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Friendly Neighbourhood 3D — History of Spider-Man Games (Part Two: 2000–2007)



After nearly two decades of successful Spider-Man titles on Atari 2600, Amiga, Game Boy, Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Sega Genesis, the turn of the millennium took the swinging superhero to 3D on the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Sega Dreamcast. Activision received the video game rights to Marvel Comics properties for the 2000s, prompting a variety of games across different platforms—some original and some film adaptations. OnlySP continues its Spider-Man Week coverage with the second part of the history of Spider-Man games, looking at the beginning of the character’s 3D iterations.

2000 – Spider-Man

Developer Neversoft’s only Spider-Man game—simply titled Spider-Man—was released for the PlayStation in 2000 and later ported to Game Boy Color, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and PC. Despite being one of the most powerful platforms on the market at the time, the PlayStation lacked the capacity for a full, open-world Spider-Man game.

“For the outdoor city sequences, the PS1 did not have the power to allow us to create a full city below when Spidey was swinging around above,” lead designer Chad Findley told OnlySP. “So we created a story point that had the antagonists (Carnage and Doc Ock) using fumes to blanket the lower levels of the city to forward their plan, thus forwarding our plan of not building out entire cities with traffic [and] civilians.”

With great power, though, came great responsibility. “Licensing and cross-media deals are definitely way different now […] As long as we were staying true, we got to use every Spidey suit that had been written/drawn at that point as unlockables.”

“I got the awesome responsibility of voice-directing Stan Lee for the game,” Findley revealed. “This was super fun for me, having been such a comic nerd for so long […] His reaction after reading this to the mic once was ‘Who wrote this?’” When Findley revealed it was he who write it, Lee paused before replying “Well, it’s great!”

“I like to think he was shocked by how well I embraced the Stan Lee style… I hope.”

Spider-Man PS1

2001 – Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six

Developer Torus Games—known for its simplistic handheld titles—worked with Activision on Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six for the Game Boy Color in 2001. A sequel to the Game Boy Color version of Neversoft’s title, the game is a side-scrolling action title. In the game, Doctor Octopus kidnaps Aunt May and reassembles the eponymous Sinister Six—Sandman, Vulture, Mysterio, Scorpion, and Kraven—to track down and defeat Spider-Man. The game was praised for its enjoyable gameplay, though sound and graphics were deemed average for the time.

2001 – Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace

Vicarious Visions, which had ported the Game Boy Color version of Neversoft’s Spider-Man, developed an original title for the Game Boy Advance in 2001. As with The Sinister Six, Mysterio’s Menace is a side-scrolling action title in which players must fight some of Spider-Man’s great villains, including Rhino, Electro, Mysterio, and Big Wheel. The player is able to collect upgrades to improve Spider-Man’s health and strength and can collect suits to increase his defence. Mysterio’s Menace was lauded for its animation and presentation, though received some criticism for its gameplay.

Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace

2001 – Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro

Following 2000’s Spider-Man, Activision asked Neversoft to begin working on a sequel; however, the studio was busy developing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater titles, and the code was handed to Vicarious Visions.

“We reviewed the first game and noticed you never really encountered more than four guys at a time,” said project coordinator and game designer Bret Dunham. “When I was scripting the scene just before the first boss fight, I accidentally cloned the four AI spawn locations three times [and] when we played the scene, performance was fine […] Because of that I was able to have 12 AI at a time, but they would walk through each other, so I placed them in spots where it was hard to walk freely around.”

The game’s production was halted following the September 11 attacks to remove references to any buildings resembling the World Trade Center; the final battle was originally set atop the Twin Towers, but the ending and epilogue was altered.

“By the way, the command to kill Spider-Man is ‘killbruce,’” Dunham laughed. “The engine was previously used for a Bruce Willis game.”

