On paper, you could hardly blame anyone for walking into a store and confusing the PC version of Spider-Man 2 with the console versions. Close scrutiny of near-identical boxes reveals plenty of similarities: you web-sling your way through a virtual Manhattan, break up crimes, and take on classic Spidey villains like Doctor Octopus, Rhino and Mysterio. Make no mistake, however: the PC version of Spider-Man 2 is a completely different game, with a different plot, different battles and simplistic point-and-click controls obviously designed with younger players in mind. Even so, it could have held some fun for Spidey fans, but some questionable design decisions and sloppy execution get in the way of the fun.
The cracks show from the opening cutscene: a CGI movie showing Doc Ock's origin, lifted straight from the console versions of Spider-Man 2. (It's basically the only major content shared by the PC and console games.) The scene ends with a fusion reactor about to explode, and in the console games, Spidey is required to shut down the reactor. Makes sense, right? Not so fast. Here, the scene ends with Spidey standing in front of the reactor, ready to act... at which point you're abruptly whisked away to a tutorial, without ever returning to explain what happened next. It's as if someone decided the game needed to show Ock's origin, but couldn't be bothered creating an extra 20 seconds of footage showing Spidey shutting the reactor down. Who needs closure, anyway?
That corner-cutting mentality continues through the tutorial, once again narrated to great effect by a wisecracking Bruce Campbell. You'll chuckle at his quips, until the reality of how limited your abilities are begins to set in. Unlike the console games, there aren't endless combos to fling enemies around or hang them from lampposts -- there are only a meager handful of actions, almost all accomplished with a left mouse-click. Want to swing from building to building? You'll need to aim at web-shaped icons hovering above the city and wait for the word SWING to appear. The same goes for fighting goons or automatic turrets -- you can't just aim and fire; you have to wait for the game to decide that you've aimed correctly and it flashes an icon that says ATTACK or WEB or SHOOT. This wouldn't be so bad if the aiming detection was spot-on, but it's off just enough that you have to stand still and aim extra carefully to get the proper icons to show up, which can get pretty irritating in a fast-paced action game.
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