As a young gamer, I believe one of the first lessons I learned in gaming was to never buy a movie video game. This is really hard when you're a kid, because mentally, it makes sense that a game about the movie trailer you just saw on television has to be good. Why else would it be on TV?! That flawed logic led me to renting Batman: Forever for an unbearable (5 days) from my local rental store...
Just so you're aware, here's the commercial for the game...
Then here's the game, which is infamously known for it's poor controls, confusing gameplay, and making the pause mechanic very similar to the same button to use the grappling hook WHICH IS VITAL TO COMPLETE THE FIRST LEVEL.
Point is the game sucked. Man it really sucked, and it kept 6 year old me from making that mistake ever again.
Flash forward to age 13 aka 2004 when super hero films are just now starting to pick up steam. The geek world is still talking about X-Men and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films which were huge successes. If I remember right I think it was my birthday and I got to go to Best Buy and get a video game that would change my life.
Okay, it wasn't that dramatic. Spider-Man 2 was and still is an incredible game, however...
I'm not the first person to break this news by the way. This game manages to find it's way into the conversation of most "greatest movie games of all time" lists but never reaches number 1. I'm here to convince you that not only is it the best, but it also transformed our level of expectation for hero games going forward. Let's start off with one of the smaller great things about this game...
From start to finish, Spider-Man 2 VG presents itself in an epic way. We have sweeping cinematics, voice acting from the cast of the film, and something that actually feels like a film!
If you've never played the game you're thinking "uh yeah well they just copied the movie and the movie was awesome". In some ways, yes, that is correct. What's most correct is that they put about 90% of the plot of Spider-Man 2 inside the game and then loaded more villains, side missions, and story elements that the movie wished it could've fit in! I'm not saying that this game is better than the actual film, of course, but there were some inclusions and side stories that would've never translated to film and were only possible within the game. Do you ever think we'll see Mysterio on the big screen?
Little appearances like that really set this movie game apart from the typical "do what you saw in the movie" experience that oftentimes was never nearly as fun as it looked.
In perhaps the ultimate callback, someone convinced Bruce Campbell to do the tutorial commentary for the first two Spider-Man games! For whatever reason I can't find his commentary in the second game, but it's just as amazing as the first game...
It wasn't the first game to do it, but Spider-Man 2 serves as the gold standard for how to do it right. Completing small random missions, story missions, side missions really any mission awarded you points in which you could spend to make Spider-Man stronger. You could increase his jump height, his damage protection, his strength, web-slinging abilities, and unlock new skills and moves. There was a ton of options andyou could complete the game with a Spider-Man that fit your style of combat. Personally, I liked to max out my jumping ability and run around dodging until I could get a clean hit in.
The beauty of it was there was so much to customize you would complete the game and still have stuff you never unlocked in his customization! Truthfully, I think this game heavily influenced the Prototype series because if you've played that, they are almost identically similar.
Huge Open World
Sandbox gaming was still a new concept and everyone was doing it. Previously superhero games were level based and definitely felt restrictive as to what you could do. This game let you sling around an impressively sized Manhattan with little to no boundaries. Truly incredible for the era it was released in.
The Game Continued After "The End"
I remember when I realized I was nearing the ending of the games story. I screwed around and slung around Manhattan putting off the inevitable, but eventually squared off against Doc Ock. I stopped the reactor, watched the credits roll and...the game continued? I was dumbstruck.
I checked my save to see if maybe I hadn't just been transported to before the boss battle happened again. Nope, he's still defeated and I'm still in the game with more missions to complete. The game (technically) is everlasting. After completion, you take on more random events and fight harder enemies and are still able to upgrade your character. That alone should put it near the top of every gaming list!
So obviously I got a lot of love for this game based in nostalgia and what it meant to me, but I accept my opinion is not law. If you have a better movie video game let me know in the comments.