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     " As it stands, fans of the series will probably think it's worthwhile, but anyone who's not an arachnophile will likely feel it's a waste of a good concept. "

      Title: Ultimate Spider-Man by Activision

      Format: Xbox action game

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: Though we'll have to wait another year for the next Spider-Man movie, Activision has seen fit to fill the gap with a Spider-game based on the wall crawler's hottest comic title, Ultimate Spider-Man. Built on the engine of last year's award winning Spider-Man 2, this latest game changes the artistic style to better emulate the comic series, launches a brand new story using the Ultimate line's reimagining of the franchise, and includes Venom as a periodically playable character.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Designed to look like a comic book (or cartoon) on screen, Ultimate Spider-Man's graphics are phenomenally cool up close. Thick border lines, cell shading, bright colors, and renders that closely match the comic all work to make it an absolute visual treat…as long as the camera is up close to the subject. At a healthy distance (which is where the camera will be during most of your normal play), however, it loses much of its luster and all of its intricate detail. It is still quite pretty, and a definite improvement over the other titles in the franchise, but the cartoonish feel lacks any of the fine details (shading, dynamic movement, etc.) that would really sustain it visually. 3.75 out of 5

      Playability: Those who have played Spider-Man 2 will instantly recognize both the controls and style of play. Though simplified considerably from its predecessor (dumping the advanced swing controls, dodging, and enhanced combat mechanics), US still utilizes a very solid system for controlling your favorite arachnid. Swinging between buildings is a breeze, fighting only requires the use of two buttons and is stylized to be very Spider-Man-esque, and the physics have been lightened up to be less realistic. Which is, for the most part, a good thing.
          Unfortunately, it does mean that skilled players will feel considerably more restricted by the controls and will have a notably fewer number of options in any given situation…but that is a fairly minor annoyance over all. What isn't minor, however, is the serious glitchiness that has somehow managed to work it's way into the interface.
          The controls, put most simply, just aren't responsive enough. It can often take several button pushes or trigger pulls to get the game to do what you want it to-and when you're swinging through the air trying to web on to buildings, or fighting fast paced combats, that lack of proper timing can be a huge headache. Certain functions, like camera locking, will also periodically just fail to work, leaving you cursing a red and blue streak when it means you have to spastically pan the camera to try and find the enemy you are fighting or the person you're trying to follow.
          These issues show themselves most prevalently in the campaign-based missions of the game. Unquestionably horribly designed in the first place, the story-based missions usually involve either complex and difficult chases, that will unquestionably require multiple attempts and route memorization to complete, or gimmicky find-the-pattern Legend of Zelda-esque boss fights…both of which venture into the realm of insufferable when combined with the control and camera issues.
          But while these frustrations will doubtlessly plague you, the game is still quite a bit of fun to play. You will give up on the campaign early, which is a shame, but will have more than 100 random crimes and a pretty large city to swing around in the mean time. 3 out of 5

      Story and Drama: Sadly, I've only read the first couple of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, so I can't comment on how true the story is to it, but it certainly feels like a typically comic-level story. It touches briefly on Spidey's life and times, but is mostly concerned with the advent of Venom, a symbiotic battle suit developed by a team of scientists composed of both Spider-Man's and, the suite's current wearer, Eddie Brock's fathers. It gives Brock a series of powers that are mostly similar to Spidey and, for a reason that's never really explained, turns the two into archenemies. It also turns Brock into the subject of focus for various nare-do-wells who want to manipulate, imprison, or destroy him.
          The story swaps back and forth between the two characters, though ends up being little more than a shoestring effort to advance you between boss fights and chases. And, though Activision touted the fact that the story was written by one of the comic's authors, it will do little or nothing to peak your interest in the books if you're not reading them already. 3 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: Sadly, there is no multiplayer present (a co-op Venom/Spidey mode would have been awesome) and, despite the presence of hundreds of unlockables, you probably won't even make it through the game the first time-- let alone pick it up again after you're done. The key issue lies in the insanity of the campaign missions, which really are both idiotically difficult and horribly designed, that you must complete in order to gain access to all of the cool extras (like being able to play the open-city portion of the game as Venom). So you'll play it for a few hours, think it's cool, then move on to something else. 2 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       All in all, Ultimate Spider-Man is a nice effort but just doesn't do enough to turn it into a good game. Shoddy controls, a lackluster story, and some seriously ridiculous missions all detract from what should have been a notable advancement in the franchise. As it stands, fans of the series will probably think it's worthwhile, but anyone who's not an arachnophile will likely feel it's a waste of a good concept.

      The Good: Very pretty up close and features a nice sized city to swing through.

      The Bad: Controls, story, and missions all punish more than entertain.

      The Overall Ugly: If you've played any of the others you shouldn't worry about this one. If you haven't seen the rest, this will be fun for a while.

      What it's Worth: Rental

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