Spiderman has been nice to Activision over the years. Two killer console games based on movies raking in the cash and the high review scores has maintained Spiderman's grip as probably the most popular and most well known of the Marvel comics. Recently Marvel launched a new series of comics, Ultimate Spiderman to update the web slinging character to the modern day. Activision are hard at work on a game based on the series and while it doesn't have a movie to back it up, it's already looking like Treyarch's finest Spiderman title yet.
Ultimate Spiderman changes a few things about the Spiderman Universe in subtle and not so subtle ways. Small things such as the fact he is a web developer with Daily Planet as opposed to photographer but the biggest change is that Mary Jane knows he is Spiderman which leads to the game really having a second character. However she isn't playable. The storyline revolves around the Venom suit and the corrupt company producing it. You're aim is to recapture the Venom suit for your father and stop it wreaking havoc on the city.
However the big twist about this game is you actually, during some points, get to play as Venom. We played through a whole level with Venom and it reminds us very much of the recently released Hulk game. Venom just oozes power with buildings and cars being destroyed and generally chaos being created by the suit. Obviously the other side of the game is played from Spiderman's perspective but overall the characters are quite close with Spiderman's web slinging being replaced by super extendable arms in the venom suit.
Other than that, the game is very much built like the movie based Spiderman games - that is, a free roaming world with missions to complete based around New York City. The control system remains much the same as well although we found it easier to pick up and moving Spiderman is a lot easier in this game. Perhaps the best addition is the web sling where you can fling yourself across building tops with incredible pace. Treyarch haven't missed the opportunity to exploit this new found freedom and have included many races to complete.
The missions are very much reminiscent of the movie games. Basically you fight a few characters, save a few people then take on a boss. In between this there are side missions which have to be completed like bashing up gangs or rescuing people from crashes. What we found interesting was that the variety of the game makes the missions always seem fresh rather than tedious which became the case in Spiderman 2.
The best thing by far about Ultimate Spiderman from first impressions is the graphical style used. Activision and Treyarch have come up with a proprietary system known as comic stencilling which uses the effect of a comic book and 3D graphics. It is amazing and they somehow trick the eye into thinking things are flying towards the player and that a 3D world is being displayed during cut scenes. This is really what makes the game and it's absolutely incredible to look at. Activision promise there is a lot more than the few we have seen and we can see this becoming a huge factor in wanting to continue to play the game further.
Ultimate Spiderman is a game that will probably release with little fanfare but soon become a big hit for Activision. The familiar mechanics are welcome as is the new Venom character but the whole thing looks like it's coming together, especially the graphics. This is most likely going to be one of the must have action titles of the year.