Man 2' spins new video game fun

By Sid Lipsey
CNN Headline News

"Spider-Man 2" has a central storyline and related missions that loosely follow the plot of the new movie.
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(CNN) -- The creators of "Spider-Man" faced a daunting task in conceiving a follow-up to the original, one that would make even the most fearless superhero tremble.

Succeed and they'd have a bona fide franchise on their hands. Fail and they'd be dismissed as one-hit wonders who foisted yet another lame sequel upon an undeserving world.

No, we're not talking about the current box-office smash starring Tobey Maguire. We're talking about Activision's new "Spider-Man 2" video game for the PS2, GameCube and Xbox.

Activision's previous Spidey game, which was based on the 2002 movie, was one of the relatively few superhero games to enjoy critical and commercial success.

It's easy to see why. It gave players control of a high-flyin', web-slingin', butt-kickin' Spider-Man and turned them loose in a breathtakingly realistic 3-D recreation of New York City.

Just like the movie, the "Spider-Man 2" game is an ambitious improvement on its predecessor. The web shooting and fighting capabilities have been enhanced, giving players even more control of Spider-Man's acrobatics than in the previous game.

The game's virtual New York setting has been expanded as well. It features a map of the city and a much-improved navigational compass, both of which allow gamers to explore almost all of the Big Apple. (Well, all of Manhattan at least. For a guy who hails from Queens, Spidey spends little time in the outer boroughs.)

Whether you're swinging over Central Park, leaping around Times Square or doing arachnid bungee jumps off the Empire State Building, "Spider-Man 2" offers as much pleasure in aimless web slinging as "Grand Theft Auto" does in aimless carjacking.

Speaking of the latter, that game also inspired the other big new feature in "Spider-Man 2." This time, Spidey operates in an open-ended environment where you can deviate from the game's main missions and roam the city engaging in side adventures. ("But nothing illegal," as actor Bruce Campbell, who narrates the game, warns in the intro.)

You rescue construction workers, fight purse snatchers, assist police in high-speed chases and even deliver pizzas for Spider-Man's cashed-strapped alter ego, Peter Parker.

Spider-Man battles Doctor Octopus.

Extracurricular heroics aside, "Spider-Man 2" has a central storyline and related missions that loosely follow the plot of the movie. (It also features voice work from Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Alfred Molina, who reprise their film roles as Spider-Man, Mary Jane and Doctor Octopus.)

If you're one of those spoiler-phobes who likes to know absolutely nothing about a movie's plot before seeing it, you'll definitely want to take in the film before playing the game.

All told, "Spider-Man 2" is much more than a product tie-in, "Grand Theft Auto" clone or virtual tour of New York. It's a well-made action game that accomplishes its crucial mission: It makes one look forward to "Spider-Man 3" in 2007. Heck, you may even want to see the movie, too.

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