Spider Man 2: Enter Electro

2002 – Spider-Man

Based on Sam Raimi’s film of the same name, Spider-Man was developed by Treyarch and released for PC, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Game Boy Advance in April 2002. Tobey Maguire and Willem Dafoe reprised their roles from the film as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, respectively. Exterior levels take place on the skyscrapers of New York; Spider-Man cannot touch the ground without dying. The game also features several bonus outfits, including Peter Parker’s civilian clothes, his wrestling outfit from the film, and the Spider-Man costume designed by comic book artist Alex Ross. The title was well-received for its gameplay and presentation, but the short length and awkward camera let many players down. The game sold over two million copies within four years.

Spider-Man 2002

2004 – Spider-Man 2

Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 film also received a video game adaptation, with Treyarch taking the lead on development. Several other studios assisted with porting the game to different platforms: The Fizz Factor ported the game to PC, Digital Eclipse to Game Boy Advance, Activision to N-Gage, Aspyr to Mac OS X, and Vicarious Visions to Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable (PSP). Gameplay differed per platform, but the core Treyarch version allowed the player to freely roam around New York, fighting street thugs akin to the later Batman: Arkham series.

The game’s DS and PSP versions maintained a frame rate of 60 frames-per-second, which the studio found difficult at the time. “You have to manage your level design and placement of enemies,” Vicarious Visions CEO Karthik Bala told IGN in 2004. “There are four megabytes of RAM on the DS, which is a huge step up from the GBA, but it’s still very limiting so we have to manage the memory carefully.”

Spider-Man 2 received a generally positive response upon release, with praise directed at the game’s open world and gameplay mechanics, and the game achieved high sales in the years to follow.

Spider-Man 2

2005 – Ultimate Spider-Man

Treyarch returned to develop Ultimate Spider-Man, based on the comic book of the same name, in 2005; Vicarious Visions ported the game to DS and GBA, and Beenox developed the PC version. Ultimate Spider-Man is a beat-‘em-up game in which players control both Spider-Man and Venom as the two discover more about the Symbiote suit. The game features a long list of popular Marvel Comics characters, including the Human Torch, Wolverine, and Nick Fury, as well as several Spider-Man villains, such as Green Goblin, Rhino, Carnage, and Sandman. The game was well received for its diversity in missions and characters, though the repetitive gameplay garnered some criticism.

Ultimate Spider-Man

2006 – Spider-Man: Battle for New York

Torus Games returned to the world of Spider-Man for the handheld title Battle for New York in 2006. Released for the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and mobile phones, the game allows the player to assume control of both Spider-Man and his archenemy Green Goblin; while the former travels the city saving civilians and defeating criminals, the latter spends his time destroying objects and attacking security guards and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. The game was poorly received by critics when it released and was Torus’s final game featuring the superhero.

Spider-Man: Battle for New York

2007 – Spider-Man 3

Based on the film, Spider-Man 3 was the final game developed by Vicarious Visions to feature the titular superhero. Interestingly, the game has three different versions dependent on platform, featuring a similar overall plot but varying villains.

The version of the game with the most significant changes is the Game Boy Advance version, presented as a 2D side-scrolling game with 2.5D characters. “I wanted a ‘rolling thunder’ style gameplay, so I convinced the programming team to add spawning doors,” said lead designer Bret Dunham. “I also decided to not use the same black suit mechanics that the DS and PlayStation used, [where] you would be penalised for using it too long […] You lost the suit if you were hit by an enemy [in the GBA version].”

Spider-Man 3

2007 – Spider-Man: Friend or Foe

Based on Raimi’s entire Spider-Man trilogy, Friend or Foe was developed by Next Level Games for consoles, Artificial Mind & Movement for handheld, and Beenox for PC. In the game, Spider-Man finds himself against the enemies from the films—Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, and Venom. With help from Nick Fury, Iron Fist, Black Cat, Lizard, Blade, and New Goblin, among others, the player travels the world to discover the mastermind behind the world’s pending doom. Friend or Foe was lauded for its inventive gameplay and humorous narrative, but some repetitive missions and awkward camera let the game down for many.

Spider-Man: Friend or Foe

This final part of this series, offering a look at the latest decade of Spider-Man titles, is available here, and be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

Rhain discovered a long time ago that mixing one of his passions (video games) with the other (writing) might be a good idea, and now he’s been stuck in the industry for over four years with no way of escaping. His favourite games are those with deep and captivating narratives: while it would take far too long to list them all, some include L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption, Wolfenstein: The New Order, The Last of Us, and the Uncharted series.


Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in May 2019




May offers no respite from the big, bold games that have released so far in 2019, bringing with it a host of games almost certain to appeal to gamers of every stripe.

Close to the Sun

Release Date: May 2, 2019
Platforms: PC, consoles later in the year

May’s first major release may also be its most intriguing. Close to the Sun has regularly attracted comparisons to BioShock for its art style and premise, though the relationship between the two titles is, at best, spiritual.

Players take the role of journalist Rose Archer as she steps aboard Nikola Tesla’s ship, the Helios in 1897. Like Andrew Ryan before him (or after him, depending on perspective), Tesla has created a microcosm in which scientific freedom is unrestricted, with disastrous outcomes. Rose’s first impression is of a quarantine sign at the entrance to a still, dead ship, but she presses on regardless in search of her lost sister.

With Close to the Sun, developer Storm in a Teacup aims to provide an intense horror experience. The Helios holds none of BioShock’s shotguns or Plasmids. Instead, players have no means to defend themselves, with gameplay focusing on hiding from and escaping the threats on board.

Check out OnlySP’s final review of the game here.


Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

For anyone to whom the slow, meditative approach does not appeal, Bethesda is busting out the big guns with the long-awaited, little-expected sequel, RAGE 2.

This time around, id Software has tapped Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios for assistance in developing an open-world game. The result, if the trailers are any indication, is a breakneck, neon-fuelled experience that focuses on insanity and ramps up all the unique aspects of the earlier game.

One focal point of development has been ensuring the interconnectedness of the game’s structure, and the teams have promised a greater focus on narrative this time around. Perhaps in keeping with that, RAGE 2 is being distanced from its predecessor, taking place 30 years later with a new protagonist and a whole new story, though some callbacks will be present.

Although id’s legendary first-person gunplay is a driving force throughout the game, it will be supplemented by some light RPG elements, robust vehicular combat, and post launch challenges and support (though the developers deny that RAGE 2 is designed with a games-as-a-service model in mind).

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Out on the same day as RAGE 2 is the vastly different A Plague Tale: Innocence. A historical adventure, the game challenges players with overcoming obstacles with brains rather than brawn.

Players become Amicia, an orphan girl struggling to survive in a plague-infested medieval France while also keeping her younger brother safe. With the landscape rife with rats and members of The Inquisition, one of the core tenets of gameplay is reportedly the need to use these threats against each other. As such, though Amicia has a sling to use, the gameplay is designed more as survival puzzles than combat ones.

Developer Asobo Studio is not a household name, though it has a lengthy history of adaptations and support on major titles, including Quantum Break and The Crew 2. Furthermore, even though A Plague Tale is yet to release, publisher Focus Home Interactive has displayed remarkable confidence in the project by extending its partnership with Asobo.

Honourable Mentions

Although RAGE 2 is the incontestable action-blockbuster of the month, gamers in search of another kind of frenetic may want to wait until May 21, when Curve Digital drops American Fugitive, which has a more than passing resemblance to the earliest Grand Theft Auto games. Alternatively, PlayStation VR owners may want to look into Blood and Truth come May 28.

Sega also shines this month, dropping Team Sonic Racing on May 21 and Total War: Three Kingdoms two days later.

Anyone looking for an RPG has indie’s answer to The Outer Worlds, Within the Cosmos, to look out for on May 30, while those looking for slower stories get the latest episode of Life is Strange 2 on May 9, Observation on May 21, and the fjord-noir Draugen at a yet unspecified date.

Have we forgotten anything that you’re excited for? Let us know down below or on our Discord server.

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