A week ago, I wrote a post about what the roster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 were up to in 2016. The most common thing written in the comments was: “what about Spider-Man?” Consider this a follow up.
The reason that Spider-Man was in THPS2 in the first place was because he had a game in being made by THPS developers Neversoft at the same time. Spider-Man, often referred to as Spider-Man 2000, uses the same game engine as THPS2 and Spider-Man’s New York City has several advertisements for the then new skateboarding title.
Warning: Spoilers for Spider-Man 2000 from this point on.
Spider-Man was the first successful comic book adaptation. I am sure reading that sentence is probably strange for some of you, because you probably have a favorite superhero game that came out in the 2D era. I do too! X-Men 2: Clone Wars for the Sega Genesis is one of my favorite platformers. If that title is new to you, please close this window and play it immediately. I won’t be offended.
If you are still here, the best superhero games were good fighting games, beat ‘em ups, or platformers that happened to have a superhero skin. Spider-Man was different because it better tapped into the essence of what people celebrated about the character. It is a pitch perfect representation of the different Spider-Man tales you might read at the news stand in 2000.
Thankfully, they avoided the 90's scourge called the Clone Saga (other than having Scarlet Spider and Ben Reilly as unlockable costumes). Otherwise, it is all here. It barely makes sense for all of these Spider-Man plots to be hanging out together, but the game makes it work with it’s light touch and ample charm. This is fan service done right.
The game starts with Doctor Octopus, seemingly reformed, presenting an experiment that is soon stolen by an imposter Spider-Man. Peter Parker and Eddie Brock are at Octopus’ reveal as photographers for the Daily Bugle. Eddie’s camera is broken by the fake Spider-Man, which he believes will cost him his job at the Bugle. Transforming into Venom, Brock begins to plot revenge.
Before he can clear his name, Spider-Man first has to save civilians being held hostage during a bank robbery. When police arrive on the scene, they also want to arrest Spider-Man for the theft of Doc Ock’s experiment and a chase ensues.
Upon escaping, Spider-Man has to save J. Jonah Jameson from Scorpion, who is playing his 60's role of blaming Jameson for being permanently trapped in his suit. Jameson is less than thankful, as you might expect. Spider-Man is then off to stop Rhino from destroying a power plant. Spidey dispatches Rhino swiftly by using his charge first, ask questions later habit against him.
Meanwhile, Venom has captured Spider-Man’s then wife Mary Jane (DAMN YOU “ONE MORE DAY”). The entire middle of the game revolves around chasing Venom into the sewers, defeating him, and rescuing Mary Jane.
From here, there is a symbiote invasion, seemingly started by Carnage. Venom begrudgingly joins Spider-Man’s side because he hates Carnage more, as is custom in a late 90's Spidey comic. You fight symbiotes for a good while and eventually confront the illusionist Mysterio, who was playing the part of Spider-Man in the theft.
It turns out that he is a pawn of Doctor Octopus and Carnage, who were in cahoots all along! They plan to use the symbiotes to control the world. This makes little sense, but roll with it.
You defeat them both, and then the Carnage symbiote infect Doctor Octopus, forcing you to flee from him. Ock destroys his own base and Spider-Man is rescued by Captain America. The game ends with all of the bad guys bickering while sharing a jail cell. Perfect.
Even though the plot reads like fan fiction instead of a coherent plot, that only scratches the surface of the fan service and easter eggs on display.
Stan Lee is the narrator. There are cameos from Black Cat, Daredevil, Punisher, The Human Torch, and the aforementioned Captain America. There is a character viewer with information about all of the characters you encounter and their relationship with the web swinger. The game is short, so it rewards you for replaying with a plethora of costumes to unlock. Some are purely cosmetic, while others have special powers of their own. You fight experiments of Lizard in the sewers, and Lizard himself can be spoken to. If you try to add a word like “fuck” in the password screen, Spidey punches it, because he is a positive role model.
Since 2000, there have been other good superhero related video games, but none of them feel as directly tied to the comics. At almost the same time this game was released, the first X-Men film was proving that superheroes could be in quality films after the embarrassment of Batman and Robin. Two years after this game was released, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film came out to critical acclaim and a massive box office. That lead to where we are now, where superhero movies are the biggest blockbusters. Even the bad ones like Batman v Superman make more money than I can comprehend.
Modern superhero video games feel less like comic book adaptations and more like superhero media adaptations. The obvious example is the Batman: Arkham series. Great games, but less an adaptation of Batman comics and more of all Batman media. The voice actors are mostly from Batman: The Animated Series. The tone borrows heavily from what was established in the Dark Knight movies. There are tons of nods to the comics to be sure, but the Arkham games celebrate everything that has every been called “Batman”. By the time Arkham Knight came out, the series was celebrating itself.
I am not trying to crown it the best superhero game ever. Hell, it isn’t even the best Spider-Man game. That would be either Spider-Man 2 (not the sequel to this game but the tie in to the film of the same name) or the woefully underrated Ultimate Spider-Man (itself a celebration of a comic series). But none of them are a purer distillation of the day in the life of a comic book character than Spider-Man. Not only was it the first of its kind, but also one of the last.
Oh, and to answer everyone’s question: Since his appearance in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, Spider-Man is still one of the most popular comic book heroes on the planet. He will next appear in the 2016 Marvel film Captain America: Civil War. It is unknown if he is skating, as no footage of him has been released since THPS2: