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Editorial

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

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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 six years with no means 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 (and its sequel), Wolfenstein: The New Order, The Last of Us, and the Uncharted series.

Editorial

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

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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