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Friday, June 09, 2006

Ultimate Spider-Man ... ultimately disappointing

I rented Ultimate Spider-Man for the Playstation 2 via GameFly (which has recently fixed it's turnaround issues it would seem). I had enjoyed Treyarch's previous outing with the webhead and I've like what I've read of the ultimate series ... so I was rather looking forward to it.

At first glance, it seemed to entertain. I practically made baby noises at the excellent use of comic rendering, clever cinematics and even Spidey's voice overs. I got past the first Venom story goal and thought the fight with Wolverine was fairly decent if not mostly random button mashing.

And then everything just kinda started to go to hell. Spidey's fight with Rhino, his first major boss match, was unenjoyable if you will. Before the actual match, you end up randomly beating up thugs (again, random button mashing), saving hanging people (random camera wrangling) or moving cars (semi-random shoulder button mashing). Rather than a standard third person action feel, it almost felt like the designers were invoking Indigo Prophecy and I was mostly following a kind of "simon says" gameplay.

Once you catch up to Rhino, it only get worse. First, you need to trick Rhino into a field of wet cement. Oddly, the only way to do this is to walk on the wet cement. Since I didn't normally think of wet cement as a good thing to walk on, this actually took me some time to figure out. The designers, however, clearly had a very specific and limited solution. Solving this part of the game wasn't really about figuring out the puzzle ... but ascertaining that specific and limited solution.

This is repeated, but worsened, during the last stage of the fight. Rhino is rampaging around a small used car lot. Spidey must stay within the confines of the used car lot because apparently someone has created some invisible force field around the used car lot. Or something. You can only hurt Rhino for a very small amount of time and the rest of the time you can't fight him. Instead, you fight the camera angles which can't keep up with all your dodging ... which actually makes you dodging Rhino's attacks ... counter-productive because if you can't keep him in view you'll end up getting blindsided. During the brief time he's vulnerable, you again must specifically jump on his back (difficult largely because of the camera). You must repeat this many, many times, all the time hoping you don't get blindsided to death.

Could I throw cars or create elaborate webs to ensare or lead him back to that previous wet cement or anything? No. You must stay in the little invisible cage and repeat precisely what the developers intended again and again and again until either you're dead or Rhino is dead.

Or, as I did, put the game back into GameFly's envelope for a return.

It's sad because really ... much of the presentation is completely brilliant. I would love, actually, to see comic rendered game in the same vein as Indigo Prophecy seamlessly blend panelled cinematics and gameplay. Think Max Payne with reaction games instead of shooting.

But alas, I just got frustrating camera angles and brutally repetitive gameplay.

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1 comment:

Jason "Botswana" Cox said...

Oddly enough, it was the Rhino fight, the first boss battle, in the last Spider-Man game where it went all to hell.